Chick-fil-A is ruffling feathers again.
The Georgia-based chicken-sandwich chain has long been criticized over its contributions to groups with anti-LGBTQ stances. In March, the San Antonio city council voted to ban the chain from its international airport, citing its history of LGBTQ issues, and the Buffalo, N.Y., airport followed suit a month later.
So on Monday, the Chick-fil-A Foundation (the chain’s charitable arm) announced that it’s introducing “a more focused giving approach” for next year. It will “deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger,” and has committed $9 million to organizations such as the Junior Achievement USA, which fosters work-readiness and financial literary skills for students through 12th grade, as well as Covenant House International, which provides outreach to 70,000 homeless, runaway and trafficked young people each year.
But it won’t be making multiyear commitments to charities anymore, and will now reassess its philanthropy on a year-to-year basis. And that includes not renewing its annual donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, as reported by the Washington Post , which are two religious organizations that have made controversial statements about homosexuality and same-sex marriage in the past.
But rather than praising Chick-fil-A for being more inclusive and more supportive of gay rights, many people on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +0.88% — including some identifying as Christian and conservative — are slamming the chain for chickening out in the face of a “left-wing mob.”
“You caved to the extremists and are no longer a Christian company,” wrote one.
Even people who support Chick-fil-A’s move expressed skepticism over whether the restaurant is just paying lip service to LGBTQ groups. Indeed, its CEO, Dan Cathy, famously said he did not support same-sex marriage in 2012.
Still others complained that the Salvation Army is not an anti-LGBTQ organization at all. While fact-checking site Snopes notes that the Salvation Army’s Handbook of Doctrine has referenced biblical passages that condemned sexual intimacy between members of the same sex in the past, the Salvation Army has rejected such accusations of discrimination , and has an entire section on its website devoted to the LGBTQ community , which details how its services are available to all people.
The Salvation Army released a statement in response on Monday, expressing disappointment at Chick-fil-A for pulling its donations, and reinforcing its commitment to the LGBTQ community. “We’re saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations — areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed,” it reads. “We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population.” It also urged the public to “seek the truth before rushing to ill-informed judgment.”
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes states on its website , however, that “marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.” And an employee application includes a purity statement that reads, “Neither heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act constitute an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God. “
Tim Tassopoulos, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, Inc., sent MarketWatch the following statement by email in response to the backlash: “Our goal is to donate to the most effective organizations in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger. No organization will be excluded from future consideration — faith-based or non-faith-based.”
Of course, Chick-fil-A is no stranger to backlash. And maybe it has nothing to worry about here. After all, despite its history of controversy, Chick-fil-A has been named America’s favorite fast-food restaurant for the past four years in a row.