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THE LAST WORD: Has Chick-fil-A abandoned its principles? Don’t be so sure

Kerry Hubartt

Has Chick-fil-A really sold out on the conservatives and Christians who patronize their business and support the company’s supposed stand for traditional marriage?

That has been the big question since the fastest-growing fast-food chain in America announced a week ago it would no longer be making charitable donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but would begin directing its efforts almost exclusively toward charities that focus on education, homelessness and hunger.

Instead of funding 300 charities as it did this year, it said in a news release it will focus on one charity in each of the three categories, including Junior Achievement, the Covenant House and local food banks.

I wrote in this column in September about faculty members at the University of Kansas wanting the restaurant removed from campus for being what they called a “bastion of bigotry” due to CEO Dan Cathy’s comments on a radio program in 2012 when he said that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage. And I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude that thinks we have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about.”

The faculty group at Kansas as well as some faculty and students at Purdue wanted Chick-fil-A banned from campus because of what they considered bigotry toward the LGBTQ community. Earlier this year, airports in Buffalo, New York and San Antonio blocked the restaurant from opening at their sites because of the company’s gay rights record. A location in the United Kingdom is closing because of protests.

Despite claims of bigotry by liberal college faculty members and student organizations, Chick-fil-A is doing nothing in its business practices to show intolerance or discrimination.

The chicken sandwich restaurant is now the third highest-grossing fast-food chain in the U.S., behind only McDonald’s and Starbucks, with $10.5 billion in annual sales this year. The fallout from the CEO’s stance on marriage has apparently not slowed down the restaurant’s overall popularity in this country.

And, frankly, the perception by conservatives and Christians that the company was principled and courageous in its stance on biblical issues has drawn many like-minded patrons through their doors, although Chick-fil-A welcomes customers of all stripes.

The Chick-fil-A corporate purpose is: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”

However, the company’s announcement last week has many thinking the restaurant’s corporate leadership is caving in under pressure from LGBTQ activists.

“We need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told BizNow of the company’s decision. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”

On the company’s future donations, the BizNow report noted that “partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities, but the company said none of the organizations have anti-LGBT positions.” Chick-fil-A hasn’t been specific in what anti-LGBT positions might be nor whether there is any change in philosophy from what Cathy, son of the company’s late founder Truett Cathy, has espoused.

According to 2011 tax records, Chick-fil-A’s operators, the WinShape Foundation, and the Cathy family spent millions of dollars to support anti-gay rights groups. In 2014, Dan Cathy told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution it had been a “mistake” for the WinShape Foundation to “support political or social agendas” prior to 2012.

“Our intent is to not support political or social agendas,” Cathy said. “This has been the case for more than 60 years. The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect and to serve great food with genuine hospitality.”

CBN News reported Thursday that evangelist Franklin Graham personally called Cathy after last week’s announcement to seek assurances that his company wasn’t abandoning its principles.

“Dan was very clear that they have not bowed down to anyone’s demands, including the LGBTQ community,” Graham wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.

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