Family-owned restaurant chain Chick-fil-A is knee-deep in controversy after a blogger and students and faculty at Indiana University South Bend discovered it gave money to anti-LGBT organizations.
In early January, a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A franchise agreed to sponsor the hosting of a Familylife.com conference titled “The Art of Marriage: Getting To the Heart of God’s Design” at the Pennsylvania Family Institute in February. The franchise was going to give free sandwiches and brownies for all conference.
Both Familylife.com and the Pennsylvania Family Institute vehemently oppose same-sex marriage.
Dan Cathy, president of the Chick-fil-A and son of company founder Truett Cathy, issued a response on Facebook and the company’s website:
“While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage,” wrote Cathy, ” we love and respect anyone who disagrees.”
Cathy stated in a video message released on Facebook that Chick-fil-A, an organization whose own corporate purpose is to “glorify God,” the decision to sponsor the event was not an “endorsement of the mission, political stance, or motives” of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.
The company has connections to anti-gay organizations besides sandwiches and brownies.
Self-described “activist and journalist” Jeremy Hooper, whose work was previously featured in HRC Equality Magazine, The Advocate and on PBS, discovered a direct connection between The National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute, a project whose sole purpose is to oppose gay marriage, and the WinShape Foundation, a charity organization founded and funded by the Cathy family and Chik-Fil-A. He posted the information on his blog, and within days it went viral.
Hooper discovered the Ruth institute and the WinShape Foundation were connected through a website known as LoveisHere.com, which was both a project of the WinShape Foundation and host to the Ruth Institute’s Reel Love Challenge webspace. In other words, the Reel Love Challenge was a collaboration between an anti-gay marriage organization and the charity of Chick-fil-A.
Students and faculty of Indiana University South Bend petitioned the school to no longer allow Chik-fil-A to be served in the campus cafeteria. Though the university clarified in a press release that it is not entirely refusing the vendor’s ability to do business with the campus, Chik-fil-A has been suspended from their weekly delivery while the campus takes “time to properly review the issue.”
The controversy even spread to the restaurant’s Facebook page, with comments varying from complete support to massive disappointment. One user wrote, ” I love (their) chicken but I won’t be eating there anymore. I cannot support hate.”
E-campaign website Change.org created a petition within days of the university’s decision to send a message to Chik-fil-A that support for anti-gay organizations is unacceptable. The petition already has more than 2,600 signatures.
Chik-fil-A has other controversies in its history. The New York Times reported that a Muslim franchise owner-in-training sued the company after being fired the day after abstaining from a Christian prayer at a training function. The suit was settled out of court. The Times also reported Chik-fil-A was accused of demanding recipients of their college scholarships to “pledge to follow Christian values.” The company denied allegations of requiring prayer from franchise owners and college scholarship recipients.