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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. S24H

    Wow you can't even be chairitable now without being criticized now a days.

    Making mountains out of mole hills with this issue. It is really very simple. There are people that are not going to agree or accept everything that goes on in the world. Thats real life get used to it. If you feel that strongly about this persons religious views then don't support his business. End of story. Stop blowing this out of proportion.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • sam

      Charitable? When those donations include hate groups?

      What the hell is wrong with you?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • S24H

      Just because you say it is a hate group doesn't mean it is.

      What the hell is wrong with you – did mommy and daddy not teach you that not everyone is going to believe and agree with what you say? Get over yourself.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      Sam – They are a Private Company. They are free to donate where they like.

      Obama just DONATED Millions to Muslim jihadists who travelled to Syria to finish Assad off! See how hypocritical you are?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Dianne

    Why is it such a crime for a Christian company to support groups with like views? If the gay community can speak out about their rights and lifestyle why can't the Christian Community also speak out about their rights and lifestyle. Christians do not hate gay and lebsian people, they just believe their lifestyle is in opposition to what Christ teaches and therefore they cannot condon it. Why is is not OK in a country which is suppose to allow free speech and the right to your own belief for a Christian to stand up for what they believe. The gay community stands up for their own beliefs. It should be fair for all. Leave them alone.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Why is is not OK"

      Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      Social science has shown that the concerns often raised about children of lesbian and gay parents—concerns that are generally grounded in prejudice against and stereotypes about gay people—are unfounded. Overall, the research indicates that the children of lesbian and gay parents do not differ from the children of heterosexual parents in their development, adjustment, or overall well-being.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • sam

      The difference is not in speech. The difference is that I don't see gay people trying to enact legislation AGAINST christians. Gay people are not grouping together to try and make sure you get fewer rights. How is this hard to understand?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  3. California

    I LOVE CHIKC-FIL-A!!

    I LOVE CHIKC-FIL-A!!

    I LOVE CHIKC-FIL-A!!

    I LOVE CHIKC-FIL-A!!

    I LOVE CHIKC-FIL-A!!

    August 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • California

      Correction

      I LOVE CHICK-FIL-A!!

      August 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • sam

      Boring troll too dumb to cut and paste properly.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  4. Schmo

    Theres nothing wrong with being gay. Jesus himself had 2 dads

    August 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      A Father – God, and a Foster Father – St Joseph. Always useful to have the facts, Sweetheart!

      August 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Shar

      NOW THESE FLAMING WHATEVERS WANT TO TELL CHICK FIL A WHO TO GIVE THEIR CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS TO???? THESE "PEOPLE" ARE CONTROL FREAKS ~ TO WHICH I SAY ~ SHUTTY!!

      THANK YOU CHICK FIL A!! YOUR FOOD IS YUMMY!!

      August 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Neither of whom apparently wanted to have se.x with his mother...

      August 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • KB

      Seeing your going spiritual, try reading 1 Corintians chapter 6 versers 9-10, please think about it. I truly believe gays should have same rights even though I believe from the bible it's wrong. I know your thought bible so what man says it's ok really? men are killing women and children all over the world and thinking it's ok. We need some guidlines to live by, other wise like I stated before it must be ok for me to marry my 12 year old cousin?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      " I know your thought bible so what man says it's ok really?"

      You make an excellent point, KB.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  5. Thatguy371

    I wouldn't eat that chew n' choke joint crap if they paid me to do it. So I guess they're on their own if they wanna support hate groups. Afterall, they are the morality police.... and they have millions of baby blimp pseudo Christians on their side hoofing and woofing down that one way ticket to tub-o-lardsville hooey.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  6. hmmm

    opinions are the same as a$$ holes, everyone has one and they all stink

    August 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  7. family man

    Gays will always find something to whine about. its in their nature.
    mods gunna mod

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

      And bigots will always find something bad to say about another group, even if it's something as pathetic as "they're always going to whine".

      August 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Huh?

      "Gays will always find something to whine about. its in their nature."

      So people fighting for their civil rights are whiners? So that must mean so are African Americans, women....oh and yeah the founding fathers of this country.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  8. Floyd

    Now, where do I send my winshape donation?

    August 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  9. rh

    Go to any children's hospital then try to tell me there's a god....

    August 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • HendersonNV

      When my son was 10 he had a ruptured appendix misdiagnosed for 5 days. Had surgery but also had pnuemonia. 13 days in a children's hospital. Somehow he made it and is 23 now. Ya, I still believe....but you don't have to until it becomes obvious to you too...

      August 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  10. kjlskdjfldj

    I ate a turd once.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  11. daverrr

    at the end of the day, one group goes to their self centered, arrogant empty lives, while the other goes to their home full of life, with a partner that is chosen for life and the blessing of children. Obviously there is room for all in a world that puts the family first. the others, well they hate you for not being like them.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  12. Jason

    I hope that all Christians start eating at Chick-fil-A more often. I know I will.

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

      I hope so, too! Eat as much fried food as you can find. It'll be good for you.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Can anyone explain logically why God has a 'Chosen People'? And why choose a small population out of many?

      For anyone who doesn't have an answer; I know, I know......... 'he works in mysterious ways'..........

      August 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  13. Reality

    Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    August 3, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  14. Mark

    What people seem to forget these days is that everyone has a right to their own beliefs. I dont like a lot of people, but it doesnt affect them in any way what so ever, so it really doesnt matter what the owner thinks.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • DaveVB

      Mark, You are so right and I will add that when the blog author writes: "financed almost entirely by Chick-fil-A profits" they are either a) uninformed/uneducated or b) being significantly misleading. Chick-Fil-A is a private company. Chick-Fil-A profits therefore are their property to do with what they please. It is just amazing to me that we are supposed to be ok with movie stars and film moguls using their celebrity and all the exposure that provides to tell us over and over about whatever cause or concern they have AND expect us to go to see their films without threats of boycotts or worse and that here someone has their own opinion about mariage and they have their property damaged, people calling them "haters" and everything else that's going on. I kind of feel some of what I hear from Hollywood-types to be full of ignorance and hate (just to pick a left-leaning subset out of the many that are out there)......but I sure as heck don't expect them to have to "think like me – or else!"

      August 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  15. Rita

    It seems to me that the GLT movement are the real haters here. The chick-fil-A people simply answered o a question they were asked. They simply are standing on their Christian believes. I think the person who asked the question was simply looking for some controversy. That is it. Not agreeing with somebody's way of life does not make you a hater.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Huh?

      "That is it. Not agreeing with somebody's way of life does not make you a hater."

      So what does it make him when he also donates millions to anti-gay groups?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • sam

      Right – not agreeing with someone's way of life is not hate.

      Apparently, you don't realize that this guy has donated to groups that support the death penalty for gays people in Africa, has donated to support legislation making it illegal for gay people to marry.

      That is hate.

      Buy a clue and do more than read headlines.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Sorry Rita, donating to political groups whose explicit purpose is to oppress the rights of others kind of makes you a hater.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • JM

      Gays should do what I do. I will NEVER BUY BEN & JERRY'S ice cream. I will never buy from Amazon again and after what Home Depot did for gays I will never go there again either. When I saw how JP Penneys ads did in December, I have never returned there again. I don't ask them to not advertise or I won't try to punish them in any way except they will never get any of my money. That is my RIGHT. I wil still believe what the Bible says and it matters not what man will say.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  16. Rufus T. Firefly

    Jesus is not reported to have ever said a word about homosexuality and if anything his doctrine of not judging others should tell you all you need to know. Christians use religion as an excuse to persecute who they don't like, and in doing so take the Lord's name in vain in order to prop up their own pre-existing prejudices. I seem to recall one of those little Commandment thingies regarding exactly that...

    August 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Rita

      The Chick-Fil-A people are not persecuting anybody. They were just asking a question. That's it.

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

      I actually believe that the LGBT community is persecuting those who do not agree with them.

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

      No, Rita. Stop before you look dumber than you already do.

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

      Rita – You're correct.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "I actually believe that the LGBT community is persecuting those who do not agree with them."

      You would have probably made this dumb comment about African Americans and women when they were fighting for their civil rights too.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      Rufus – The Commandment forbidding taking the Lord's name in vain is Blasphemy – or using the Holy Name as a swearword! You CAN'T alter the 10 Commandments to make a political point!
      And BTW Rita is right. You've only got to look at there posts to see that Christians are being persecuted by Gays and [in fairness, mainly ] their supporters.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Frank

      I didn't hear Cathy use the Lords name in vain but iI here you trying to say he did. Isn't that lieing? Wasn't not lieing one of the Ten Commandments. Guess you forgot or simply don't care
      Check the Bible Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed for the sin of one man laying with another man (one of the reasons)

      August 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  17. California

    Liberals jsut want to force (no dictate) what you should think.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • sam

      By wanting people to have equal rights? Sure.

      You sound like a good christian.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • KB

      you know the old thing, if a liberal is a vegaterian they want meat banned, if a conservative is a vegaterian they just don't eat meat. And there you have it, enough said

      August 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • drew

      Of course, because all the legislation being introduced to ban gay marriage, ban birth control, teach religious based beliefs in public schools...is ALL coming from the left....

      August 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • drew

      What does KB stand for, KKKompletely Backwards??

      August 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  18. AverageJoe76

    If same-s_x orientation is found to be a genetic trait, will religious groups continue to say it's a choice? If proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that it's biology, not choice, what does that mean about God?

    Or.... will it be another "stick-your-head-in-the-sand" issue, YOU CHOOSE to ignore?

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

      If it is found to be a genetic trait- why would that gain it automatic acceptance? Downs syndrome is genetic, but that doesn't mean people what their children to have it.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      The most recent research shows it's a choice. But I would say that in maybe 2% of cases it's a birth defect.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  19. Cubist Tut

    Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional, organized religions, such as Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.

    August 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Which God??

      Cubist, don't forget to mention same s-ex gender realationships too.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Chicagothug

      Which God? – Cubist can't do that because it isn't include. How could it possibly include deviant behaviour?

      August 3, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  20. Man

    Lets get you straight

    There is a God and you need him.
    God dosent teach us to hate or judge thats of man not God. I dont need to go to Chick-fil-A to stand up for God. All I need is to pray so I can stand with God

    May God Bless you all

    August 3, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Which God??

      Man, let get this striaght. You are a delusional fool. You need help. You need medication. You need to use your brain to really THINK with.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      I love the "All Merciful, All Forgiving – God"....... can I have that version only? The Old Testemant version is a d_ick.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Thomas Jefferson

      God is dead and no-one cares.

      August 3, 2012 at 3:21 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.