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Chick-fil-A controversy shines light on company’s charitable giving
Chick-fil-A’s charitable giving has come under scrutiny in the controversy over its president's opposition to same-sex marriage.
August 3rd, 2012
08:41 AM ET

Chick-fil-A controversy shines light on company’s charitable giving

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – The website for the WinShape Foundation, a group started by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy that’s financed almost entirely by Chick-fil-A profits, doesn’t look like a battlefield in the culture war.

The site features warm and fuzzy snapshots of winding country roads and rustic cabins along with links to a cornucopia of social welfare programs the foundation funds from foster homes to kids’ camps to college scholarships that would seem to be the furthest thing from controversial.

The foundation's “simple but profound goal” is also hard to take issue with: “Help ‘shape winners.’ ”

But gay rights groups are incensed about the chain’s financial support for what they say are anti-gay groups. WinShape-backed groups deny that accusation, while WinShape stresses its activities are almost entirely aimed at youth and families, as opposed to conservative advocacy.

Yet WinShape finds itself in the center of a storm over gay rights and religious liberties as Americans take sides in the controversy over Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s recently reaffirmed opposition to same-sex marriage.

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"We are very much supportive of the family the biblical definition of the family unit," Dan Cathy, Truett’s son, said in an interview last month. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

The comments sparked a tsunami of criticism from gay rights advocates and their allies, with a same-sex kiss day at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide scheduled for Friday. (Supporters rallied around the chain Wednesday, with an event dubbed Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.)

But gay rights groups appear even more concerned about Chick-fil-A’s charitable giving, most of which is funneled through WinShape. The group received more than $8 million from Chick-fil-A in 2010, the most recent years for which tax records are available.

A fact sheet about Chick-fil-A recently issued by the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay rights group, aims its ire mostly at WinShape.

The fact sheet, titled “Chick-fil-A anti-gay: Company funnels millions to anti-equality groups,” says that the “popular fast food chain has donated millions to groups that demonize (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people on a daily basis.”

The document enumerates what it calls Chick-fil-A’s “shocking donations” to evangelical groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Focus on the Family.

Other gay rights groups have also zeroed in on WinShape’s donations.

A 2011 report from Equality Matters, an arm of the liberal group Media Matters Action Network, said the restaurant’s “charitable division has provided more than $1.1 million to organizations that deliver anti-LGBT messages and promote egregious practices like reparative therapy that seek to ‘free’ people of being gay.”

The WinShape-backed groups that gay rights advocates accuse of being anti-gay reject that label, insisting that they condemn homosexual acts, not gay people.

“Those Christian groups don’t see themselves as hateful organizations it’s a completely different perspective,” said Rusty Leonard, a financial adviser who counsels Christians on charitable giving and who knows the Cathy family. “But as conservative Christians we believe that homosexual activity is sinful.”

Most WinShape-backed groups, such as Focus on the Family and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, are mostly apolitical and are mainstream within the evangelical world.

At the same time, the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center has classified some WinShape-backed organizations, such as the Family Research Council, as anti-gay hate  groups.

WinShape spends the vast majority of its money on internal programs like its camps, which cost $5 million to run in 2010, and foster homes, which cost $3.2 million that year.

By comparison, the organization gave $1,000 to Family Research Council in 2010 and $1,000 to Exodus International, a group that for years promoted so-called conversion therapy for gays, though the group is now reassessing that stance.

“The WinShape Foundation and Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving is focused on supporting youth, family and educational programs,” said Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A’s executive vice president for marketing, in a statement to CNN.com, responding to questions.

“WinShape provides camping programs for more than 13,000 girls and boys annually and 14 foster homes caring for more than 100 children,” the statement continued. "In addition, Chick-fil-A has awarded more than $30 million in Restaurant Team Member college scholarships to hourly employees.”

A public relations firm representing WinShape and Chick-fil-A declined interview requests Thursday.

WinShape’s own programs have a serious Christian tint. Its summer camp for kids “challenges campers to sharpen their character, deepen their Christian faith and relationships,” according to its website.

The foundation’s college scholarships, mostly for current and former Chick-fil-A employees, are to Berry College, a Christian liberal arts school in Georgia. The scholarships are bent on equipping “college students to impact the world for Jesus Christ by following him and living out his unique calling in their lives,” according to WinShape.

For evangelical Christians, such programs make Chick-fil-A a model corporate citizen.

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“On the conservative end of the Christian world, they are seen as being one of the most fabulous examples of Christianity lived out in appropriate ways,” Leonard said. “They support all kinds of wonderful things.”

But for now, the national focus is on outside groups that WinShape supports. The gay rights group GLAAD, for example, recently started a petition to get Dan Cathy to have dinner with a pair of gay parents and their children.

“If Cathy is going to spend millions trying to break apart loving families,” the petition says, “he should at least meet the people his money is hurting."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Food • Gay marriage • Gay rights

soundoff (2,697 Responses)
  1. Bill

    It's their money. They can do whatever they want with it.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • James PDX

      Yes, they do have the right to give money to anti-gay groups whose leaders went to Uganda and spread hate for and incited violence against gays and which inspired a potential law that if passed would make being gay a crime punishable by death. A right they exercised.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  2. StayInformed

    http://www.hrc.org/apps/buyersguide/index.php#.UBwiBZjNkZd

    August 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  3. California

    Where's the article on the hateful gay people vandalising a Chick-Fil-A?

    August 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  4. James

    If the gays really can't stand WinShape anymore, then they should focus their energy to create something BETTER. That will show the Cathy family that they won't have to throw money into WinShape in the future.

    Come'on LGBT people, create WinBetterShape to offer scholarships, school programs, and foster homes for the needy.

    Wait, what is that I hear? Oh you are too self absorbed to care about others? Yeah I thought so...

    August 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Come'on LGBT people, create WinBetterShape to offer scholarships, school programs, and foster homes for the needy.

      Wait, what is that I hear? Oh you are too self absorbed to care about others? Yeah I thought so..."

      Now ask yourself why are you lying.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • James

      To "Huh?"
      Lying about what?
      Can you please tell me how much GLAAD is donating or sponsoring scholarships, school programs, and foster homes? Because those are the BULK of what WinShape is spending their cash on.

      And THAT's the TRUTH.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • James PDX

      Nice try. But no matter how you try to divert the attention away from the issue, Chik-fil-a, through WinShape, has donated a lot of money to hate groups. And that's wrong even if it is legal.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  5. The Deceiver Novel

    'Chick-fil-A’s “shocking donations” to evangelical groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Focus on the Family.'

    People do realize these two groups alone do more charitable giving to communities than gay-rights groups do, right? I'd like to see how much GLADD contributes to communities as a whole, and not just to gays and lesbians. Just because those groups do not support gay-marriage certainly does not mean they will pass a soup bowl selectivly past a gay-homeless person. People become so narrow-scoped in these agruments. Someone disagrees with you and they are suddenly a bigot.

    Have a better sense of tolerance to realize a disagreement can be a way to change minds, instead of cement them further into stereotype.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Lenny Pincus

    Yes, yes, yes, in the name of God we need to tolerate intolerance, even though the intolerant invoke the same God. While that happens, I'm waiting for my brother to die so I can marry his wife and do my thing.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  7. California

    If you don't like it TOUGH.

    Whine till the cows come how for all I care.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  8. ffacts

    the gay bullies lost. their plan backfired and the restaurant wins!

    the gay extremists feel other people are not allowed to have opinions.
    :-)

    August 3, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  9. wcb2009

    I support gay and lesbian rights, but I really dont care what Chic-fil-a thinks and find all the hoopla to be annoying and somewhat hypocritical.. Chic-fil-a can say and support whoever they want and I can choose to not eat their junky food. Thats what I love about the USA!

    August 3, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Jason

      Their food is actually quite good. You are free not to eat it and nobody cares. But to say their food is junky is just a lie.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • sedona slim

      well said

      August 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  10. R C

    The bible thumpers have their beliefs and the guy who started all this ruckus. That is their opinion. Cool. If you don't like what the guy stands for don't eat at the restaurants. It's called `freedom of choice' you nimrods, Freedom Of Choice, do you understand what that means or are you just bored and want to yell scream and whine about something....?

    August 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Jason

      The problem with liberals is they support freedom of speach as long as they say exactly what you want them to say.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  11. Just call me Lucifer

    If you confess with your lips that jesus christ is your lord and savior, you'll get a free chicken sandwich and a small beverage. Here is gods plan... to make all bible belt believers eat so much fried crap that they'll die an early death.
    Rapture by obesity... its gods will.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • too funny

      LMFAO!!!!

      August 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jason

      Okay Lucifer.... The problem with your statement is that it is ignorant. The rapture is a specific event. That event will come if you are skinny, fat, gay or straight. So esentially your statement was blah, blah, blah. What matters is if you accepted the Lord as your saviour when the rapture comes. You will either have a very good day or a very bad day.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • sedona slim

      life is tough...when you are stupid it is tougher...I bet for you life is unbearable now.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Ro

      Your name is very appropriate

      August 3, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  12. huh

    Where is the story about Chick Fil A refusing to cater a school club event for gays?

    August 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  13. niknak

    If it can't be explained or debated Aly, then why did you write a book about it here on this blog?
    Your god myth is just that, a myth.
    When children believe in Santa Clause it is cute. When adults do, it is creepy.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  14. Patrish

    When ever'Christians get involved in anything' it usually goes from bad to worse and it scares me. They have tunnel vision about everything – it's their way or no way.

    August 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Seoras

      Obama, Mother Teresa, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton are christians too. Do they have scare you as well with their 'tunnel vision' and 'wanting things their own way'?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • niknak

      That is true of all religions Patrish.
      Science produces people who invent airplanes, religion produces people who fly airplanes into buildings.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • JJHarrison

      niknak, you'll be disappointed to learn that the Wright Brothers were Christians.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • sedona slim

      so what you are saying is there is no right or wrong. Eveything is grey and nothing is plack or white...like this print

      August 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  15. Seoras

    The left wing Thought Police are attempting to intimidate and demonize any with whom they disagree. If they can classify free religious expression as 'hate speech', what next? Fines? Firings? Imprisonment?
    Lenin and Stalin would approve of what the Left is doing.
    Defending freedom of speech starts with speech that you don't like.

    August 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • sam

      Tinfoil hat on a little tight?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  16. Alan

    Come on CNN, it's time to move on............

    August 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  17. CHRIS

    What is it with libtards? Its THEIR money they can spend it on what ever they choose to. This is about way more than the gay and lesbian thing its about religous freedom and andfreedom of speech. IF GAYS OR SUPPORTERS DONT LIKE THEIR VIEWS DONT EAT THERE ITS THAT SIMPLE!!! You have a right to be gay and he has a right to not.

    August 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "IF GAYS OR SUPPORTERS DONT LIKE THEIR VIEWS DONT EAT THERE ITS THAT SIMPLE!!! You have a right to be gay and he has a right to not."

      They are upset because this is about the fight for civil rights for the gay community. Marriage is a civil right. Marriage was defined by the US Supreme Court as a civil right. Recognized federal civil rights law in the United States is grounded in the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court. By this standard, marriage has long been established as a civil right.

      The operative constitutional text is section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868. The relevant passages read as follows:

      No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • sedona slim

      And yo can share your gayness with whomever and he can share his non gayness with anyone. If you do not want him to expouse his view you need to be willing to keep yours to yourself.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  18. McCave

    FCA and Focus on the Family are hate groups???

    August 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So are the Boy Scouts and all the churches. Haven't you heard?

      August 3, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Seoras

      Don't forget that the Boy Scouts are a 'hate group' as well.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Bill Deacon

      You said, "So are the Boy Scouts and all the churches."
      Not all churches.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Boy scouts used to be just fine, but as of lately, they began discriminating practices, and as such should stop receiving federal funds.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • yes

      I dont know anything about the FCA but yes focus on the family is a hate group, theyve publicly supported the death penalty for gays in africa and are unshy voicing their displeasure for gays and liberals in general.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      There's a general rule when religious organizations make a smaller focus group or organization. The nicer the name, the more intolerant they are.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • sam

      @yes – the mental giants above don't know that, as they can't get past the name 'focus on the family'. A group with a title like that can't possibly be mean!

      And Bill, please. You're becoming a parody of yourself.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  19. Smacky Smooth

    Lovely statement Aly. No sarcasm, really well read of the Bible. That rocks!

    August 3, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  20. Aly

    J.W. Galatians 5 speaks of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Truthfully, the Kingdom of God is so much more than can be explained or debated. 1st Corinthians chapter 2 verse 14 tells us that the natural man/mind cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. The entire 2nd chapter tells more about spiritual wisdom. God spoke through his prophet Jeremiah saying that if we search for Him with our whole heart, we will find Him. Jeremiah 29:13.
    God is Love, but sadly, many do not seek to know Him, they only base who He is by looking at the behavior of those who call themselves by His Name. If you think about it, that is like someone judging you based on the behavior of another person who happens to have the same last name as you. True, those who call themselves by His Name should behave as He does, but many are ignorant and rather than seeking for themselves, they blindly follow the wrong teachings. Jesus said in the Book of John, chapter 14 that the ones who keep His commandments are the ones who love Him, and they will be loved by Him and the Father, and that He will manifest Himself to them. His commandments are to love the Lord God with your whole heart and to love your neighbor as yourself. He said that all the Law and the Prophets hang on those two things. Matthew 22:37-40. The Apostle Paul said that all the law is fulfilled by loving your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:14. Micah, the Prophet said that God has shown us what is good and what the Lord requires of us. He requires us to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. Micah 6:7. That shouldn't be too hard for us. We make it so much more complicated than it should be. As Christians, we should offer our Truth to others by sharing our experiences with the God of Love, by treating others with respect and kindness. Our behavior should be such that would make them desire to know the God we serve. If they choose not to believe the Truth, that is their choice. Our job as followers of Christ is to share it. Jesus sends His followers to love others, heal the sick, set the captives free, feed the hungry, etc... If people choose not to receive, then He said to depart and shake the dust off your feet. In other words, do not try to argue or push the Kingdom of God on them. Matthew 10:14. To ceremonially shake the dust from one's feet as a testimony against another was understood by the Jews to symbolize a cessation of fellowship and a renunciation of all responsibility for consequences that might follow.
    Mercy, Peace, and Love be multiplied to you. Jude 2

    August 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Patrish

      What a waste of text space... Christians are no better than anyone else, they just lie more about their activities.

      August 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Chaz

      Aly, are you sick. Have you tried medication for your delusions. The bible is a fable, it is a fairy tale. There is no such thing as god because if there was he/she/it would be the sickest most demented thing anyone could think of. There is life and then there is death. What happens to your energy after you die is something you will find out when you die. You don't need some made up delusion to tell you whether you are doing right or wrong. You will know that automatically. Stop with your stupidity, you are only creating more misery on this planet. Christ, if he existed, would be arrested today for being nuts. GET IT STRAIGHT: THERE IS NO GOD. There is, however, a spaghetti monster and a tooth fairy. You can believe in those two incarnations if you really must follow something.

      August 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Just call me Lucifer

      Ahhh.... yeah....just to let you know, god never spoke a word to anyone, there was no christ and the bible that you seem to
      like to quote was written by men to subjugate and manipulate simple minded sheep like yourself. I guess its working.
      I promise... I will destroy all religions for their lies. Trust me... I'm the devil (like your god, I don't exist).

      August 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Ray

      Absoulety the most truthful comment I have ever seen written. To believe as I believe is fine, to disagree is up to you< God gives us choice but I will love you no more or less. Why can't we as intelligent human beings see that. Either you are for me or you are against me, politics, relationships and sadly religon, this is the rule of today.

      Not in the days to come.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • KLF

      Thank you, Aly. I feel much better now. Everyone seems to be missing the point. Everyone is so focused on the "here and now" that they're missing the point. Love one another, and freedom will show itself.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • joe

      Interesting to see so many people here that are 100% positive that no God or Satan exists. They must be enlightened by some higher power to have such great knowledge. Oh wait, they're just human.

      Thanks Aly for your thoughtful comment.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • sam

      Sure – let's all wait around loving one another, but not actually do anything about the injustice of people invoking 'god's law' as a means of discriminating against certain groups. Since it's god's law they're following, that's apparently 'loving your neighbor' too.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Which God??

      You base your outlook/reply on a book of mythology? Wow, no room for logic in your head, is there?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Tony

      Aly, that was a very thought out statement. One of the truest ones I have seen so far on here.

      Chaz, you are right. Your people did arrest Christ. They also crucified him. While I will agree that a lot of "Christians" are very two faced and use it as label. Thus making the rest that truly follow our savior, look really bad. Truthfully as followers of Christ, we should be a lot more humble than we are. There will always be critics in this matter, and what I am seeing is really sad. I will say that I DO NOT support anything other than a "Traditional Marriage".

      Society is tearing apart at the seems. Which side will you be on? The side that accepts what society says is ok? Or the side that actually sits down and studies the Word of God, and follows it the way it was meant to be followed, while working on a personal relationship with him? Read the new testament in its entirety sometime.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • jb

      Aly,

      More of us need to have the conviction to speak and fully understand the words you (and other's like Ray) just shared. It is astonishing and saddening how misunderstood the Christian faith is BOTH by BELIEVERS and non-believers alike!

      I wish everyone who read and responded to your comment took the time to simply understand your position better (no need to agree with it....just understand) rather than arguing and belittling. We can learn so much by taking the time to simply connect with each other and understand where one another are coming from. This is what life is about and this is what I believe God wants from us....to relate.

      We aren't meant to push our beliefs on others, but rather share our beliefs and leave the rest to God. I believe God gave us our own free will because he wants us to CHOOSE to walk with Him, nobody wants to be loved by or in a relationship with someone who is forced to be there. Believers and non-believers alike, we are all in this together and my faith tells me that God loves us all the same. I wish both sides understood that this is all that truly matters.

      August 3, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • jay

      Aly's stander for her believes are based on the bible. While others who don't believe in God base their believes on human reasoning, thinking, or common sense. Ally is totally justified on her believes because she just simply bases them on a different standard and believes that that standard is true, just as atheist believe that their standers of human reasoning, thinking, or common sense are true. Just as an atheist stands firm on human reasoning, thinking, or common sense, so dose a believer in God stand on the bible and its power to save. So why do I say its power to save? Because if a person believes in the bible and everything that it says, they quickly see that its laws are demanding and outside of human reasoning, thinking, or common sense and the price for breaking even one of these laws is eternity in hell. But since they believe it is truly God's standard they see themselves as naturally rebellious to God and they feel condemned, guilty and unworthy rather than angry or bitter towards it. But at the same time the bible doesn't just leave that person in guilt, it gives a remedy for that guilt in the person of Jesus Christ, who it says is God himself. It says that Jesus lived a perfectly Righteous life and then died and took on the wrath of God for everyone who has broken Gods standard so that anyone who believes in him can live forever in heaven when they die. Jesus also promises to gives a new sprit of love and righteousness to people who believe in him so that they can turn from their natural rebellious state, and uphold Gods standard. The bible says that all of this is a free gift of God not based on how good you are or how gay your are. Therefore anyone who believes in God and the bible is promised to be "saved" from hell and "saved" from their rebellious nature. So upholding God's standard, quoting the bible and living life based on the bible, is simply the natural reaction of a person who has been saved and believes in Gods power to save.

      August 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.