Rev. Franklin Graham said he was assured by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy that the company "remains committed to Christian values," after the fast-food chain’s charity arm decided to no longer donate to three organizations criticized for upholding traditional Christian beliefs on sexuality.
In a Thursday morning Facebook post, Graham, leader of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said he spoke with Cathy on the phone.
"Dan was very clear that they have not bowed down to anyone’s demands, including the LGBTQ community. They will continue to support whoever they want to support. They haven’t changed who they are or what they believe. Chick-fil-A remains committed to Christian values. Dan Cathy assured me that this isn’t going to change. I hope all those who jumped to the wrong conclusion about them read this," Graham wrote.
After it was reported this week that the Chick-fil-A Foundation switched up its giving structure to no longer include the Salvation Army, Paul Anderson Youth Home in Georgia and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the company has faced a wave of conservative uproar in response to the decision.
“Many people have fought for Chick-fil-A and for them to capitulate to the bullies is betrayal,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, one of Washington’s most prominent Christian conservative activists, said on his radio show Tuesday.
Donations to those organizations were the focus of much media scrutiny for Chick-fil-A after it was reported earlier this year that Chick-fil-A Foundation donated up to $1.8 million to the groups. Critics labeled the organizations as “discriminatory” because of their “anti-LGBT” beliefs on marriage.
Chick-fil-A has itself often been criticized after its president, Dan Cathy, voiced his opposition to gay marriage in 2012. Because of Cathy’s belief in traditional Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, the company faced boycotts and condemnation from state and city leaders.
Graham argued, "In my opinion, the gay movement wouldn’t ever be happy with Chick-fil-A unless they were open on Sunday, gave all of their charitable donations to LGBTQ organizations, and flew the rainbow flag over their stores! Their hatred for Chick-fil-A is rooted in founder Truett Cathy’s strong stand for biblical “traditional” values and his desire to honor God."
A Bisnow exclusive Monday revealed that Chick-fil-A Foundation altered its philanthropic structure (which made over 300 donations) to one that focuses on three initiatives with one charity accompanying charity each.
The foundation plans to give $9 million to Junior Achievement USA to support education and Covenant House International to fight homelessness. In addition, the foundation will donate $25,000 to local community food banks to fight hunger every time a new restaurant is opened.
“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos was quoted as saying in the article.
Since then, at least tens of thousands of supporters have backed an online petition launched by the Christian conservative American Family Association demanding that Chick-fil-A “clarify” its position on sexuality and marriage and “reinstate” donations made to the organizations.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor who coordinated Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in 2012 in response to left-wing backlash to Cathey’s position on marriage, said that he believes Chick-fil-A made a “big mistake.”
“Chick-fil-A can give whatever money they want to whatever group they want,” Huckabee said on Perkins’ Washington Watch radio show. “They are free to do that. But when they did what they did yesterday, what was really objectionable was that they basically affirmed the lie that has been told from the far-left about the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.”
“All those millions of people that stood in line for hours to get a chicken sandwich just to say ‘we stand with you and we affirm your right of free speech and right of religion and the right of association,’ they have to feel deeply disappointed with the organization,” Huckabee continued.
Perkins contends that the backlash has been so strong because Chick-fil-A road a “wave of conservative support” to its highest profits ever despite multiple attempts from the political left to bar Chick-fil-A restaurants in airports, cities, and college campuses over the last decade.
“They didn't just survive the LGBT-initiated boycotts — they thrived, doubling sales since the moment liberals decided it was a ‘controversy’ to give to charities like the Salvation Army,” Perkins wrote in an op-ed. “Millions of families drove out of their way to stop at Chick-fil-A — not because the chicken was that good, but because their conviction was.”
According to Perkins, “people who held up this company as a model of moral courage were betrayed.”
“Unlike so many others in corporate America, Chick-fil-A was standing on truth and winning,” Perkins argued. “Then, after years of holding the line, they just up and walked off the field, leaving loyal customers holding the bag.”
Chick-fil-A has defended the decision, stating that it has more do with a philanthropic restructuring rather than a desire to cave to political correctness.
In a statement to The Christian Post on Monday, a company spokesperson stated that “no organization will be excluded from future consideration – faith-based or non-faith based.”
Chick-fil-A has not responded to a follow-up question from CP asking whether or not faith-based organizations that publicly adhere to Christian faith's historic teaching regarding marriage will be included in future consideration.
Conservative evangelical commentator Erick Erickson said on his radio show Wednesday that Chick-fil-A should be given the benefit of the doubt by conservatives but stressed that Chick-fil-A should offer clarification of its position.
“They have made a lot of their loyal customer base mad with what happened,” Erickson said. “What troubles conservatives is Tassopoulos’s statement that ‘as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are.’”
Erickson urged conservatives to presume that it is “not about placating the left.”
“Let’s presume this has nothing to do with distancing themselves from Christian groups. Let’s presume they have been giving money to these organizations and now they have decided they want to give to other organizations now,” Erickson said.
“Let’s presume there is no nefarious intent. But let us also understand that this comes at the very moment that the left is telling Chick-fil-A they will be fought ruthlessly at airports and locations around the world until they distance themselves from these two groups. And as they distance themselves from these two groups the left is telling them they have to stop supporting. So it can be a coincidence but it has left the impression that Chick-fil-A is caving to the left-wing mob.”
Jim Daly, president of the Christian conservative organization Focus on the Family, wrote in a blog post Wednesday night that he believes Chick-fil-A "underestimated the Christian response to their decision."
"Monday’s news was particularly disconcerting, not just because the company has appeared to capitulate to the leftist mafia but because Chick-fil-A’s decision financially impacts some of our nation’s premier Christian organizations," Daly wrote.
"Fellowship of Christian Athletes played a critical role in my coming to Christ. They continue to serve our nation’s youth in remarkable ways and are on the front lines in schools across the country. Likewise, the Salvation Army ministers in powerful ways, alleviating hunger and suffering on so many levels."
Graham, who lost weight on a vegan diet in 2016, said he will continue to enjoy Chick-fil-A meals.
"No fast food chain does a better job. I went through the drive-thru at Chick-fil-A yesterday morning, and I thought I might get dinner there—but a whole lot of other people had the same idea! A Chick-fil-A sandwich with waffle fries sounds really good right now!" he wrote.