Chick-fil-A CEO Regrets 'Inadvertently' Discrediting 'Outstanding' Groups Like the Salvation Army

Late last year, Chick-fil-A announced it would change its charitable giving strategy, investing larger amounts in a few select charities as opposed to funding a wide array of organizations. This decision came after years of pressure on the fast-food chain from LGBT bullies who condemned groups like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as "anti-gay" because of their orthodox Christian stances on sexuality.

In a letter sent last month but widely publicized on Wednesday, CEO Dan Cathy said he regretted "inadvertently" discrediting the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes by seeming to cave to LGBT activists when the company's intention was merely to restructure its charitable giving.

"As you have seen, recently we announced changes to our giving strategy at the Chick-fil-A Foundation. These changes were made to better focus on hunger, homelessness and education," Cathy wrote. "We understand how some thought we were abandoning our longstanding support of faith-based organizations. We inadvertently discredited several outstanding organizations that have effectively served communities for years."

A person with knowledge of Cathy's intentions told PJ Media the CEO was referring to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It seems particularly important to rebut the "anti-gay" smears against the Salvation Army, which has gone above and beyond to help ... gay people.

Cathy quoted Chick-fil-A's Corporate Purpose — "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." The CEO acknowledged that "Some also questioned if our commitment to our Corporate Purpose was waning. Let me state unequivocally: It is not."

Cathy sent the letter on December 5, but the American Family Association (AFA) publicized it on Tuesday. Following the news that Chick-fil-A would stop funding the Christian groups, AFA launched a petition that garnered more than 116,000 signatures. AFA President Tim Wildmon sent a personal letter to the CEO.

"In my personal letter to Mr. Cathy, I asked him two questions: (1) Will Chick-fil-A publicly state that it does not believe the Salvation Army and FCA are hate groups because of the ministries' beliefs about sexuality, marriage, and family? (2) Will you publicly state that Chick-fil-A will not hesitate to fund these two ministries again, should the opportunity arise in the future," Wildmon explained.

He described Cathy's letter as "a welcomed clarification. It appears that Mr. Cathy understands how many evangelicals perceived the company's decision, as he stated that these Christian groups were 'inadvertently discredited.' The fact that Dan Cathy called these two Christian groups 'outstanding organizations' will mean a lot to evangelicals."

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) has not yet responded to the letter. Huckabee organized the "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" in 2012, but after the news last year, he told supporters that he regretted that effort.

"I now regret that I did it and that I invited your participation," Huckabee wrote in a letter to supporters. "I wonder how long before they go ahead and open on Sundays? Might as well. Or just change their name to ‘Ichabod Chicken Sandwiches.'"

Huckabee led the appreciation day after the LGBT group Equality Matters launched a movement in 2012 by accusing the fast-food chain of giving "nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups." Liberal news outlets like HuffPost cited the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which accuses the Family Research Council (FRC) and other conservative Christian organizations of being "hate groups" like the Ku Klux Klan. Chick-fil-A's WinShape Foundation had given FRC $1,000 in 2010. The LGBT backlash mounted after CEO Dan Cathy defended marriage as between one man and one woman.

While LGBT activists boycotted the fast-food chain, Christians across the country rallied to Chick-fil-A, driving sales through the roof. Even so, the company apologized for its comments and the WinShape Foundation stopped funding most of the "anti-gay" organizations, including FRC. Liberal groups continued to slam Chick-fil-A for its donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, however. In 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was forced to apologize after eating Chick-fil-A during June, the designated LGBT Pride Month.

Shortly after the summer of Chick-fil-A outrage, a deranged man targeted the FRC offices in Washington, D.C., aiming to kill everyone and place a Chick-fil-A sandwich by each of their heads. He later told the FBI he was inspired by the SPLC "hate group" accusation. For this reason, it was an outrage when Ryan Bomberger revealed that Chick-fil-A had contributed $2,500 to the SPLC in 2017. FRC responded with a boycott of Chick-fil-A.

The SPLC donation was also misconstrued, according to the fast-food chain. A volunteer member of the Chick-fil-A Foundation Advisory Board directed the contribution, since board members had the discretion to direct contributions of that size to any organization they chose. Even so, it seems Chick-fil-A could have overridden this particular donation.

The funding change also incensed conservative Christians because one of the organizations Chick-fil-A decided to fund, the homeless charity Covenant House, has local chapters that embrace LGBT pride in order to help homeless people who identify as LGBT.

Before the recent controversy, Chick-fil-A had risen to become the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the nation, despite airport bans inspired by LGBT bullies. Known for good food, excellent service, and closing on Sundays to honor the Sabbath, it is both a natural fit for Christians and a great alternative to McDonald's.

It remains to be seen whether Cathy's letter will satisfy worried conservative Christians. Sadly, even openly gay presidential candidate and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has come under fire for ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. What kind of Americans demonize the Salvation Army? Perhaps Cathy's letter — by rightly extolling the group as "outstanding" — will help Americans realize just how radical these LGBT bullies truly are.

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