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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. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    LORD I PRAISE YOU TODAY. FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. LIFE INSIDE MY HEART PLEASE STAY. FOR ALWAYS. TIL THAT TIMELESS PLACE. WHEN WE'RE FACE TO FACE.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Julian Melancthon

      Because some Christians actually believe and follow the Bible.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

      AND LORD, I BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE GAY TOO!!! I THINK WE WILL REALLY GET IT ON WHEN WE FINALLY MEET FACE TO FACE!!!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Bob

      You sound pretty desperate, with your shouting in all caps. Give it up already. There's no god to answer back, no matter how often you shout at us. For that matter, why are you shouting at us, when you seem to want your sky fairy to answer?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • norm

      Sounds to me like you don't want to be "face to face" with any man (including your lord). Maybe you can go down on ABBA.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  2. Rational Libertarian

    Why can't all Christian be more like this one?

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDxCuVsqLxc&w=640&h=390]

    August 4, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  3. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    YOU ARE AWESOME IN THIS PLACE, MIGHTY GOD. YOU ARE AWESOME IN THIS PLACE. ABBA FATHER. YOU ARE WORTHY OF OUR PRAISE. AND TO YOU OUR LIVES WE RAISE. YOU ARE AWESOME IN THIS PLACE MIGHTY GOD.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

      AND I AM SO THANKFUL TO BE GAY!!! ONLY YOU, FATHER, ABBA, GREAT SAVIOR COULD MAKE ME THIS WAY!!! THANK YOU!!!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Casey

      Jesus was a Jewish man and in no way a savior. You are praying to a false God.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:51 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What isn't a false god?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  4. Billy

    Christians are not supposed to support the sin just the Sinner.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  5. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    LET'S PRAY FOR ALL THE BREEDERS BECAUSE THEIR HATRED RUNS DEEP. THEIR IGNORANCE AND FEAR MAKE THEM SIMILAR TO APES. GAY PEOPLE WERE CREATED BY GOD. IF GOD CREATED GAYS AND BREEDERS THAN HE COULDN'T HAVE MADE ANY MISTAKES. OH LORD, OPEN THE EYES OF THE BREEDERS SO THAT THEIR IGNORANCE SHALL BE REMOVED AND THEIR HATRED SOFTENED!

    August 4, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Wade

      If it wasn't for the 'breeders', you wouldn't be here ranting. That is unfortunate for all of us. Your parents are to blame and should ashamed of their ignorant child.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  6. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW. PRAISE HIM ALL CREATURES HERE BELOW. PRAISE HIM ABOVE YE HEAVENLY HOSTS..PRAISE FATHER, SON AND HOLY GHOST.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  7. Henryo

    I am indeed a big supporter of GAY rights, but I have to keep it on the DL because of my wife.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

      WOW

      August 4, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  8. Julian Melancthon

    I just gave to the Win Shape organization as a result of this article. Thanks for the publicity for this great family-oriented organization that helps people around the world. Bravo Zulu.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  9. Mind your own business

    It is chick-fil-a profit, it is their own money. They have the right to use it in anywhere they want as long as it is legal. So just leave them alone and walk away. It is none of you liberals business. Why don't you donate your profit, if you are not living upon warfare, to the groups support your idea, no one will say anything about it. An d so should you

    August 4, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      It is their business what they do with their money, and it's my business if they use it to fund hate groups. Also, it isn't just liberals who support equality.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Mind your own business

      I support equal right, I also support individual right. no one has the right to ask/force other to follow his faith, or rules. It applies to everyone. What I saw here is that you liberals only want others to agree with you, and won't leave others alone. With the time you arguing and talking, why not just do some real work, like chick-fil-a, bring food and happiness, create jobs, and donate your money to gay-support groups, instead of judging other people which you have no rights to do so

      August 4, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  10. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    DEAR LORD, I PRAY, IN THE NAME OF JESUS, THAT YOU WOULD SAVE THIS NATION FROM ITSELF. WE REPENT FOR ALL OF OUR SINFUL WAYS. WE HAVE TURNED OUR BACKS ON YOU AND THEN WE WONDER WHY SO MUCH EVIL BEFALLS US. I PRAY THAT YOU WOULD TOUCH THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF EVERYONE ON THIS WEBSITE...ALL THOSE WHO STAND AGAINST YOUR WORD. AGAINST YOUR HOLY SCRIPTURES. I PRAY THAT THEIR HEARTS WILL TURN TO YOU. LORD, PEOPLE ARE HURTING AND CONFUSED. HEAL FAMILIES. TOUCH LIVES. WE REPENT FOR THE SINS OF OUR NATION. AND WE TURN OUR LIVES OVER TO YOU FULLY. IT IS IN JESUS' NAME AND FOR CHRIST'S SAKE I DO PRAY. AMEN.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Bob

      Speaking of "hurting", let's have a look at some of the hurtful, evil things that the Christian book of nasty AKA the bible says that your evil sky fairy demands of you:

      Numbers 31:17-18
      17 Now kiII all the boys. And kiII every woman who has slept with a man,
      18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      Revelations 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

      Note that the bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

      Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

      And then, if you disagree with my interpretation, ask yourself how it is that your "god" couldn't come up with a better way to communicate than a book that is so readily subject to so many interpretations and to being taken "out of context", and has so many mistakes in it. Pretty pathetic god that you've made for yourself.

      So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

      Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.

      http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

      August 4, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Greg

      God is self evident in all of His creation and only a fool says in their heart that there is no God. Does the cup say to the clay maker I am a pot? Does the bowl say to the potter I want to be used by kings to wash and not by the common to store waste? All were made to glorify the Creator and not to glorify self. Let those who have ears hear.
      In Love

      August 4, 2012 at 10:03 am |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'Greg' is an instance of the ad hominem fallacy.

      http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

      August 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Greg

      HI -Greg...

      " Does the cup say to the clay maker I am a pot? Does the bowl say to the potter I want to be used by kings to wash and not by the common to store waste? "

      I've often seen the "Potter -pottery" metaphor/a-nalogy used as a rational in relationship to questioning God.

      The problem is that your metaphor/a-nalogy is not at all 'isomorphic' to the context.

      Human beings are 'not' pottery... or 'inanimate' objects. Humans have a mind to think and reason and make their own decisions.

      Peace...

      August 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • Greg

      You and everything you see came into existence. How did this happen?
      You will always come back to a first cause.
      Everything that has a end has a beginning.
      Everything that has a beginning has a first cause.
      There is a Creator that transcends time and the physical.
      The wind may be the best way to explain, it can be felt though it can not be seen. It is evident in it's interaction with other things such as a tornado.
      The same is said for the Creator.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  11. shamgar50

    You're free to believe anything you want, and that's as it should be. However, when you seek to add the force of law to that belief, you had better make sure you're right. In my book, most religious beliefs and bigotries don't qualify!

    August 4, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • norm

      The problem with your philosophy is that there is no universal definition of "right", so everybody is right according to the definition of right that HE accepts.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Bob

      Norm, inventing a deity (and there have been thousands invented by man) for which you have no current evidence doesn't solve that problem; it just creates more problems and discord. Morality does not require a deity, and societies have been able to agree on workable sets of laws without one. Furthermore, some of the least violent, agreeable societies to live in, for example in Scandinavia, are the least religious.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:53 am |
  12. Gregg

    No one is reporting on this topic but CNN....................it is obvious CNN has an agenda. This is why your rating are cratering!

    August 4, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • WALK IN THE LIGHT

      I'M GOING TO STOP READING CNN BECAUSE THEY ARE BECOMING A LOT LIKE FOX NEWS...CONSTANTLY REPORTING ANTI-GAY THINGS. CNN IS JUST A SAD, PATHETIC NEWS SOURCE.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • norm

      @WALK IN THE LIGHT Your mistake is in assuming that CNN thinks its purpose is to present news. It's really just an "entertainment" site.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • seenenough

      I agree....it's as though the news story didn't go their way so they keep it out there hopeful that the sleepers will eventually catch up....

      August 4, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  13. Kay

    I don't get the arguement. As long as Chick Fil A doesn't discriminate in it's hiring and how they treat employees, who cares what they believe in? If you don't like what the companies PERSONAL philosophies are, don't eat there. Simple.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I won't eat there, and I'll also criticize their funding of hate groups.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Julian Melancthon

      Took my entire family to eat there yesterday and will do so again next week. Thanks for the PR. Their chicken is sooooooo good.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  14. WALK IN THE LIGHT

    NOW I CAN LEAVE THIS BOARD IN PEACE. MY PREACHER SAID I'VE DONE ENOUGH TO PRAY AWAY THE GAY...BUT I'M STILL CRAVING ME A MAN.....

    August 4, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  15. Norman

    Gays and gay-rights groups are 'SHOCKED' at Chick-Fil-A's charitable giving to faith-based groups. What I find 'shocking' is the raw stupidity of the gay rights groups. Are they kidding? Who do they expect Chick-Fil-A to give to: ACORN?

    August 4, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Faith based= Hate groups in this instance.

      Al Qaeda are also a faith based organization.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  16. ufadoof

    DIscussing chicken on the belief blog. Just goes to prove how ridiculous "belief" is in America.

    August 4, 2012 at 9:37 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 4, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Abusing human rights will not be healthy for Chick fil A's profit margins. Give it a few months. Religion is dying, give it a few more decades.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Tina

      HeavenSent, did your Jesus wear a thong?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • pervert alert

      There is no human right to be a pervert. Qu eers the folks who gave the world AIDS.
      Both Christianity AND Chick-Fil- A will be around and prospering long after you are gone.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • norm

      Basically, prayer only changes people into irrational zombies.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  18. WALK IN THE LIGHT FOR SURE

    WELL. IT'S BEEN FUN. HOPE ALL THOSE WHO NEED PRAYERS CAN GET IT TOGETHER

    August 4, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  19. WALK IN THE LIGHT

    I CAN'T EVEN CONFESS WITHOUT SHAME AND CHANGING MY MIND. NOBODY REALLY STOLE MY SCREEN NAME, I JUST CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT CONFESSING FOR A MINUTE. I GO BACK AND FORTH. I'M SO GAY! I HAD 5 PEOPLE LAST NIGHT!!! PRAY THE GAY FROM ME PLEASE!!!! THIS IS MY ONLY CHANCE TO BE A TRUE BREEDER!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • WALK IN THE LIGHT FOR SURE

      LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!! HEY DUDE. YOU ARE SO FUNNY. DO YOU MOONLIGHT AS A COMIC. WOULD LOOOOOOOOVEEEEE TO SEE YOU ON STAGE. YOU MUST BE A RIOT. WHOO-WEE!!!! A BIG FAT BALL OF FUN!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. FUNNNNNNNNNENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENENEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • WALK IN THE LIGHT

      NOW I'M JUST LOSING MY MIND! IT'S TRUE, I'M BIG AND FAT TOO, BUT THERE ARE LITTLE GUYS OUT THERE THAT LIKE BIG FAT MEN LIKE ME. MAYBE I SHOULD BE GAY!!! IT'S THE WAY GOD MADE ME!!!!

      August 4, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  20. Jim

    You WILL examine GLAAD's spending, won't you?

    August 4, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Henryo

      GLAAD ONLY spends for the gay agenda. NOTHING for children or anything else. They spread HATE towards anything NON-GAY. They are America's biggest hate group, ask any straight actor or producer in Hollywood. It's MUCH worse than you think.

      August 4, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • WALK IN THE LIGHT

      HENRYO, HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT GLAAD SPENDS IT'S MONEY ON? ARE YOU ON THE BOARD OF GLAAD?

      August 4, 2012 at 9:43 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.