Opinion: What Happened At Chick-fil-A, Did They Sell Out or Cave In?
Chick-fil-A, a privately-owned business revered by Christians for sticking to its guns on supporting Biblical values, made the controversial decision to no longer work with organizations that openly do the same regarding same-sex relationships.
In a controversial statement, they recently announced the end of two multi-year charitable partnerships with prominent Christian non-profits including The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The public statement released by Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, Rodney Bullard, revealed plans to minimize partnerships and “deepen” their giving to two organizations that serve two core problems facing American children in need: education and homelessness. Chick-fil-A has clarified that they will continue to partner with the following non-profits: Junior Achievement USA (which has no religious affiliation) and Covenant House International.
Evidently, their continuing partner Covenant House International is a faith-based nonprofit, however, because they are partially publicly funded by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development), they take a less traditional approach to the LGBTQ community. Since they are not a 100% private non-profit, they do not take an open stance on same-sex marriage one way or the other. Furthermore, Covenant House actively partners with True Colors United to provide a multi-phase, 8-week LGBTQ inclusivity training to all their representatives. This training teaches a variety of inclusion techniques to make homeless LGBTQ youth feel more comfortable by encouraging the use gender pronouns, providing safe spaces, etc.
Whereas, the Salvation Army stays consistent with their faith as their stance against same-sex marriage is well-known. The Salvation Army released a response that expressed their disappointment and urged the public to “seek the truth” before jumping to conclusions about their support for the LGBTQ community. According to the page dedicated to the LGBT community on The Salvation Army’s website, they clarify that although they disagree with the lifestyle of LGBTQ individuals, they will not discriminate against any person in need as they, “embrace people regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity”.
The Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Statement of Faith directly states their views align with the Biblical definition of marriage between one man and one woman. They have not yet responded to the restaurant’s decision to discontinue the partnership.
Chick-fil-A’s willingness to work with faith-based organizations who do not take a hardline stance on the subject like Covenant House International, but not with The Salvation Army who does take a hardline stance, could suggest that they are discriminating against working with Bible-based non-profits.
What remains unclear is what exactly prompted this sudden change in a long-held religious influence on their business decisions.
While the obvious incident we could point at is the backlash they received when they opened their first international location last month in London where they were staunchly rejected for their beliefs on traditional marriage. According to the BBC, the shopping center where the restaurant is located will not renew their lease past 6 months – forcing Chick-fil-A to either relocate or close completely.
However, this is not the first time they have been rejected. In fact, in recent years they have been banned from several airports, cities, and schools here in the U.S.
Regardless (and likely because of) of all the criticism they’ve endured, Chick-fil-A has become somewhat of a trendsetter being one of the few widely successful Christian businesses. It closes on Sunday in honor of the Biblical idea of resting on the Sabbath. It has become an icon in pop culture, featured on Christian rap song “Closed on Sunday” from Kanye West’s “Jesus is King” album. In 2012, former governor Mike Huckabee even announced “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” to be on August 1st as a day for loyal customers to rally to the restaurant in support of their values. Social media absolutely loves Chick-fil-A meme culture. Now in 2019, the family who owns Chick-fil-A is considered one of the 15 wealthiest family dynasties according to a report.
So, considering their wild success as a private Christian company that has more than 2,000 locations, the question still begs – why this decision now?
There could be a couple of reasons to speculate. Perhaps they see it as a business decision since their religious background is impeding successful expansion into Europe. Or perhaps Chick-fil-A feels bullied into it by those who oppose therefore they are attempting to please the masses. Most importantly, it’s unclear what kind of precedent this will set for the customers who go there to support their religious integrity, and for prominent Christian businesses like In-N-Out, Forever21 and Hobby Lobby who also openly support the Bible. Will others follow suit? Will Christians be expected to suppress their 1st Amendment rights? If a powerful, wealthy company like Chick-fil-A, the champion of Christian values in the U.S., can be intimidated by those who have a difference of opinion, then freedom of religion and freedom of speech have a questionable future in the message this sends to everyone who disagrees.