Chick-fil-A said it would end contributions to organizations known to oppose same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights, but the fast food chain’s announcement is being met with skepticism from a leading advocacy group.
The Georgia-based company told Reuters Monday it was refocusing its philanthropic efforts on “education, homelessness and hunger.” As such, the company will no longer make donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, both of which have a checkered history with regard to LGBTQ issues.
“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” the company’s president and chief operating officer Tim Tassopoulos said in a Bisnow interview published Monday. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”
In 2020, Chick-fil-A will shift its donations to Junior Achievement USA to support education, and Covenant House International to fight homelessness, according to the report. Meanwhile, a $25,000 donation will be made to a local food bank each time the chain opens a new restaurant.
“We think this is going to be helpful, It’s just the right thing to do: to be clear, caring and supportive, and do it in the community,” Tassopoulos added.
The announcement follows previous Chick-fil-A attempts to stem ongoing backlash over its acknowledged support of anti-LGBTQ organizations. At one point, Exodus International and the Family Research Council were reportedly among the recipients of the chain’s contributions.
The company’s billionaire CEO, Dan Cathy, further stoked the controversy when he confirmed the company’s support of “the biblical definition of the family unit” in a pair of 2012 interviews.
“I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about,” Cathy said at the time.
Since then, the company has tried to distance itself from Cathy’s comments, pledging publicly not to “have a political or social agenda.” Chick-fil-A’s 2017 tax documents ― obtained by ThinkProgress in March ― told a different story, showing the company had donated $1.8 million to groups known to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Given that history, Drew Anderson, GLAAD’s director of campaigns and rapid response, remained skeptical of the company’s latest pledge.
“Chick-fil-A investors, employees, and customers can greet today’s announcement with cautious optimism,” Anderson said in an emailed statement, “but should remember that similar press statements were previously proven to be empty.”
He continued: “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.”
UPDATE Nov. 19: The Salvation Army told HuffPost in an email that they were “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.”
“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,” the statement read. “When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk.”
It continued, “We urge the public to seek the truth before rushing to ill-informed judgment and greatly appreciate those partners and donors who ensure that anyone who needs our help feels safe and comfortable to come through our doors.”