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. TruthPrevails :-)


    (Attributed to Martin Rochlin, PhD, January 1977)

    1. What do you think has caused you to be heterosexual?

    2. When and how did you first decide you were a heterosexual?

    3. Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of people of the same sex?

    4. If you've never slept with a person of the same sex, how do you know you wouldn't prefer it?

    5. Isn't it possible your heterosexuality is just a phase you may grow out of?

    6. Isn't it possible that all you need is a good gay lover?

    7. If heterosexuality is normal, why are a disproportionate number of mental patients heterosexual?

    8. To whom have you disclosed your heterosexual tendencies? How did they react?

    9. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex? Why are they so promiscuous?

    10. Do heterosexuals hate and/or distrust others of their own sex? Is that what makes them heterosexual?

    11. If you were to have children, would you want them to be heterosexual knowing the problems they'd face?

    12. Your heterosexuality doesn't offend me as long as you don't try to force it on me. Why do you feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual orientation?

    13. The great majority of child molesters are heterosexuals. Do you really consider it safe to expose your children to heterosexual teachers?

    14. Why do you insist on being so obvious, and making a public spectacle of your heterosexuality? Can't you just be who you are and keep it quiet?

    15. How can you ever hope to become a whole person if you limit yourself to a compulsive, exclusively heterosexual lifestyle, and remain unwilling to explore and develop your homosexual potential?

    16. Heterosexuals are noted for assigning themselves and each other to narrowly restricted, stereotyped sex-roles. Why do you cling to such unhealthy role playing?

    17. Even with all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiralling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

    18. How could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual like you, considering the menace of overpopulation?

    19. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed that could help you change if you really wanted to. Have you considered trying psychotherapy or even aversion therapy?

    21. Could you really trust a heterosexual therapist/counsellor to be objective and unbiased? Don't you fear he/she might be inclined to influence you in the direction of his/her own preferences?

    22. How can you enjoy a full, satisfying sexual experience or deep emotional rapport with a person of the opposite sex when the differences are so vast? How can a man understand what pleases a woman, or vice-versa?

    August 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • Loki

      A rather weird questionaire. It presumes that the natural order is flawed in favor of unsustainable behavior. In the math world it equates to saying that asymptotically unstable systems are preferred. Which of course is illogical.... He has a Phd ? In what ?

      August 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  2. sugar

    Aw, this again?
    When will the government and corporations get out of the bedrooms of private citizens? Come to think of it, outside of investors who should really care? So a bunch of self righteous bigwigs said a bunch of stuff that a bunch of the self righteous wigless people didn't like. This happens every day!
    There is no possible way to change gays to straight and there's no possible way to instill an opposing set of values into the right wing. Gays can hope their agenda passes, someday. But for now do we not have energy, mortgage, jobless and homeless crisis to manage?

    August 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  3. Bobby

    So it is not right for a private organization's owners to have beliefs different than the gay community and to spend money on charitable causes they see fit? But, it is fine for private corporations to spend money on gay rights movements that the gay's support? Not surprised. Gay's hate freedom unless it is in ntheir interest.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      That reasoning is stupid. Yes its OK to fight for equality. No its not OK to fight for inequality. Understand?

      August 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Looks like your moral values are twisted.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • doug

      It goes beyond Democrats believing that they get to decide who is allowed to enjoy their constiutional rights and those who cannot, a majority of Democrats would have no problem with the government coming along and rouding up their conservative neighbors and their children. You disagree with the Democrat, that's it, you are a bigot for not conforming and the punishment you will face is consistant with the same punishment their socialist idols like Mao dished out. White House communications director openly spoke of her admiration for Mao, he killed 30 million +, she is not alone, that admiration is shared by everyone in the Obama admin, DNC, and Democrat voters who know who he is. The Democrats who just want free stuff are lazy, but the other ones are the very definition of evil.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
    • GrowUp

      And Evangelicals don't scream about corporations who support gay rights? Ever hear of the boycotts against JC Penney, Amazon, Disney and Starbucks called for by the Evangelicals?? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Hypocrite.

      August 4, 2012 at 12:45 am |
  4. winchester74

    Chick – Fell – Atio

    August 3, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Is that a sin?

      August 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  5. Loyal Nothern Democrat

    This could all be simply solved if they served stuffed chicken. It could be called Broke Back Chicken and they may even get some free advertising from the film industry.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  6. LAMOM

    I suppose it's the board of director's business what organizations they give money to. There are many more companies that give money to companies like Exodus International. (I have met the founder of this one and he creeps me out) When they can't "un-gay" someone, they accept that but "encourage" them to not give in to their desires. So they reward people for denying who they really are. Anyway, don't hold your breath for companies like CFA to stop funding companies like this. There will always be companies like this for them to give their money to. There will always be Christian camps like those mentioned in the article. Evangelical Christians are not going to go away. You can't change everybody's beliefs to match your own. In the grand scheme of things, is Chick-Fil-A really a hurdle that the LGBT community needs to focus on? Surely there are bigger fish in this vast ocean.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  7. winchester74

    They could use the money to heal the sick and feed the poor – but they spent the money to crucify gay people. And they call themselves Christians.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Loyal Nothern Democrat

      And the gays are transferring their monitary support of Sandusky to fighting this restaurant.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Eileen P

      I am not familiar with every single one of the groups that Cathy contributes to, but many of them I know. One jumped out at me–Fellowship of Christian Athletes. My son and many of his friends are part of that group on their campus and there is NOTHING ANTI-GAY ABOUT IT–in fact some gay people attend their activities and are welcomed. Also, I would say that Cathy as an individual and his corporation as a private company has the right to donate to whoever they want anyway, so stop the complaining!!!

      August 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • Muhammad

      They did not crucify anyone, they just expressed their view which is in the Bible, Torah and Quran. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Gays are appear to be at war with God, saying he made a mistake by not having men be able to have babies by other men.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Pravda

      @LHD. What evidence do you have for either statement?

      August 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      you've heard of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but not Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, Exodus International and the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund?

      Are you deliberately dissembling here. Every one of the other organizations listed has an anti-gay agenda. Feel free to look them up.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Eileen P

      Just to be clear, I'm not talking about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as being anti-gay.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      God? Who is he? What does God have to do with tax deductions?

      August 3, 2012 at 9:51 pm |
  8. SINisSIN

    Sin is SIN

    August 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • exlonghorn

      Don't you find it odd that four of the ten commandments are related to reinforcing the religion that created them?

      August 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Hate is Hate

      August 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  9. dscon

    thank you liberal confusion....
    you have just poured millions more than normal into chick-fil-a's
    cash registers..........
    and into the conservative campaign machine.
    do it again!

    August 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
  10. Loyal Nothern Democrat

    The next protest against them is gays are going to mass at the stores and make love to chickens they brought. Hopefully they will bring more than one for all to use at the same time.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  11. Bob24

    10 years ago when I was walking home and I saw 2 guys beating a crap out of another guy. I picked up my cell phone and I was about to dial 911 when one of those guys saw me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was going to call 911 and then he said "why are you doing that, this is a f@g". I immediately dropped the cell phone back in my bag. I will never help a deviant. Gays are a scourge in our country.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Your pure evil.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      No Bob, you're a bigot!! You are the down fall of your country and you deserve no respect until you learn to give it.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Why are you guys feeding a blatent troll? Leave it alone and starve it of attention.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:54 pm |
    • doug

      I know you are just a silly troll but it's quite telling that your story could have the word you used changed to Conservative or even Christian and every Democrat would agree with it, find it to be tolerant, and thank you. As Obama said Conservatives are the enimies and that we must punish our enemies.

      August 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  12. Leo

    I think CNN should divulge its charitable giving!! If they even give at all!!!

    August 3, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  13. the zen pirate

    i'm all for that biblical definition, as long as we are talking about solomon.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • dscon

      are sure you don't mean the biblical sodom,
      capt booty pirate

      August 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  14. Loki

    This toe to toe fight with Chick-fil-A was a totally one sided fight. The gays got a broken jaw and nose for it. Got anything else planned for entertaining us GLAAD ? You thought you were sooooo smart. You just solidified the right. You might even have cost Obama his job and lost your gay marriage momentum. Oh well.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  15. 311 mortimer

    Today's much-touted "kiss-in" is turning out to be a complete dud. Must be real embarrassing for its promoters. The silent majority has spoken. Kiss in? More like the tolerance tyrants have been kissed off.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
  16. Loyal Nothern Democrat

    If they change their position are they going to give out free fudege to gays?

    August 3, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  17. just wondering

    We can all turn gay and not reproduce and c how that works out for us, wont have anyone to whine too then. I think theres a reason a male and female are supposed to be together not just for pleasure.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  18. Craig

    CNN is trying to keep this story going for some reason so I'll jump in. I'm moderate to liberal and work with more gay people than straight. To the gay folks, you picked the wrong fight. It started with the man speaking his faith and you decided to bully him and Chick-fil-A into believing the way you do. I hate bullies and that's what you are right now. If the company was denying you food or jobs, I would be standing with you but you can't force your beliefs on others. Now the story is that they give money to anti-gay groups that you don't like. I will stand with Chick-fil-A all day everyday when it comes to this. Here is what I challenge you to do: before you eat at that trendy cultural food restaurant, find out what the owner believes about gay marriage and where he donates his/her money. In fact, do that with every store that you shop. Anything less will be hypercritical. Also, why in the world would you pick this fight now? You are giving the right-wing all kinds of ammunition and momentum going into the 2012 election. People will see if as a referendum on faith. This is really a stupid stupid fight.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Johnjon

      I'd hate to work with you everyday Craig, and I'm not "hypercritical" about anything.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      yes it is stupid. It waters down the marriage-equality argument. The opprobrium should be laid where it is deserved ... on the right-wing legislative groups who are the beneficiaries of all those tax-exempt donations.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Graves

      Your post is the most sensible thing I've read since this whole thing started!!

      August 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Susie

      Craig, I think that CNN profits greatly by keeping this fire stoked, so I'm not sure if it is bullying or reacting – I think that many people may be running on the emotion produced by CNN's maniputlation and/or the wave of social media.

      I couldn't word the end of your post any better, so I copied and pasted it here: "You are giving the right-wing all kinds of ammunition and momentum going into the 2012 election. People will see if as a referendum on faith. This is really a stupid stupid fight."

      Everyone, please wake up and see the big picture. Suspend being offended and work on the big goal–2012.

      August 3, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Craig

      @Johnjon Well maybe that's because you're a narrow minded person who can only tolerate people that look and think like you. Me, I can work with and show love to anyone... even if I disagree with their lifestyle.

      August 3, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  19. Johnjon

    years before this silliness took place I always called Chick Fil A, "religious chicken"................ I guess I wasn't too far off.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  20. Loki

    Oh oh...I'm getting my posts removed.... Is that you Anderson or Lemon ? I can't wait for Bill Maher & Maddow to weigh in on the enormous mistake it was to take on the conservatives. WE got strong sharp teeth. It's going to be chicken for dinner for quite a while.

    August 3, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Johnjon

      you give conservatives a BAD name.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Loki

      @Johnjon...I think not. And what would you know about conservatism. To you anything goes...to us...we draw the line around negative behavior. You can be as gay as you want....but not around us and our children.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Paranoid partisanship doesn't really make a point. It just shows your own inability to make a point.

      August 3, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • Pravda

      @god of mischief
      "we draw the line around negative behavior"

      did you miss the activities of anti-gay and anti-abortion zealots – up to and including murder.

      August 3, 2012 at 10:30 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.