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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.

    WHAT SHALL I RENDER UNTO THE LORD FOR ALL HIS BLESSINGS TOWARD ME?

    August 4, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • SciGuy

      Maybe your first rendering could be to scrap the ALL CAPS mode.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Bob

      Yeah, let's have a look at some of the "blessings" from the nasty Christian sky fairy according to their nasty instruction manual AKA the bible:

      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 10:30 am |
    • Tina

      HEY BOBBIE. WANNA SACRIFICE TOGETHA???

      August 4, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  2. SciGuy

    Focus on the Family focuses on the family unit as biblically defined, which is the traditional family. The various gay, lesbian, and associated groups focus on the perversions that masquerade as family. The former help to build a strong society, the latter will destroy a society.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

      AMEN! I AGREE. EXCELLENT COMMENT.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Proof?

      August 4, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Bob

      Speaking of "biblically defined", let's take a look at some of the nasty actions defined for you in the Christian book of nasty, both OT and NT:

      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 10:31 am |
  3. Noah

    bobbylei: please, before you try to insult me, at least add something to the discussion, because all your doing is trolling and wasting kilobytes and time.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  4. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    JESUS IS AWESOME!!!! BLESS HIS NAME FOREVER!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  5. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    THY KINGDOM COME. THY WILL BE DONE. ON EARTH, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  6. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    PRAISE THE NAME OF JESUS. HE'S MY ROCK. HE'S MY FORTRESS. HE IS MY DELIVERER. IN HIM WILL I TRUST. PRAISE THE NAME OF JESUS!!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  7. bobbylei

    I wish I could have more children, but being gay is hard! And I have so many mental illnesses that it's even harder! I'm a big, fat gay that can't get what I want, so I try to hate my own kind in public places to make myself feel better.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • bobbylei

      Thanks "Bobbylei number two." You have altogether confirmed my comment. Thanks for being honest!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  8. bobbylei

    The bulk of their charitable giving goes the children and families. The two things gays can't have! No wonder they're screaming!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:15 am |
  9. bobbylei

    The bulk of their charitable giving goes the children and families. The two things gays can't have! No wonder their screaming!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • bobbylei

      Even though I am gay, and I have adopted 5 children in the past 5 years. Sometimes, because of my borderline personality disorder I forget who I am and I needlessly spew hatred!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Noah

      I'm sorry, but where in this article did it say anything about adoption or mental illness? I believe the discussion was whether it is worthwhile to protest a multinational conglomerate because of their corporate beliefs. Please keep the discussion poignant, because you have obviously never been able to come up with a legitimate reason for being gay other than the bible informing you so.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  10. bigdoglv

    After reading these comments I finally get it. Free speech is our right, as long as it agrees with yours.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      That's what most people consider free speech, unfortunately.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  11. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    JESUS IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. PRAISE JESUS FOREVER!!!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  12. Betty Z. Smith

    Before I became an angry housewife, I was a happy Lesbian. But my family told me that I would inherit nothing if I didn't get married to a man. So here I am, spreading hatred toward my own people. In reality I'm very proud to be gay!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Noah

      Sorry your family wasn't more tolerant, I'm proudly straight and have a gay family member who I wholeheartedly support. Maybe you should look at the real lesson in the bible, tolerance, and realize that you're arguments are all flawed.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Tolerance plays an almost non existent role in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Noah

      your*, sorry, had to correct myself to prevent you from correcting my grammar, since you're the type of anal-retentive person who would poke flaws at my syntax.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Noah

      Ephesians 4:2
      With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love
      Timothy 4:1
      I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • chetworth

      way to stand up for your beliefs

      August 4, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • bobbylei

      Poor Noah...sharp as a marble.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Noah

      And yet the new testament remains part of the bible that resides in hotel rooms across the country.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Greg

      Noah,
      I like the scriptures but remember Paul was speaking to believers. To nonbelievers we are to be "salt" and "light" and Betty is right that tolerance of mans ideas or the passions of the flesh are not apart of us, we are to please God and to live by the spirit.
      In Love

      August 4, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  13. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    JESUS RULES AND REIGNS IN THIS LAND!!! PRAISE JESUS FOREVER!

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

    THE BLOOD OF JESUS CLEANSES, HEALS, SETS FREE AND DELIVERS!!! PRAISE JESUS FOREVER!!!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

      SO TO GET HIS BLOOD WE HAVE TO PERFORM A RITUAL THAT IS MUCH LIKE SATANISM!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  15. Nietodarwin

    JESUS may save you, but THE FREE MARKET will not save Chick fil A, and other bible thumper corporations.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • freespirit

      Just wondering what if all the Christians, Bible-thumpers, Muslims, Jews, and even non-religious folks – all who stand for traditional marriage – just decided they would stop going to say Starbucks because it donates to pro-gay causes? We don't do that, because even though they give their money to a cause that is against ours, it is their money. They have the freedom to do what they wish in accordance with their beliefs with what is theirs – and they have good coffee. Same with Chick-Fil-A. What they say and give to is their business. We need to stop dividing the world further because people don't like what others think or do. Everyone stand firm on your own beliefs, and quit trying to make everyone else fall into their line. This is ridiculous.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  16. Chad

    Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Focus on the Family are not hate groups. The values that they groups support are found in the Bible. Christians, Jews, and I believe Muslims all believe in the Old Testament of the Bible. You're attacking Chic-fil-A when you should be respecting the right of others to hold their own personal beliefs. This country was founded on the idea of religious freedom. You have your beliefs and the faithful have ours. The media is extremely biased and it should not be.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Religious freedom is not denying people their rights. Also, the Old Testament is INCREDIBLY hateful and violent.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • ME II

      @Chad,
      "The values that they groups support are found in the Bible"
      That doesn't necessarily mean they are not hate groups.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  17. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    THE NAME OF THE LORD IS A STRONG TOWER. THE RIGHTEOUS RUN INTO IT, AND THEY ARE SAFE!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:08 am |
  18. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    BLESSED IS THE NAME OF THE LORD MOST HIGH!!!!

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

    THERE'S GONNA BE A REVIVAL IN THIS LAND!!!!! PRAISE THE NAME OF JESUS FOREVER!!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  20. Nietodarwin

    VOMITING BIBLE VERSES all over my food. I'm not hungry anymore, thank you.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

      DID YOU PRAY OVER YOUR FOOD BEFORE YOU ATE? HERE...LET ME PRAY FOR YOU. DEAR GRACIOUS FATHER. PLEASE BLESS THIS PERSON. LET THEIR FOOD BE NOURISHING TO THEIR BODY. FILL THEM UP, BOTH WITH THE NATURAL FOOD AND WITH THE SPIRITUAL FOOD OF YOUR POWER AND GRACE. BLESS THIS PERSON'S FAMILY. WHATEVER HURT AND DISAPPOINTMENT AND TOIL THIS PERSON HAS EXPERIENCED IN THEIR LIFE, PLEASE GUIDE THEM THROUGH IT. I PRAY THAT YOU WOULD WRAP YOUR LOVING ARMS AROUND THIS PERSON. DRAW THEM CLOSE TO YOU SO THEY WOULD KNOW YOU ARE INDEED A KIND AND LOVING FATHER. ONE WHO HAS THEIR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART. AND THAT JOB OR PROMOTION THEY HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR. DO IT FOR THIS PERSON, JESUS. YOU KNOW THEIR NEEDS ARE GREAT. AND YOU ARE THE PROVIDER OF ALL. IN JESUS' NAME I PRAY. AMEN. HAVE A BLESSED WEEKEND, NIETODARWIN!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:15 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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.