Victory for Religious Freedom: Gov. Greg Abbott Signs 'Save Chick-fil-A' Bill

On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) signed S.B. 1978, the "Save Chick-fil-A" bill, into law, on a table with Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches, cups, and a little cow with the words "Eat Mor Chickin." The bill will prevent Texas government actors from discriminating against religious groups or those associated with them. It followed the San Antonio airport's ban on Chick-fil-A, citing "a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior" and calling the fast food chain "a symbol of hate." That action may or may not be blatantly unconstitutional, but on Thursday it became illegal, as well.

"Discrimination is not tolerated in Texas," Abbott said in signing the legislation. "No business should be discriminated against simply because its owners gave to a church or to the Salvation Army or to any other religious organization. No business should lose a government contract because of their religious beliefs."

Indeed, liberals have slammed Chick-fil-A as hateful or discriminatory to LGBT people because it contributes to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army. As Vox noted, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes requires its employees to refrain from "homosexual acts," since the Bible clearly condemns such acts as sinful. The Salvation Army also upholds the biblical understanding of sexuality. It turned down $3.5 million in San Francisco city contracts due to requirements that city contractors provide spousal benefits to same-sex partners of employees.

These current contributions pale in comparison to Chick-fil-A's recent history, however. When CEO Dan Cathy expressed support for traditional marriage in 2012, outrage ensued and liberal outlets reported far more "scandalous" contributions. Cathy said the U.S. was "inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and we say we know better than you what constitutes a marriage." Strong words, but in keeping with traditional religious teaching, be it Jewish, Christian, or Islamic.

This infuriated LGBT activists, who also discovered that the WinShape Foundation, a charitable organization founded in 1984 by Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, donated money to socially conservative charities such as Eagle Forum, Focus on the Family, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Family Research Council (FRC), Exodus International, and the Marriage & Family Legacy Fund.

Activists denounced this funding as contributions to "anti-gay groups," and indeed such organizations support the traditional Bible definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. These organizations have been demonized, with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) accusing FRC of being a "hate group" — an accusation that inspired a terrorist to attempt a mass shooting in 2012.

After a nationwide boycott — and a conservative rush to buy at Chick-fil-A called "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day," led by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) — the company apologized for its comments and the WinShape Foundation stopped funding the "anti-gay" organizations. In 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was forced to apologize after eating Chick-fil-A during June, the designated LGBT Pride Month.

The relentless cultural onslaught against traditional understandings of marriage and the family may be the most powerful semi-political form of bigotry in America today. When Abbott signed the bill, David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement slammed Abbott's previous tweet defending traditional marriage as "anti-gay hate."

Worse, Badash accused Chick-fil-A of continuing to fund organizations it is no longer supporting.

"Chick-fil-A's owners didn't just give to a church, the Salvation Army, or to a religious organization, they have donated millions of dollars to actively anti-LGBT organizations and donated to at least one anti-gay hate group," he wrote. "By funding groups that work to oppose and oppress LGBT people and same-sex marriage Chick-fil-A is harming people in America. It is contributing to a world view that demonizes loving relationships. And in a time in which hate crimes are on the rise Chick-fil-A is helping to fund the seeds of hate."

Not only did Badash endorse the vile accusation that FRC is a "hate group" — again, an accusation that inspired a terrorist attack — but he also falsely accused Chick-fil-A of continuing to fund groups it stopped funding years ago. There was nothing wrong with the company contributing to these groups — after all, liberal companies routinely give to LGBT activist groups like the SPLC or the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which demonize their opponents as hateful bigots. The SPLC's rhetoric has actually resulted in incitement and violence — something these groups cannot say about FRC.

Disagreements about hot-button issues like same-sex marriage are no excuse for discrimination or incitement against dissenters.

In the case of Chick-fil-A, accusations of anti-LGBT "hate" are extremely misplaced. Not only has the chicken joint never turned away a gay customer for his or her sexual orientation, but Chick-fil-A went out of its way to provide free food in solidarity with the victims of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. The company even opened on a Sunday — a one-time exception to its unique practice of closing every Lord's Day — in order to serve those who contributed in a blood drive to help the victims of the shooting at a gay nightclub.

Thankfully, the attacks on Chick-fil-A seem far outweighed by the restaurant's excellent service and delicious food. According to National Restaurant News, Chick-fil-A was the fastest-growing restaurant chain in America for the past year. The chicken joint took third place among U.S. restaurants in sales — with $10.46 billion.

So many activists in America hate Chick-fil-A, but the recent turn of positive events may suggest that somebody higher up likes them — and I'm not talking about Greg Abbott.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.