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."
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.
JJ – do you know that gays are executed in other countries? Do you buy oil based products – think gasoline? If so, you must have not realized you are a hypocrite. You support companies who murder gays and don't support companies that have a difference of opinion about marriage and do not murder gays. Think about it while you have a chicken sandwich.
So true. They argue/fight with those in America who disagree with their lifestyle choice, because we are tolerant in America. The mere fact that we can all disagree out loud says something–doesn't it? I love having the freedom and right to disagree with anyone without fear of penalty. That is what this whole thing was all about–not having the fear of saying how you think/believe/feel. It doesn't matter if you are wrong or right–having the right should be protected beyond the selfish ambition of having everyone or anyone agree with you. So, this Cathy dude believes in a traditional family and some don't–I'm so glad to be an American.
I do not live in those countries, I live in the USA.
Next week – There will be a "bound the chocolate and lick the chic lips" fun day at all of the GALB businesses. Christians not invited.
That is an event not to miss.
So, GALB groups – you can kiss our grits.
Bigotry or prejudice in any form is more than a problem; it is a deep-seated evil within our society.
The Vatican is anti "Marriage Equality". How come we are not demonizing those who give money to the Catholic Church.
I cannot believe they would go after the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Are people listening to what is being said out there? The socialist agenda by such greats as Lenin and Stalin required tolerance only of those who believed as you did. Everything/one else was evil and should be condemed by society.
I remember being five years old and eating in the kitchen of a restaurant. I was with my dad, a catholic priest, and a black mass server. Many years later I asked my dad about this memory. He said that after church, we stepped into the joint to get breakfast. People began giving us disapproving looks. The manager approached us and said "You guys can eat in here but he (the black lad) could eat in the kitchen. So we all ate in the kitchen. Black people have been beaten, lynched, segregated,ostracized (even in the military, by the very secular gubment that "freed" them) everywhere in this country. Native Americans have suffered genocide to the point of near extinction – at the hands of secular gubment.
The comments made by Mr. Cathy weren't anything like hate.
Chick fil a is a fabulous organization who treats everyone who comes in the store with dignity and respect. They have helped and supported underprivileged children for decades. The vitriolic hate of ultra left wing people like the Arizona bully will not stop their good works or good chicken sandwich.
Bev, I agree with you, but can we stop this extreme application of views. How do you know that everyone who supports the gays in this scenario are leftist? This political polarization of labeling the acts of everyone as liberal or conservative is why idiot people keep electing stupid people into congress, and then wonder why the situation in this country is not getting better.
Get 'em while their young!
I have an idea, Lets all turn gay and watch the world's reproduction rate drop to 0.
Great idea, what ya doin later?
Yeah. Too bad your parents didn't consider that option
Really? My guess is they felt they were not "winning" the original battle so lets create another one! Who is being racist now? If you want to go after every orginization that funds and benefits other non profits, um, you might as well go after them all. You can or cannot tell a company what orgs they can donate to.
Sure we can, we can let them know that our money will only support a business that openly supports equality.
They are free to give to whoever they want with their money, the same as pro gay companies are free to give their money to whoever they want. Saying any differently to either side is "bigoted".
Caan whee aall ghet aloongg????
@rodney: Please stop your sarcastic and racist comment!!!!
Don't ever ever comment if you can't spell English correctly!!!!
BURY YOUR HEAD BACK IN THE SAND AND NEVER MAKE ANY COMMENT...EVER...!!!
I have to leave this site now, the stupidity level is killing me not to mention the hypocrisy
You might have supported Chick-fil-hate for a day, but I will boycott them for a lifetime, I WIN!!!!!!
You are the one full of HATE. You are spewing it all over this site. Look in the mirror – hypocrite.
Prayer changes things .
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!~
Yeah, prayer really worked well for those butchered at Auschwitz (and every other atrocity before and since). You think their prayers were answered? Got some bad news for you...there is no god.
This guy posts the same nonsense on every article tied to religion. Nutty as they come...
Atheists have murdered more people in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries and you use their suffering as an argument against prayer? What kind of person does such a low end, bottom feeder type thing?
Considering that you're lying out of your ass, not to mention you refuse to give any evidence for any of your assertions, you're the last person who should tell anyone else they're a bottom feeder.
Absolutely agree, and experienced it in my life. Prayer also worked for my parents and my grandparents. Self centered libs (and sadly even some christians) think that God has to come down to their level and do what they want Him to do, otherwise they say prayer doesn't work. How about consequences for your actions? Newsflash; if you live a lifestyle that doesn't go along with the Bible, your prayer will not work.
All assertions and no evidence.
@just sayin:”Atheists have murdered more people in the last 100 years than were killed in all previous centuries”
Hitler his SS and his army were all Christian. Communism is just another dogmatic religion, just like christianity
@AndyInAtl:” if you live a lifestyle that doesn't go along with the Bible, your prayer will not work.”
I grew up in a Christian family and for a long time was christian and lived a life that did go along with the bible. Prayer didn’t work then either. That’s one of the facts that started me doubting.
VLord – so do you know which gas stations buy gas from non middle east sources? I doubt it. So you have bought and supported companies who sell middle east products.
Theodosius – Cathy has made no remarks, to the best of my knowledge, about inter-racial marriage. So that comparison is not applicable even though you think so.
Fred – you point is invalid and unmoral. Does Chick-Fil-A do anything that physically harms anyone, other than sell fast food products? No. Gay people are being killed in a foreign country and you buy products produced by those countries. You rationlize it because it is too difficult to figure out the source of the gasoline. Besides you need gas.
I'll say it again, if you buy a product where the source is from any country that executes gays and you protest against Chick-Fil-A then you are by definition a hypocrite. Deal with it and have a chicken sandwich.
I did Tony Perkins
Before or after he did Janet Leigh?
Rather than inculcating our children with the primary-color simple Sunday school legends and myths most people do, might I suggest the following ten comandments to enable them to think for themselves.
1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.
2. DO NOT think that claims about magic and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.
3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.
4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars get frightened when you want to "look under the hood".
5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and goblins and believing in any of them does not make one moral.
6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should I believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.
7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?
8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of god” or “god moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.
9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?
10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.
I sometimes think that, if we first taught our children these simple guidelines, any religion or other supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species.
Couldn't agree with you more! Great comment.
My, my..so profound. Sounds so original, yet so pathetic. You're so wise to believe that matter came from nothing and that the universe was formed by chance (doesn't exist) and that organisms become more complex by happenstance.. It's so intellectual of you to repeat Dawkins verbatim. Stop insulting anyone with a GED. For the love of God!
What are you babbling about? Who said something came from nothing? Who said this was all be chance, or that organisms become more complex by "happenstance"?
Your arguments are dead! They are from the elementary textbook of fools. We can't talk until you evolve and your brain cavity expands...about 250,000 years.
C.S. Lewis was a Christian, Eric Mataxis is a Christian, Thomas Aquinas was a Christian.
You are hawaiiguest. Rest my case! Bam
LOL I call poe on this one. I ask a few clarifying questions, and you come back saying my arguments (which I haven't made) are dead.
Do gays/lesbians have anything better and more productive to do than tear down charities now? They will never have my respect/support until they earn it. They are rude and disrespectful and apparently don't adhere to their own campaign of No H8. they seem to hate everyone and everything. Even the supports of the gay/lesbian community and mean and nasty. They all deserve each other. God Bless America and God Bless Free Speech and God Bless Chik-Fil-A
Chicky fillet donates to groups that oppose gays. Why wouldn't the gay community be just a LITTLE upset by that?!?!?!
"Do gays/lesbians have anything better and more productive to do than tear down charities now? "
Those charities are promoting a message that is about trying to block the civil rights of gays. Would you say the same thing to African Americans or women when they were fighting for their civil rights? Duh!
Planned parenthood facilitated the abortion of my unborn child against my wishes. They are murders.
'Planned parenthood facilitated the abortion of my unborn child against my wishes. They are murders."
Then sue them but you probably won't since this is a lie.
In response to the comments below: The PRIVATELY held company can do with funds whatever they want. The gay/lesbian community have plenty of organizations they can support/donate to. If you don't want your money going to their foundaiton, don't go to their restaurant. You really need that explained?
bless you for your thoughts. The only improvement that Chic fil A could do would be to offer kellog's fruit cereal to the "funny" people for breakfast:)
Idalis...wow. If I judged all straight people based on your comment, I would have to say the same thing about them. I am not rude and nasty. I happen to be a very good person. And I also happen to think the Chick Fil A thing has gotten way out of control. Don't assume that all gay people or their supporters are having the same reaction. Do I like that I can't marry my girlfriend? No. Do I like that in this country I can still be legally discriminated against when seeking a job or housing? No. But I have a lot of supportive people in my life, which I am extremely grateful for. I live a very happy life and I love doing things for other people. I'm going to continue to live my life with positivity and not judge people before I know them...you should try the same.
HEY CHRISTARDS – Religious freedom doesn't mean you can force others to live by your beliefs.
Heed your own words – hypocrite. You might want to share your thoughts with the gay/lesbian community.
Have you been forced?
X-tains are trying to influence every decision in government. When YOUR morality becomes law YES that is being forced!
"Have you been forced?"
Yes, when I applied for a marriage license and it was denied.
Boycott will last forever, you cannot eat there everyday LOLOLOLOL
Hey JJ, Just because you have no religion, doesn't mean that you can shove your beliefs down our throats!
Wow... you complain that you are treated unfairly while you deride others. Hard to support your comments or beliefs when spout the same hate that you claim is being laid upon you.
Sorry dose but Christians voting is called democracy. Perhaps what you are really seeking is a nation where people who disagree with you are not allowed to vote or support causes they believe in
David a lot of people are denied marriage licenses for various reasons. This is not being forced. It is called not qualified under the laws of the state you live in.
So is it ok that those who choose the traditional lifestyle to be forced to accept the lifestyle of others?
it gets so old listening to the gay fanatics whine and cry every time someone disagrees with your belief. Not everyone agrees with that lifestyle, get over it.
"David a lot of people are denied marriage licenses for various reasons. This is not being forced. It is called not qualified under the laws of the state you live in."
I was denied only because I am gay.
"Not everyone agrees with that lifestyle, get over it."
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."
I wish that i could be cryopreservated until all of the religious people are gone...
If you don't like it then: 1) start your own charity & give to whomever you want. 2) don't spend your money at their business 3) quit trying to force other people to accept your beliefs . Nobody is holding a gun to yuor head and forcing you to eat at Chick-Fil-A
I agree. Do somethimng other than complain. What have the gay lesbians done lately. Broke and whiney. boo hoo.
One thing about gays, we don't forget. They may have had 1 record day of sales but it will not make up for the years of lost sales they forced upon themselves.
So you're like elephants?
This big stink that people are making out of this non-issue is inconsequential. Including your desire to no longer frequent them. The attention that is being drawn to this extremely small subset of the GLBT community is seen as a joke, even amongst yourselves. If you ever want to be taken seriously in future matters, then it would be to your benefit to not be so offended and and overly indignant.
The company has been around for 66 yrs and is a $4billion company. They'll be around long after you pass away from AIDS
I'm so worried that I just won't be able to sleep tonight. Don't you have anything more important to spend your energy on?
Gee Marty, what a loving christian thing to say. I'm sure jesus would approve
"The company has been around for 66 yrs and is a $4billion company. They'll be around long after you pass away from AIDS"
What a stupid comment, not all gay people have aids moron. Duh!
whatever.....i know a gay couple that swore they would never eat a CFA ever again. guess who I caught there yesterday morning for breakfast, yea, you should have seen the looks on their faces.
Gays need to get over it. heteros will always outnumber you. and CFA will always be a thriving success, gays not eating chicken isn't going to put CFA out of business. LOL.
To a dose of reality and yeah right – Not everyone is Christian, they just believe in FREE SPEECH and for EVERYONE to have their OWN beliefs. And as for the AIDS comment, might be stupid in your eyes but all of the comments bashing others for their OWN beliefs is stupid so heed your own words – MORON
Don't fool yourself JJ. There's not enought gays in US to make a dent.... And Chick-Fil-A chicken is just tastes too good.
Funny thing about Living Christians is, "WE DO FORGET, AND AT THE SAME TIME, WE FORGIVE" That is the difference between a true Christ follower and a "Gay Rights Activist"
Don't hold your breath. Chick-fil-A is the most profiatble fast food restaurant group in the US (by store). Our store is reporting record sales. You will still be clinging to your sad life while they open stores at a record pace. It's true, you should say something.
So now the real issue is out. It's not 1st Amendment opinion that is the issue – it is supporting hate groups.
Yum hate blended into every bite.
Everyone knows it now.
Sure they had a big show yesterday.
Next week, next month, next year – they will be hit with big losses Good rid to bigots.
It's a shop worn tactic to call people who disagree with your politics as hate groups. Get over yourself. No one hates you. You're not that important.
So, it's they's and them's as you invoke bigotry. I see...
3% of the US population is gay. For the rest...all you did is make it very clear that they need support Chick-fil-A more than ever. This only made their future more secure. THANK YOU!