On Monday, the charitable arm affiliated with Chick-fil-A revealed that it had overhauled its donation strategy and had stopped giving money to several organizations - donations that had long angered LGBTQ activists.
The Chick-fil-A Foundation announced in a statement that it planned to concentrate its giving to the areas of education, homelessness and hunger, and that it planned to work with a smaller number of charities than it had previously. It plans to reassess its giving annually, instead of entering into multiyear arrangements with charities, it said. The groups it gives to "could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities," the foundation said.
But the bigger news was which organizations would not be getting millions in Chick-fil-A money: a representative confirmed to The Washington Post that it had ceased giving to Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, two religiously affiliated charities, after multiyear commitments ended in 2018.
The news was immediately greeted with dismay among conservatives, who saw the move as a capitulation to protesters who had led boycotts of the family-owned chicken chain beginning in 2012.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was among those expressing disappointment. He wrote on Twitter that Chick-fil-A "betrayed loyal customers" for money, and "I regret believing they would stay true to convictions of founder Truett [Cathy]. Sad."
In Aug 2012, I coordinated a national @ChickfilA Appreciation Day after they were being bullied by militant hate groups. Millions showed up. Today, @ChickfilA betrayed loyal customers for $$. I regret believing they would stay true to convictions of founder Truett Cathey. Sad.— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) November 18, 2019
Others labeled it "backstabbing" and a betrayal" by a company that has long espoused a Christian ethos.
In 2012, the company's donations were already controversial when anti-gay-marriage statements by CEO Dan Cathy sparked nationwide boycotts, followed by a counter-movement that Huckabee led. In a radio interview that summer, Cathy said, "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."
After the initial flap, the company toned down its political profile, though it continued to give to controversial groups, according to reports about its tax donations.
The Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million in 2020 to three organizations: Junior Achievement USA, Covenant House International, and to local food banks. It has given more than $6 million to a long list of charities so far this year.
And while many conservatives lamented the foundation's moves, LGBT activists were not immediately impressed. "If Chick-fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," said Drew Anderson, Director of Campaigns and Rapid Response for GLAAD, in an emailed statement. "Chick-fil-A investors, employees, and customers can greet today's announcement with cautious optimism, but should remember that similar press statements were previously proven to be empty."
And some saw the decision as an attempt by Chick-fil-A to placate customers in the era of the ongoing chicken wars: Popeye's spicy fried chicken became a viral sensation this summer, prompting widespread shortages. When Popeye's brought the sandwich back earlier this month, it did so on a Sunday, which many saw as a slap at rival Chick-fil-A, which is famously closed on Sundays.