Chick-fil-A and the Salvation Army

One of the headlines across the nation on November 18th was as follows: “Chick-fil-A will no longer donate to anti-LGBTQ organizations.” Another news outlet characterized the same story as “Chick-fil-A no longer donates to controversial charities after LGBTQ protests.” The story refers to changes Chick-fil-A is making to its charitable foundation to satisfy pressures from the LGBTQ lobby. In particular, Chick fil-A agreed to make no further charitable donations to the Salvation Army. (Chick-fil-A also discontinued their gifts to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but that will need to be the subject of another article).

This latest round of protests against Chick-fil-A dates back to June 2012 when Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, publicly stated that, as a Christian, he was opposed to same-sex marriage. It is important to remember that same sex marriage was not universally legalized in the United States until June of 2015, but Dan Cathy’s comments sparked outrage resulting in boycotts of the restaurant across the nation, even though Chick-fil-A joyfully serves all who comes through their doors. No one has been refused service at any Chick-fil-A restaurant because of their sexual practices or gender identity. Remember that Chick-fil-A is a family owned restaurant which receives no government funding and is not even publicly traded. Nevertheless, since that time the company has struggled to regain its public image because it is relentlessly being characterized as “promoting hatred” because of the personal Christian convictions of the owners of Chick-fil-A.

The decision of Chick-fil-A to no longer make donations to the Salvation Army represents, in my view, a lost opportunity for the nation as a whole to learn how to live in a modern, pluralistic society. When the LGBTQ lobby challenged Chick-fil-A to another round of boycotts if they did not discontinue their support of the Salvation Army, the appropriate response should have been as follows:

“Dear friends in the LGBTQ community,
We have received your demand that we no longer make charitable donations to the Salvation Army. Are you not aware that the Salvation Army serves 60 million meals every year to hungry people? Did you not know that the Salvation Army provides 11 million nights of shelter for homeless people? Did you know that the Salvation Army operates in every zip code in America, without regard to race, religion or sexual orientation? Did you not know that the Salvation Army operates 142 drug and rehabilitation centers at no cost to the American taxpayer, relying solely on charitable donations? Did you not know that, because of the size and global scope of the Salvation Army, no organization in America (or the world) has fed, housed, clothed and assisted more Lesbian, Gay, bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer people than the Salvation Army, since they indiscriminately serve all who are in need? Tell me, again, why we should stop our donations to the Salvation Army?”

A letter like this was not written. Instead, Chick-fil-A capitulated to the demands of the LGBTQ lobby. The result has been the following:

1. The LGBTQ community has been harmed by the loss of donations to support selfless service which goes to all people, including their own community who are present in every sector of society, including those in need.

2. The LGBTQ community, by insisting, that Chick-fil-A discontinue its own free will donations to the charitable causes of their choice, has violated the freedom of religion and freedom of speech of both the owners of Chick-fil-A as well as the Salvation Army. Furthermore, a positive harm has been inflicted on the Salvation Army which has been so unnecessarily affected by this ongoing mischaracterization of them as a “controversial” and “hate-filled” organization. It is a loss of civil discourse to live in a country where someone does not have the right to advocate ardently in favor of same sex marriage. But that right granted to the LGBTQ lobby does not negate the rights of the Cathy family to advocate for a biblical view of marriage which arises out of their Christian convictions. Freedom of speech protects both parties.

3. By capitulating to the LGBTQ lobby, Chick-fil-A has inadvertently provided strength to the false narrative (as reinforced in the headlines) that the Salvation Army is “anti-LGBTQ” and is a “controversial” Christian organization. They are not. Since when has housing the homeless and feeding the poor become “controversial”? What is there to oppose about an organization whose motto is “Doing the Most Good?” What is “hate-filled” and “anti-LGBTQ” about feeding hungry people, or providing shelter and water in the aftermath of a hurricane? Has anyone ever seen a sign on a Salvation Army rescue center, or rehab center, or soup kitchen which says, ”LGBTQ not welcomed”? Of course not, but now these labels have been applied to the Salvation Army.

Chick-fil-A has, at least temporarily, survived another round of LGBTQ pressures by agreeing to change their charitable giving priorities. However, in the process, the Salvation Army has been maligned, and a false narrative about the Army has been allowed to spread in the wider culture.

Beloved, the Salvation Army deserves better, and so does our nation.