Many of us were disappointed by the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s recent announcement that it was no longer donating to Christian organizations like the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home. The foundation said it was changing its giving policies to a more “focused giving approach” and the foundation would support “a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger.”
For years, Chick-fil-A has been attacked for donating to Christian organizations. Activists have objected to their support of the biblical definition of marriage and sexuality: God created humans male and female in His image, and marriage is the lifelong union of a husband and wife.
LGBT protestors were also irate when Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy stated his support for male-female marriage back in 2012, and they were angry about the company’s giving to groups that opposed marriage redefinition.
For Cathy’s statements, and for the company’s donations to like-minded Christian groups, Chick-fil-A was targeted as “anti-LGBT.” Activists staged “kiss-ins” with same-sex couples at local restaurants. They organized boycotts and worked to block new restaurants in cities, airports and college campuses. Most recently, a shopping mall in England announced it would not renew the lease of the first Chick-fil-A in the United Kingdom.
Through all this, Christians and conservatives supported Cathy’s views on marriage and his right to free speech, and sales grew. When the boycotts started, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee orchestrated a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, and more than 630,000 people signed up on Facebook to support the event. Customers stood in line for hours to buy a meal. For the past four years in a row, Chick-fil-A was ranked first in the American Customer Satisfaction Index among fast food restaurants.
Aside from the good food and excellent customer service, many Christians were appreciative because we saw a company owned by a Christian family standing strong for biblical values. Chick-fil-A’s corporate purpose resonated with believers: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.”
We also saw the company, local franchise owners and employees doing much good over the years. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, was a Christian who taught Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Georgia for more than 50 years. He, his family and the foundation have donated millions of dollars to support children and families. Chick-fil-A offers scholarships for employees to further their education, awarding more than $75 million since 1973. The foundation is giving $15.3 million in scholarships this year alone.
It’s well known that the restaurant chain gives its workers Sundays off, “to rest and to worship if they choose,” but owners and employees aren’t pharisaical about that commitment. Back in 2015, several tornados tore through Texas, northeast of Dallas, killing 11 people. Teams from several local restaurants came in on a Sunday to prepare and distribute free food to first responders and those affected by the devastation. In 2016, after a murderous shooting rampage took 49 lives at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, employees worked on Sunday, preparing and taking food to first responders and blood donors.
Local restaurants are encouraged by the corporation to be involved in their local community, so they often host fund-raisers for schools and non-profits. Throughout the year, these franchises also offer free food to various groups such as teachers, nurses, police, fire-fighters and employees from non-profits. In fact, this week a nearby restaurant is offering a free entrée every day to Focus on the Family employees. We’re thankful for their generosity.
Chick-fil-A staff is known for being polite and helpful – and some of them literally save lives. Atlanta television reported on a young employee who jumped out the drive-thru window to save a boy who was choking. He used a pocketknife to cut a seatbelt wrapped around the child’s neck. A worker in Southern California ran across the parking lot to a man in a car in a who was in cardiac arrest. The employee saved his life by administering CPR until paramedics arrived.
That’s just a small picture of the good the company, its restaurant owners and employees have done. Given years of support from Christians and conservatives, why is Chick-fil-A changing now? We still hold deep respect for the Cathy family, their generosity and their history of upholding Christian principles. At the same time, we’re saddened and confused by the move to drop support for Christian organizations.