Some of you may recall the big Chick-fil-A controversy that emerged some years ago. The owners of this fast-food franchise are evangelical Christians who disapprove of homosexuality and opposed the efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. This made them the target of boycotts by the LGBT+ community but also the darling of right-wing evangelical Christians in the US who campaigned to have people eat there to show their support.
So I was surprised to read that the company has just stopped funding the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, two organizations that were prominent in also opposing giving equal rights to the LGBT+ community. The company has also contributed to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group that strongly supports LGBT+ rights and is a group that right-wingers hate.
These moves have caused consternation among the Christian right who feel betrayed.
Leading US conservatives have turned on the fast-food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A after the company decided to cut its ties to two Christian groups that have long opposed same-sex marriage.
The restaurant has “badly lost its way”, tweeted the Republican senator Ted Cruz, a prominent religious conservative. “Millions of Christians have been proud of ChickFilA’s courageous stands for religious liberty. To fund those who hate your customers is just sad.”
The former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, another devout Republican, accused Chick-fil-A of having “surrendered to anti- Christian hate groups”.
Having been boycotted by protesters who accused it of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, Chick-fil-A now faces the prospect of being shunned by some of its most enthusiastic former backers.
“It’s time for Christians to find a fast-food alternative to Chick-fil-A,” said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council organization. “Not only has Chick-fil-A abandoned donations to Christian groups including the Salvation Army, it has donated to one of the most extreme anti-Christian groups in America.”
I cannot believe that the company was unmindful of the reaction this move would cause among their erstwhile allies on the right but they went ahead anyway. The company has not said what made it change its policies, saying only that it would focus its future efforts on “education, homelessness and hunger”. With any business, you would not be far off if you speculated that money played a role. Being boycotted by a significant sector of the population in the US might have been a consideration. Its expansion plans in Europe had come under pressure recently, forcing it to close its first retail outlet in Reading, England.
As for the potential loss of its former supporters, it is not clear where lovers of chicken sandwiches can go that opposes same-sex marriage, and that may have been a factor too.