The controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A’s decision to cut off funding to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes offers a lesson from which anyone can profit.
Chick-fil-A is one of America’s most popular fast food restaurant chains. Yet it’s also been revered—or reviled—for the religious attitudes of its CEO, Dan Cathy, who holds the same views on gay marriage that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton held up to 2012—that the Bible defined marriage as between one man and one woman, and that if one were a Christian, one had to conclude that gay marriage was unbiblical and therefore wrong. Of course, Obama flipped on the issue in 2012 as he planned his re-election campaign, and Clinton flopped a year later as she started planning for 2013. But Cathy, possessing neither presidential ambitions nor the mental agility of those who do, has neither flipped nor flopped—until now.
Both the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes have been criticized by LGBTQ activists for their support of “Christian marriage” and their opposition gay marriage, despite whatever work they do or the absence of any evidence that they actually harass, persecute, or otherwise discriminate against gays and lesbians. Chick- fil-A’s donations seemed to reflect its commitment to shared values, and its termination of funding is now being seen as an abandonment of its values and theirs as well.
Chick-fil-A denies any such abandonment. It says it simply wants to “deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger.”
But there may be more to the story than that. Chik-fil-A’s efforts to open new restaurants or maintain existing ones have long been thwarted by politicians at home and abroad. City leaders in San Antonio, Chicago, and Boston, for example, have tried to block Chik-fil-A’s expansion efforts, apparently because of its faith-based stance on gay marriage. LGBTQ activists forced the closer of a Chik-fil-A in England only 8 days after it opened. It seems reasonable to conclude that Chik-fil-A is changing its charity strategies and tactics to appear more tolerant and thereby earn more profit.
So far, however, all Chick-fil-A is earning is scorn: Conservative Christians charge that one of the organizations to which Chick-fil-A plans to donate, Covenant House International, supports the LGBΤQ agenda. On the other hand, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) remains critical, saying that “Chick-fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation their brand (sic) represents. “ It’s also been noted that Chick-fil-A has not unequivocally ruled out the possibility of supporting faith-based organizations in the future even if those organizations oppose gay marriage. In short, Chick-fil-A is being slammed simultaneously by those who believe it’s betrayed their shared values and those who believe its conversion is insufficiently sincere.
How this will play out remains to be seen. The controversy over the National Basketball Association’s kowtowing to Communist China, with its concentration camps, riot police, and determination to suppress its subjects’ religious and political freedoms seems to have blown over for now. Perhaps the public will soon forget the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A as well.
But for the time being, it should be noted that Chick-fil-A, in attempting to change its image by becoming more appealing to supporters of gay rights without explicitly abandoning its original principles, is showing that by trying to be all things to everyone it runs the risk of being nothing to anyone.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.