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)
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  4. Xsantiago

    All Dan Cathy said was, "We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that." He was clearly asked his views, not preaching them. So I don't believe Chick-fil-a's foundation should be misrepresented as anti-gay. The fast food chain has never been acussed of discrimanting towards serving or employing gays.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
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    September 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  6. Neenz

    Chick-fil-A has been a popular fast food restaurant for several years now, which means many of its customers know that it is, in fact, closed on Sundays.. People knew the owner was a Christian, and that
    he held many of those ideals set forth by the Bible close. The statement that the owner doesn’t support gay people or gay marriage has never caused him to treat any one person differently. Many people are forgetting the fact that he was in fact asked on his views. He didn’t force his opinions on anyone, and never discriminated against gay employees or customers. Had no one asked, we may never have known. He treated everyone fairly and with respect, and didn’t force his personal belief’s any more than having the establishments closed on Sundays. This isn’t a legal violation, simply because he was asked for his opinion. However, this restriction of someone’s free expression is gross. If answering a simple question causes such a controversy and someone’s opinions are truly this dangerous, are any of us free from this sort of degrading reaction?

    September 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • guerrero

      I like it up the bum

      September 13, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • Xsantiago

      I completly agree with you. I believe gay rights group blew his comments out of proportion.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • midwest rail

      NO ONE'S 1st Amendment rights were violated. Disagreement is not restriction of free speech.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  7. Kaitlin

    To editor Dan Gilgoff: Where is your citation for the financial information regarding how WinShape uses $8.2 million dollars?

    September 11, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • Ramzinho

      I like it up the ass

      September 13, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  8. tuvia



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    September 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • truth be trolled

      Spamming extremist tard.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
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    August 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
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    August 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  11. cat

    Also I'm not fond of male-dominated marriages - when both in the marriage are working then both need to take turns doing laundry, cleaning toilets, bathing the kids, cooking healthy meals, etc. (Probably the reason I 'leased' did not purchase and our laundry went to a laundry service weekly and we had someone come in to clean every other week.) As he told me, hey we're both busy - and we 'prorated' the rent/groceries since we had his chldren by lst marriage with us a few times a week. But I wasn't raised to be domestic LOL LOL

    August 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  12. cat

    some years ago when I first moved to da South, I was looking up the names/addresses of my local politicians - a young boy asked me what I was doing so I explained 'looking up names/addresses of my local politicians so I can write to them"–he then said: Oh do you know they are actually doing abortions at the White House–that's what all the long lines are standing outside the White House. I was shocked and in return I told him: well when you grow up and become a woman you'll have a better understanding. (Yes the librarian overheard it and she laffed and turned away.) So whatever that young boy was being told in his 'Christian' home was definitely not the truth and not 'Christian.' I guess that is one more reason to become Catholic, Muslim or Buddhist LOL LOL I'm not fond of 'organized religion to begin with as in my experience so many Christians put $$ before faith (and often gossip before that–I mean who gives a crap what someone wears to church to begin with?)

    August 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Checkthis

      IPlease check you grammer and spelling before sending those letters to any politicians. Is that youth in your story a girl or boy? You refer to him as a young boy and then warn him of becoming a woman.

      August 7, 2012 at 1:28 pm |
    • Patriconi

      Thought this might lighten the mood a bit: http://www.cafepress.com/drchicken

      August 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      " Is that youth in your story a girl or boy? You refer to him as a young boy and then warn him of becoming a woman. "

      *Whoooooooooooosh* the sound of this going right over @Checkthis' head 😀 LOL !!!


      August 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  13. Drake

    @ scott, you sre full of BS. Ever heard of Rev. Phelps?
    You christians are the biggest hypocrites!
    You hide your hate behind a book that has been revised thousands of times over generations to suit that cultures biases!

    August 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Tim

      Please don't lump all of us Christians in with the likes of Scott.
      Tim (an openly gay Christian)

      August 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Greg

      Drake is ignorant, the Bible has never been revised. There are different translation but none of them are contradictory to one another.

      August 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  14. Nietodarwin

    Well, now the religious can have more good photos of the disaster their overpopulation is causing. Humanity has landed another machine on Mars, (yes, that's us atheists, and satan worshipers sending communication and scientific equipment to MARS, THE RED PLANET, HOME OF SATAN. God allowed Satan to create Mars just 5000 years ago, (God loves earth more and the BIBLE SAYS earth is 6000 years old) Satan just made it look older, and put canyons and such because Satan is a liar.)

    August 6, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • .

      I pray that all you atheists hop on the first space ship to Mars and stay there.

      First Earth Age destroyed with water. "Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" [2nd Peter 3:6].

      August 6, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • ME II

      "I pray that all you atheists hop on the first space ship to Mars and stay there."

      Not that I'd claim to be an Atheist, per se, but I'd go in a heart beat. Where can I sign up?

      August 6, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • lisa

      atheists give people a bad name with their over-the-top egos

      August 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • ME II

      That seems odd, considering Theists are the ones claiming that they are chosen by God, or at least that God created this huge universe just for us humans, but I'm sure you are correct.

      August 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • tallulah13


      Yeah, because atheists believe that there is a supreme being that created the universe and the earth just for humans, and that same supreme being created a paradise where humans can live forever, if they just say they love him best.... No wait, that wasn't the atheists.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  15. Scott

    I think that it is a strange thing for those who support gay marriages to openly attack every Christian Church on the planet. The also attack, verbally and yes sometimes physically, anyone who would think differently than they do. You do not see, nor ever, a church admonish its congregation to HATE anyone. This is not about HATE or discrimination. It is and always has been about choice. I have been looking around all of the news channels and all I see is a lot of angry words, screaming discrimination, and sometimes violent acts against anyone who opposes gay marriage. Yes this is a hot topic. Yes these are the last days and when Jesus returns He will judge a righteous judgment upon all who hate. So look inside and seek peace not HATE

    August 5, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I am not the one donating money to groups that are trying to legislate bigotry. That would be the people from Chick-Fil-A. I am not the one preaching the lie that hom.os.exuality is a choice, and that hom.os.exuals are damned for eternity. That would be christians, despite the fact that all scientific evidence proves that people are born with their orientation.

      These are the simply facts: There is no proof to support the existence of your god or any god. There is no rational reason to believe in any god. There is no rational reason to believe that these are "the end times". There is no rational reason to discriminate against others because of your religion. And there is no reason for anyone who objects to discrimination to be silent and allow it to continue unchallenged.

      August 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • chris hogan

      "Gays oppose every church on the planet"?

      Are you aware that many of us cherish our faith and have found loving gay friendly churches in our communities? Hell, some of us are pastors ourselves. The next time you make a generalization like that, think about how thoughtless it sounds.

      August 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • .

      Gays know Jesus, they're being pulled away from his teachings because of the IJs.

      August 5, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • bold

      Obviously you missed the video of the 6 year old boy on the church altar spewing hate against gay people

      August 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • Greg

      On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

      August 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Scott – you couldn't have posted any more false generalizations if you had tried. Care to back up any of your assertions ?

      August 6, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • ME II

      "You do not see, nor ever, a church admonish its congregation to HATE anyone. "

      Where have you been?
      Terry Jones
      Westborro Baptist church
      Army of God

      August 6, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      "You do not see, nor ever, a church admonish its congregation to HATE anyone. "

      Don't you know lying is a sin?

      August 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!#

      August 6, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  17. McCarthy

    McCarthy is back and this time he's gay.

    August 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Jpct50

      Yep, or better known as Big Gay!

      August 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Possibly the dumbest comment on the entire thread. Well done.

      August 6, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • tallulah13

      Andrew McCarthy? From all those John Hughes films? I had no idea he was gay!

      August 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
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About this blog

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.