Chick-fil-A and the Salvation Army

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

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.


  • It is a shame. I would bet anything that the Cathy family have been threatened by their bank or creditors they will lose their accounts if they don’t capitulate. To say it another way, I suspect they were told they would lose their ability to run credit cards (Amex, Master Card, Visa) if they didn’t change course.

    • RBV says:

      The founder is rolling over in his grave while he weeps. You can be respective without acknowledging. The Salvation Army does “The Most Good” and serves EVERYONE in need. Take it from one who knows.

  • JOHN says:

    I know both UMC churches I have attended in Tampa (one progressive, one traditional) both have sign up sheets for Salvation Army bell ringers at the local Publix supermarkets. It is a long time tradition. Will this false ‘notoriety’ affect this practice? Will folks not want to stand and ring a bell at the local supermarket where neighbors may see them? Will managers or Publix quietly drop time-slots. It goes beyond the money that Chik Filet gave…it could be felt by lowered donations to Salvation Army this holiday season…

  • Tim Duelley says:

    The Salvation Army is a excellent organization. I have seen first hand what they do for the many hurting and suffering from addiction and the love and care they give to those in need. They do not judge anyone for the life they lead. Jesus said DO NOT JUDGE. The way a person lives there life is their choice and that’s between them and GOD. God Bless the Salvation Army for doing the most good.

  • Philip says:

    I have spoken to many people about how silly the anti-Chik-fil-A boycotts are. (Remember when the Conservative Coalition told people to boycott places like Disney World?) I also pointed out that it seemed odd for Chik-fil-A to be singled out when other corporations were guilty of far worse. Hershey hasn’t stopped using child labor and slavery. Pharmaceutical companies still have not owned up to their role in the opioid crisis. I still have yet to be repaid all the money that was given to bail out banks.

    Yet, I have always been a little nervous about companies that practice a sort of “humblebrag capitalism.” Too often we look to corporations to be our charitable representatives. While working at Target or Starbucks I recall numerous times when they trumpeted their initiatives while the fiscal benefits of those initiatives went to stockholders and CEOs and not the actual worker.

    I suppose what I had admired about Chik-fil-A for the longest time was how they seemed to accept the vitriol and incriminations as the price of doing business their way. I remember in the midst of the big hullabaloo, when they were the darlings of the Conservative culture war, they took the unprecedented step of talking to representatives of the LGBTQ+ community and actually discontinuing the backing of the questionable “gay transition therapy” organizations. Put another way, while they were “winning” the culture war, they worked with people they had “beaten.” This made them look strong. Sadly doing what is morally strong and simple doesn’t really play as well as doing what is morally superficiality. This is a victory of corporatist form over societal function.

    Of course we can point to all the ways that this leaves us poorer as a society. Nonprofits are told that if they wish to survive they should just go along. Demagogues all over the political spectrum are gifted glibness (the only currency they track in). Corporations are reinforced in the notion that the best advertising today is the one that has the veneer or moralistic grandstanding. To say nothing of the stridency of the secular puritans who look for new heretics and apostates from the mercurial zeitgeist.

    On the other hand, truth often comes after a sacred cow is brought low. We Christians have put far too much emphasis on the form of religion. We have done so before with other things in other eras, but Chik-fil-A was especially representative of our current thinking. Many cultural Christians believe that aligning themselves with a moralistic therapeutic deistic tribalism, a clique made up of what C.S. Lewis dubbed “Christianity and Water,” they somehow or other were real Christians. Yet being a Christin is not based on where you get your lunches or which candidate you vote for in an election; the mark of the Christian is Word and Sacrament. The only place that can deliver these means of grace is the church.

    In Sermon 74, John Wesley asks:

    “How much do we almost continually hear about the Church! With many it is matter of daily conversation. And yet how few understand what they talk of! how few know what the term means! A more ambiguous word than this, the Church, is scarce to be found in the English language. It is sometimes taken for a building, set apart for public worship: sometimes for a congregation, or body of people, united together in the service of God. It is only in the latter sense that it is taken in the ensuing discourse.”

    Later in that discourse he states:

    Here, then, is a clear unexceptionable answer to that question, ‘What is the Church’ The catholic or universal Church is, all the persons in the universe whom God hath so called out of the world as to entitle them to the preceding character; as to be ‘one body,’ united by ‘one spirit;’ having ‘one faith, one hope, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all.'”

    Philip Melancthon agrees in the Augsburg Confession, stating:

    “We have not said anything new here. Paul defined the church in precisely the same way in Ephesians 5[:26] when he says ‘in order to make her holy by cleansing her.’ He also added the external marks, the Word and sacraments. For he says, ‘Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the Word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind – yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish’ [Eph. 5:25-27]. We have repeated this statement almost verbatim in our Confession. The third article of the Creed also defines the church in this way when it enjoins us to believe that there is a ‘holy, Catholic Church.’ Certainly the ungodly are not a holy church! Moreover, what follows, ‘the communion of saints,’ appears to have been added in order to explain what ‘church’ means, mainly, the assembly of holy people [saints] who share in common the association of the same gospel or doctrine and the same Holy Spirit, who renews, sanctifies, and governs their hearts.”

    Martin Luther states it even more brusquely by declaring:

    “Thank God, a child seven years old knows what the church is, namely, the holy believers and the lambs that hear their Shepherd’s voice. For the children pray thus: ‘I believe in a holy Christian church.’ This holiness does not consist in surplices, tonsures, long clerical gowns, and other ceremonies of theirs, fabricated by them without the warrant of Holy Writ, but in God’s Word and in true faith.”

    Yet, I fear in our own contemporary world we have attempted to look to other things or organizations to fulfill the role of the church. Chik-Fil-A is only doing what a corporation does: looking to fulfill the objectives of the marketplace. Put another way, the church and believer ends up answering Christ’s question posed in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13 quite differently than a corporation. So we know that while a corporation might be useful here on earth, it will pass away in the eschaton. The church serves God in Word and Sacrament, the corporation must inevitably serve mammon or otherwise fail to be a corporation.

    Perhaps many cultural Christians will abandon the penultimate kulturkampf and embrace the church’s Apocalyptic/Eschatological battle. Perhaps we shall shift our eyes away from our earthly tribalism and place them upon the Kingdom.

    • TimF says:

      In case nobody has noticed yet, the UM denomination caved in the same way but a couple of decades further back. We’ve got a few planks in our own eyes. It’s why I’m leaving, and it’s why my pastor is leaving. It can’t be fixed.

      Above, Philip says: “the mark of the Christian is Word and Sacrament. The only place that can deliver these means of grace is the church.” I say: God can deliver using whatever method he chooses. I think sometimes the church gets in God’s way quite a bit.

  • Mark says:

    Well stated, and true.

    The righteousness of sexual liberation activists may be revealed as much by the tactics and rhetoric they use as the cause they advocate. Chickfila had survived the last round of bullying by these folks and was doing well….so why capitulate now? There clearly is more to the story.

    Chickfila, as a private enterprise, has no legal obligation to provide an explanation…but I think they have an ethical obligation, particularly as a self-styled Christian oriented company, to explain why they think the SA and FCA are no longer worthy of their support.

    If Chickfila thinks this move will placate their detractors they are sadly mistaken. They will not be satisfied until every relic of orthodox Christianity is banished from the company or it burns to the ground, whichever occurs first.

  • Author says:

    I will no longer support Chick-fil-A I will never eat there again next you’ll be denying God just to make some money