“We see no conflict between Biblical principles and good business practices,” S. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, once said during an interview.
I seem to recall his son, Dan T. Cathy, the CEO and President of Chick-fil-A, repeating a similar phrase to my graduating class at Regent University in 2011. Cathy’s commencement speech spoke of moral courage, uncompromising principles, and operating consistently with Christian convictions. Eager to impact the world for the Gospel, I took Mr. Cathy’s words of conviction and character to heart. Has he done the same?
In a November 18 press release, the Chick-fil-A Foundation announced it is adjusting financial support by giving to a smaller number of organizations who work exclusively in the areas of hunger, homelessness, and education. In 2020, Chick-fil-A will donate 9 million to Junior Achievement USA and Covenant House International and $25,000 to local food banks for every new restaurant opened.
As you’ve probably heard, the more focused giving approach will not include the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), at least not in 2020. These are two faith-based organizations publicly criticized by LGBTQ activists for upholding traditional Christian sexual ethics. Chick-fil-A financially supported both the Salvation Army and FCA in 2017 and 2018. After being hounded by activists and media outlets for donating to these organizations, Chick-fil-A responded in 2019, stating, “The narrative that our giving was done to support a political or non-inclusive agenda is inaccurate and misleading.”
Now it appears, however, that the fast-food chain is caving to pressure, by restructuring its approach and redirecting its funding away from controversy.
“That’s the trouble with adults, as well as young people,” Truett Cathy said in 2014. “You try to be a people-pleaser to everybody, and you just can’t do it. You have to stick to your convictions. What’s right and what’s wrong. And we try to do that.”
The Cathy family has acted admirably in their convictions in the face of past protests. For this reason, I initially hesitated to join the growing chorus of criticisms directed at Chick-fil-A. Several Christian leaders have responded to the giving change with outrage likely rooted in feelings of betrayal. But I didn’t want to believe the Cathy family and Chick-fil-A leadership would cave to LGBTQ pressures. Surely not Dan Cathy, who encouraged my fellow Regent graduates and me to live out our Christian convictions in our personal and professional lives. Couldn’t be. There must be something missing in the news reports. So I waited. And waited.
At this point, no clarification, no reassurances, and re-commitments to Christian principles have come from the Cathy family, or Chick-fil-A headquarters.
What does this say about the corporation’s priorities? Sadly, it sends the message that Chick-fil-A’s leadership would rather avoid controversy than continue S. Truett Cathy’s legacy of moral courage in business. The company’s decision is also a slap in the face of the Christians who’ve rallied to support the fast-food chain amid the pressure and protests.
I’ve read the debates waging across the internet on the issue. I’ve seen the photographs of Covenant House International’s New York pride parade banner and pro-LGBTQ slogans. And if you haven’t read the Salvation Army’s statement in response to the Chick-fil-A decision, then I encourage you to do so.
If the company was concerned with operating under Christian principles, while also narrowing their focus on homelessness, then their charitable giving would continue to go to the Salvation Army and not Covenant House. It’s that simple, in my opinion.
We know, of course, the Left’s appetite for LGBTQ affirmation will not be satisfied with a slight compromise. There is no middle ground for those re-envisioning sexual ethics. It will take either a full-throttle abandonment of doctrine, or doctrinal distortions to quench their thirsts. As has been the case with other organizations and individuals, Chick-fil-A’s leadership will eventually have to choose where it stands on the issue.
What will Chick-fil-A’s leadership value more – those Biblical principles that S. Truett Cathy knew led to ethical business practices, or the applause of men? I pray the Cathy family heeds their own advice.
*Update. While no official statement has been released at this time, Franklin Graham recounts a phone conversation he had with Dan Cathy about the issue. According to Graham, Cathy reassured him the company has not caved and remains committed to Christian values. But this second-hand phone conversation and generic, unofficial reassurance is certainly not the moral courage we would expect.