Can Chick-fil-A Be Trusted? Some Organizations Prefer to Err on the Side of Caution
By: Chris Gilmore/TRT Reporter—
BOSTON—Late last month, Chick-fil-A released a statement declaring that it was ceasing all anti-LGBTQ organization donations, according to a release from the company foundation’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Tim Tassopoulos. Shortly thereafter, however, conservative Christian leader Franklin Graham said that the fried-chicken company was not going to stop its funding to anti-LGBTQ companies, an official comment he made after allegedly speaking to Chick-Fil-A’s president. And, a few days after that, Chick-Fil-A seems to have “backpedaled,” according to MetroWeekly.
“I picked up the phone and called Dan Cathy. Dan was very clear that they have not bowed down to anyone’s demands, including the LGBTQ community,” read Graham’s FB post, who is also a Trump ally. “They will continue to support whoever they want to support. They haven’t changed who they are or what they believe. Chick-fil-A remains committed to Christian values. Dan Cathy assured me that this isn’t going to change. I hope all those who jumped to the wrong conclusion about them read this.”
According to Pink News, Graham is so anti-LGBTQ that he previously praised Putin’s anti-gay laws in Russia. Out Online reported that he claimed gay people were causing a rise in STIs and said that presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg faces “eternal damnation” for being gay.
As the initial news broke, many in the LGBTQ and allied community were instantaneously skeptical of the company’s release and its “intentions” not to fund anti-LGBTQ organizations any longer.
“It’s about money. There was no moral conversion,” said Scott Bailey via Facebook. And, many more shared Bailey’s view.
“Too late … still won’t step foot in this establishment ever again” read Tasha Hanley-Palmer’s FB post.
Chick-fil-A’s intent—in terms of expansion—is to open more locations in liberal markets such as Boston, according to the recent press release. Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh, according to a statement sent directly to The Rainbow Times continues to listen to community reactions regarding the opening of a possible Chick-fil-A store in the city.
“The role of the Mayor’s Office is to help facilitate this ongoing process, as we would with any business, which allows the community to decide whether there is a need for this business in their district,” said City Officials to The Rainbow Times. “Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston will continue to pay close attention to community feedback as this moves forward.”
Trying to open stores in more progressive areas has not been easy for the company due to its past actions against the LGBTQ community.
“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” said Tassopoulos to Bisnow recently. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”
Funding Anti-LGBTQ organizations
But, the Atlanta-based company’s foundation has donated millions of dollars to groups such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and the Salvation Army in the past—organizations that have been known to openly discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community.
In 2018 alone, the company foundation donated $1.65 million to the FCA and $115,000 to the Salvation Army, the company revealed recently.
GLAAD said in a statement released by WCVB Boston that Chick-fil-A customers and employees should “greet today’s announcement with cautious optimism” stating that the company still has a checkered policy when it comes to LGBTQ rights.
“In addition to refraining from financially supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents,” said Drew Anderson, GLAAD’s director of campaigns and rapid response.
“Biblical principles” in Boston
Although the company currently operates 16 locations in Massachusetts, it has no store in Boston, something they’ve been trying to land since 2012.
In 2012, Cathy vowed to operate “the company with Biblical principles and whose story is the true American success story.” The late Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, in a letter to Cathy that same year (as reported by The Rainbow Times, immediately repudiated his stance and double-downed on his support for same-sex marriage.
“There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it,” firmly stated the then Mayor in his letter to Cathy.
In March 2012, The Rainbow Times also reported that, in response to the mounting opposition, the undergraduate Student Government Association (SGA) at [Boston’s] Northeastern University (NU) voted down a proposal to bring Chick-fil-A to campus.
“When you are a university in one of America’s most progressive cities, you cannot ignore the queer community and put a symbol of discrimination in public display,” said then first-year sociology major Devon Branin of East Greenwich, RI, a spokesperson for NU Pride, the school’s LGBT student group.
Out of the U.K.
The company’s first U.K. location at the Oracle Shopping Centre in Reading was forced to close its store that had opened only 8 days prior, due to protests, according to the New York Times.
The store closed, read the report, after pressure from local gay rights groups among others. The Oracle Shopping Centre said it would not renew its lease and that it “was the right thing to do.”
In Boston, according to an official statement sent to The Rainbow Times, Chick-Fil-A has received ZBA approval with both business association and neighborhood association support.
“The company is continuing through the process. Their next step is to go before the Licensing Board,” the statement read.
Although the foundation publicly shared the names of anti-LGBTQ organizations it funded in 2018 and the amounts given to them, it did not apologize for the damage caused to the LGBTQ community through its actions.
“Why can’t they issue an apology to widely and openly speak about how wrong it was to do what they did and how they look forward to doing exactly the opposite in the future,” said Mike Laramie Johnson, a former supporter of the company and ally of the LGBTQ community. “They can become LGBTQ-oriented in each facet of their business. But I won’t go back unless that happens and no progressive city should let them do business with blood money on their hands.”
Instead, the foundation clarified its new focus and intent to fund other causes. The company looks forward to being open to everybody, according to an officer.
“We want our restaurants to be welcoming to all people and a safe place for every person who walks through the doors,” read Rodney Bullard, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility for Chick-fil-A, Inc., and Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, online statement.
“Moving forward, with a continued eye on nourishing the potential in every child, we are narrowing our corporate giving to three critical needs facing children in our communities: education, homelessness, and hunger.”
[This story originally appeared on the Dec. 5, 2019, issue of The Rainbow Times].