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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. Rational Libertarian

    God almoost certainly doesn't exist, the god of Abraham definitely doesn't exist, and anbody who adheres to Abrahamism is retarded.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • just wondering

      Define almoost please. Does it have to do with moose ?

      August 4, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Chad

      @Rational Libertarian " the god of Abraham definitely doesn't exist,"

      =>so, what data do you have backing that up?

      your claim isnt one of disbelief (as in, "I dont believe that God exists"), it's a claim that God doesnt exist.

      so, what's your data?

      August 4, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Typo.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • it could be a word that

      "anbody" might use if they was retarded.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Saul proves it really. Before Saul, most Jews were polytheists.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      That was a typo, whereas you made a glaring grammatical error.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • i'm not a doctor but

      anybody that misspells that many words almost certainly does not believe what it is trying to say. Either that or it is using the statement to define retarded which it then goes on to credit itself as being.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • i'm not a doctor but

      the grammatical error appears to be an attempt by anybody to communicate at your level.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I've been up for more than 24 hours. A few typos are to be expected. Also, there's a difference between a typo and a spelling mistake.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • my child is retarded

      What a vicious mean spirited hate filled comment. At long last have you come to a place where you have no decency at all?

      August 4, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I couldn't care less about your child, assuming this isn't Mr. Multi Moniker, which it is..

      August 4, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Chad

      @Rational Libertarian "Saul proves it really. Before Saul, most Jews were polytheists."

      =>Interesting.. and what precisely is your source for that?
      and
      how exactly do you link that with "the God of Abraham definitely doesnt exist"??

      August 4, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • great intellect my ass

      Rational Libertarian you are no more than a hate dispensing bigot. Retarded people everywhere need to stand up for their rights against this hate spewing impostor.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • you fraud

      you hypocrite, how dare you demean the least of these our brothers, the retarded and deny their civil rights you self absorbed hate monger.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Chad

      Is it irrefutable proof? No. But it would take an incredible retard not to realize that Yahweh is just a desert storm god who got too big for his boots.

      I don't know if there is a deity, but I don't believe in one, but it doesn't take much cognitive ability to see the Yahweh story is complete crap.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • my child is retarded

      You could care less about the rights of the less fortunate but have been on incessantly for perverts? What kind of unfeeling animal are you? Why should anybody listen to a thing your hate filled heart puts out?

      August 4, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • my child is retarded

      Once a hate filled bigot always a hate filled bigot ! Where is justice and equality for the mentally challenged?

      August 4, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Chad

      @Rational Libertarian "Is it irrefutable proof? "
      @Chad "what is "it", the comment on Saul that has no source and no relation to the existence of the God of Abraham?

      ========
      @Rational Libertarian "No. But it would take an incredible retard not to realize that Yahweh is just a desert storm god who got too big for his boots."
      @Chad "data?
      let me guess.. you dont have any, havent read the bible, but you "just know"?"

      ======
      @Rational Libertarian "the god of Abraham definitely doesn't exist"
      @Rational Libertarian "I don't know if there is a deity, but I don't believe in one"
      @Chad "which is it??

      have you actually thought this thru?

      August 4, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • my child is retarded

      Chad have you no compassion for the mentally challenged? Why are you encouraging this hate filled rational libertarian?

      August 4, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Chaf

      What do you mean which is it? I made it clear, I don't know 100% if there is a deity, but I don't believe that there is a deity.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Sorry, Chad.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Also, I have read most of the Bible, couldn't stand the Psalms and some of the Old Testament books are too long and boring, and the New Testament is just the same story four times. What should it matter anyway? I haven't read dianetics or any other Scientology stuff but can say with certainty that it's a load of crap.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Rational Libertarian,
      You of course can’t prove a statement like that and I can’t prove he exists, but you are going to have a very tough time convincing me even if you have some back up because he is sitting right here with me right now. God bless.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'd advive psycho-analysis. You are far too old to have an imaginary friend.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Chad

      @Rational Libertarian "the god of Abraham definitely doesn't exist"@Rational Libertarian "Saul proves it really. Before Saul, most Jews were polytheists."
      @Chad "what precisely is your source for that claim and how exactly do you link that with "the God of Abraham definitely doesnt exist"??
      @Rational Libertarian "I don't know if there is a deity, but I don't believe in one"
      @Chad "I thought you were claiming that the God of Abraham definately doesnt exist?? Which is it?
      @Rational Libertarian "What do you mean which is it? I made it clear, I don't know 100% if there is a deity, but I don't believe that there is a deity"

      right :-) your logic is garbage.. do you have any idea at all why you believe God of Abraham doesnt exist? Answer: no.. you have no idea.

      ========
      @my child is retarded "Chad have you no compassion for the mentally challenged? Why are you encouraging this hate filled rational libertarian?"
      @Chad "I have tremendous compassion.. The reason I interact with ignorant people like him is to clearly illustrate that indeed he is ignorant.
      Exposure is the best way to combat people like that..

      God Bless.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      @Robert Brown
      "...because he is sitting right here with me right now."

      Please post a photo for evidence or even a recording, thanks!

      August 4, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I know exactly why I don't believe in the god of Abraham. Same as every other deity. NO EVIDENCE.

      Go f.uck yourself Chad. HAIL SATAN

      August 4, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Robert Brown

      Rational Libertarian,
      He dwells in every believer that is why statements like yours are disregarded without serious thought. You think carnal thoughts because you don’t have the holy spirit. There is a barrier between spiritual and physical. You can’t connect with the spiritual without being born again.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Greg

      The fact that you are here is evidence that God exist, not to mention every other thing that has been created screams out there is a Creator. Even Satan was created by God and was given great authority before his pride got in the way.

      August 4, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I think carnal thoughts because I'm a man.

      Greg, if that's what you consider proof, you should be barred from jury duty. Also, is fighting against a tyrannical dictatorship pride? Satan is a liberator.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Voice of Reason,
      Here copy this to your browser and watch the video, http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=JB02JJNU
      God Bless

      August 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Greg

      Rational Libertarian,
      Satan is the god of this world and a liar from the beginning.
      God is self evident in his creation and this is a point you can not argue. Everything points to a first cause, The Creator spoke everything into existance. I challenge you on this.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What the f.uck do you mean "I challenge you"? You're making the claim. I challenge you to provide proof to ypur delusion.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Sorry, your. I need a nap.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Greg

      I did provide proof, the complexity of all life. Though you may not like the argument I am making you can not refute it. Look outside and what do you see, look in the mirror and you can gaze upon a created being. You may not want to be accountable to God but that doesn't make Him not exist.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I can and do refute it, and am ending this argument for the obvious reason that you are blinded by 'faith'.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  2. Rational Libertarian

    I have been so adverse to this whole God, thing. But I'm really starting to come around to it. Keep the great discussion going, everyone. It has really helped me.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  3. Rational Libertarian

    I WILL SING SONGS OF PRAISE TO MY GOD FOREVER - JESUS THE CHRIST. THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  4. Tina

    JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF MY LIFE!!! PRAISE HIS NAME FOREVER!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  5. Rational Libertarian

    JESUS ROCKS!!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  6. Rational Libertarian

    THE LORD IS WONDERFUL!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 4, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Tina

      HeavenSent, does your Jesus wear a thong?

      August 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      AMEN

      August 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • just sayin

      @tina
      you are replying on the wrong thread . God bless

      August 4, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Tina

      JESUS IS AMAZING!!!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      No she's not.

      Also Tina, we're in the club of people who's moniker has been stolen by some retard, probably HS.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  8. Rational Libertarian

    JESUS RULES AND REIGNS IN THE EARTH!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  9. Rational Libertarian

    AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE. WE WLL SERVE THE LORD!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  10. D

    I find it ironic that marriage though not called that until midevel times was originally a "religious" joining the male and female
    historically pre-dating christianity and coming from mulitple different achient people groups, it wasn't until much later that marriage starting being used as a form a political and economic device but was still a religious practice. If in reality we demeand seperation of church and state, the goverment should stay out of this becuase marriage belongs to religion not the goverment, and marriage should go back to where it belongs, to those who believe. the rest of you should have no right to change something that predates most of human history.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      AMEN! EXCELLENT COMMENT!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Marriage is a civil contract. Religion needs to stop interfering where it's not wanted. Nobody is going to force churches, synagogues or mosques to recognize gay marriage, just legal recognition.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • chronickelly

      Humanity progresses in every manner the course of time and history. It's called progression. Marriage was created as a method of property record (including the wife being listed as property) and as a means of income for church. God had nothing to do with the marital union of a man and woman. And for the record, since you're claiming a certain knowledge of history, gays and lesbians were also married by the church in early Christianity.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      THE WORD OF GOD SAYS, "A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER OR MOTHER AND CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE". PRAISE GOD FOR HIS UNCHANGEABLE WORD!!!! JESUS ROCKS!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      GOD TOOK THE RIB OF ADAM AND MADE EVE. PRAISE GOD FOR THE TRUTH OF HIS WORD! JESUS ROCKS!!!!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • nope

      @chronickelly
      nope

      August 4, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      True. Marriage has always been and still is a religious ceremony. You are also right that in Europe through the middles the authority of the Catholic Church was the only authority necessary to recognize a marriage. Then along came the protestant reformation and Henry VIII wanted a divorce but couldn't get one because the pope said Sorry. Your marriage to Catherine is valid whether you have a son with her or not. So, Henry broke with the Church and set himself up as his own authority instead, thus creating civil authority over marriage and set in motion the further splintering of christians into smaller and more diverse sects. These events were followed by warfare between Catholics and protestants...and then the colonization of the American territory. When the American colonists broke from England, they did not want to have the same warfare follow them into the new world and so they made freedom of religion one of the bill of rights. Unfortunately, that created even more division and also means that we have a legal system that allows you the legal right to be absolutely dead wrong. Marriage is a civil event, in that you must have a marriage license, and only religious if you ALSO have a some sort religious ceremony instead of a just civil one. And that, dear folks, is exactly why we are having this political disturbance. It's all semantics about legalities. It has nothing to do with and does not change the religious definition or VALIDITY any individual marriage – especially not the ones that appropriate the name marriage for whatever they can get passed as legislation.

      August 5, 2012 at 3:58 am |
  11. Rational Libertarian

    SURELY, GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW ME ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE AND I SHALL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, FOREVER!!! PRAISE THE NAME OF JESUS!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  12. Rational Libertarian

    HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES; HE RESORETH MY SOUL

    August 4, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  13. Rational Libertarian

    THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT WANT

    August 4, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  14. Rational Libertarian

    AND NOW ONTO HIM WHO IS ABLE TO KEEP US FROM FALLING. BE PRAISE, GLORY, DOMINION AND POWER. FOREVER!!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Thanks again. You may rim me, if it pleases you.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  15. Rational Libertarian

    THERE IS NONE LIKE OUR LORD, JESUS THE CHRIST!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Thanks for the flattery. I can only assume you want to blow me, which is OK.

      August 4, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  16. Vinman151

    It's called freedom of speech. If you are white and or a Christian in the US you can not say anything. I went to Chic Fil A to support reedom of speech. My question si Did Jesse Jackson or Rev Al show up to support gay rights? Guess they only support black issues.

    August 4, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Who's denying Chick-fil-A their freedom of speech?

      August 4, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      THE LORD IS GOOD AND HE'S GREATLY TO BE PRAISED! AMEN!

      August 4, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  17. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    LET THE CHURCH SAY AMEN

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

    THE LORD IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURS FOREVER!

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

    HALLELUJAH!!!

    August 4, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  20. LET'S PRAY TO JESUS. HE IS MY SAVIOR.

    OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD! PRAISE JESUS FOREVER!!!!1

    August 4, 2012 at 10:22 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.