Chick-fil-A billionaire CEO says his anti-gay marriage statements hurt business

ChickFilA-ChickenSandwich-e1395231520696Forbes magazine reported that in the summer of 2012, the billionaire family behind fast food chain Chick-fil-A found themselves … well, if not in hot water, then in a piping vat of chicken grease.

That year, with same-sex marriage on four state ballots, the scion of Forbes rich list stalwart S. Truett Cathy (net worth: $6.2 billion) hit headlines for taking a public stance against equal rights.

In July, Truett’s son Dan, Chick-fil-A’s CEO, told the Baptist Press he was “guilty as charged” in his support of what he described as traditional marriage.

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy said.

The fast food chain’s in-your-face Christian values weren’t exactly news even then. Forbes ran a story on The Cult of Chick-fil-A in 2007 and its stores closing on Sunday to allow workers to attend church.

Rather, it was Dan Cathy’s reaffirmation of his firm’s same-sex marriage stance that set off a wave of protests, with LGBT kiss-ins at Chick-fil-A stores and even some lampooning via music video, with three drag queens skewering Chick-fil-A to the tune of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On.” (Sample lyric: Some day somebody’s gonna make you wanna gobble up a waffle fry / But no go, don’t you know, Chick-fil-A says you make the baby Jesus cry.)

Now, almost two years later, Dan Cathy — a self-described evangelical Christian — says he made a mistake.

In a rare and wide-ranging interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cathy admitted his anti-equality stance probably wasn’t a wise business decision, regretting “making the company a symbol in the marriage debate:”

“Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development, and it helps by [recognizing] the mistakes that you make,” Cathy said. “And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it.”

Cathy agreed that the “lingering identity” of Chick-fil-A with “anti-gay groups” that jumped to its defense in 2012 has meant “alienating market segments.”

“Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with,” Cathy said. “And it’s probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.”

Cathy himself hasn’t changed his own views on same-sex marriage. As he told the AJC: “I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word, and I’m just personally committed to that. I know others feel very different from that, and I respect their opinion, and I hope that they would be respectful of mine.”

What is clear is that his family’s fried chicken business, which made $4.6 billion in sales in 2012, will be staying out of the fray when it comes to equality.

“I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on,” he told the Journal-Sentinel. “And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service.”

Read more about the billionaire Cathys, including charitable donations to anti-gay-marriage groups, here.

—  Steve Ramos

Chick-fil-A releases statement about recent ‘mischaracterized’ donations

Couple Tyler Savage, left, and Larry Farris at a Dallas Chick-fil-A on Friday, Aug. 3, for National Same-sex Kiss-in Day. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

News about Chick-fil-A no longer funding anti-gay organizations surfaced yesterday with the explanation that the chicken chain would refrain from engaging in “political debates.”

The company released a statement today and a longer “Who We Are” statement, detailing organizations and causes the company donates to.

Among organizations listed in the longer statement is the WinShape Foundation. Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy tweeted a photo this week from the 2012 WinShape Ride for the Family, which The Advocate reports is a fundraiser for an organization that helps lobby against marriage equality.

So, what has changed?

Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer asks just that in a Huffington Post op-ed.

“The fact is that Chick-fil-A has not commented on any of these ‘what if’ statements or shared anything to substantiate the claims by Chicago Alderman Proco Joe Moreno and the Illinois-based Civil Rights Agenda,” he writes. “The only action that Chick-fil-A has taken in recent weeks was to have private conversations in an effort to find ‘common ground,’ and to reiterate the company’s stance through an internal Chick-fil-A memo.”

The statement is below. Go here for the longer document.

Chick-fil-A: Who We Are. A Response to Recent Controversy.

For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized. And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving.

For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized. And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving. For that reason, we want to provide some context and clarity around who we are, what we believe and our priorities in relation to corporate giving.

A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.

As we have stated, the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators.

—  Anna Waugh

Chick-fil-A to end donations to anti-gay groups, draft memo about policies

Couple Tyler Savage, left, and Larry Farris kiss at a Dallas Chick-fil-A Friday, Aug. 3, for National Same-sex Kiss-in Day. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Chick-fil-A is reportedly ending its contributions to anti-gay groups, including Focus on the Family and the National Organization for Marriage.

The decision came after discussions this month with Chicago’s Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Moreno made headlines this summer for opposing a new Chick-fil-A in a Westside ward after company President Dan Cathy’s stated opposition to marriage equality. Cathy’s comments sparked debate about civil rights and freedom of speech, along with protests and petitions to kick the restaurant of college campuses, leading to Cathy meeting with LGBT college leaders last month.

Moreno told the Times that the company would not add LGBT protections to its nondiscrimination policy but would send a memo to its restaurants called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.” The memo will state Chick-fil-A’s promise to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender” and to not “engage in political or social debates.”

Moreno told Chicago’s LGBT newspaper, the Windy City Times, that it’s “a win for the LGBT community” and “for everyone who works for the cause of equal rights, and a win for Chick- fil-A. This is a win for all.”

Chick-fil-A has not released an official announcement stating that the company would cease donations to anti-gay organization, but a letter sent to Moreno signed by the company’s senior director states that it is “now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

Donations will now go to foster-care agencies and community service organizations.

—  Anna Waugh

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy meets with college leaders about LGBT issues

Chick-Fil-A-Hates-Fags

With Chick-fil-A fights breaking out on campuses across the country, including several in North Texas, company CEO Dan Cathy reportedly met with college leaders to discuss LGBT issues in Atlanta on Thursday.

It was Cathy whose anti-gay comments earlier this summer sparked the protest. The details of Thursday’s meeting were brief and given by an unnamed source, but centered around “diversity, hospitality, and the opportunity to find common ground,” according to the source.

Cathy is trying to repair relationships with colleges in an effort to further expansion plans for more on-campus locations across the country, many at large schools.

The University of North Texas was the first of five area colleges to start a petition calling for the university to remove the restaurant from its student union. UTA later followed and members of UTA’s GSA are preparing to present the petition and a resolution to school officials.

SMU officials have already said they would not remove the restaurant from its campus. Kim Schroder, UNT’s associate director of retail dining services, told its student newspaper that the on-campus location wasn’t going anywhere soon.

Schroder said the petitions from a UNT student and a separate one created by an alumnus have not affected business, and the university’s five-year contract with the company would make removing it soon impossible.

—  Anna Waugh

NOM announces every Wednesday will be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

The National Organization for Marriage might be trying to make more of Americans obese by encouraging supporters of traditional marriage to flock to Chick-fil-A every Wednesday for the chicken chain’s deep-fried goodness.

Supporters showed up in record numbers to restaurants around the country on Aug. 1, many of whom had to wait in long lines to show their appreciation for President Dan Cathy’s anti-gay remarks.

NOM President Brian Brown thanked those who waited for hours and announced Tuesday that the organization is pushing for supporters to eat at Chick-fil-A every Wednesday to show continued support.

Of course, Mr. Brown makes the argument for free speech by a company’s leader instead of focusing on the anti-gay organizations Chick-fil-A funds.

“Because of the groundbreaking significance of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day—and because the attacks on Dan Cathy and his freedom to speak out in defense of marriage aren’t going away—we’re calling on all supporters of marriage, free speech and religious liberty to make every Wednesday a ‘Chick-fil-A Wednesday!’” the NOM release reads. “I am profoundly grateful to Gov. Mike Huckabee for his leadership in sponsoring and promoting last week’s ‘Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.’ No politician has the right to discriminate against private business owners simply because they believe what God says about marriage.”

No word yet if the LGBT community will do any more same-sex kiss-ins in response to the announcement. More from Brown:

Take the Chick-fil-A Wednesdays Pledge! Join the Chick-fil-A Wednesdays community on Facebook to show your support for Dan Cathy, for marriage and free speech, and for your fellow Americans who believe in marriage like you do: use this page to remind yourself and one another that we are not alone!

Look for events and opportunities to take your business to Chick-fil-A, especially on Wednesdays. Whether it’s a church catering event, a political meeting or a weekly Bible study, look for opportunities to support Chick-fil-A with your fast-food dollars.

Keep up your support! Have you thanked Dan Cathy for his brave stand in support of marriage? If you haven’t, be sure to send him a note at ThankChickfilA.com! Share this page with your friends and let’s make sure that Mr. Cathy and Chick-fil-A—as well as the gay marriage radicals who would silence him—know how very many Americans support his position and his right to publicly express it!

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Dallas LGBT couples kiss amid harassment at Chick-fil-A

Couple Tyler Savage, left, and Larry Farris kiss at a Dallas Chick-fil-A Friday, Aug. 3, for National Same-sex Kiss-in Day. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Couple Tyler Savage and Larry Farris arrived at Chick-fil-A off Northwest Highway Friday afternoon to quietly protest the company’s anti-gay stance – and to kiss.

Various media outlets swarmed the couple and two others who were present when Instant Tea was there for the noon hour.

Farris, known as “Larry The Fairy” in the Dallas LGBT community, said the National Same-sex Kiss-in Day at Chick-fil-A Friday was not about the company President Dan Cathy’s remarks about gay marriage, but about the company giving funds to anti-gay groups.

“I’m not going to spend money here anymore. Why would I want to fund companies that are anti-me?” he said. “Free speech is free speech. I don’t care what he says, it’s the money that he’s donating.”

For Savage, it’s a not about the chicken chain.

—  Anna Waugh

Equality TX rakes in $4k in donations on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day

Equality Texas utilized Wednesday’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day as a donation day for those who do not support the chicken chain.

Donors were encouraged to give $6.50, the cost of a chicken sandwich meal, to the organization, but other amounts could also be donated.

Deputy Executive Director Chuck Smith said 281 donors gave money Wednesday totaling $4,350. In addition, five new donors signed up to give monthly.

He said the funds would most likely go to fund the Equality Project, which is a public education program that travels across Texas.

Smith said he was surprised with the media coverage about the appreciation day that focused primarily on the company’s right to freedom of speech. He said members and allies of the LGBT community are not criticizing the freedom of speech, but the message that was behind the president’s recent comments and the actions of the company by donating to anti-gay organizations.

“No one is questioning Chick-fil-A or Dan Cathy’s right to free speech,” he said. “This is about disagreeing with them giving millions of dollars to fund discrimination and homophobia.”

Tomorrow is a national same-sex kiss-in day at Chick-fil-A. Smith said the organization wasn’t planning another donation day, but people can donate anytime online.

—  Anna Waugh

Anti-gay Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress urges congregation to eat mor chickin

Robert Jeffress

Amid the gay marriage and chicken chain controversy, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, the anti-gay senior pastor of First Baptist of Dallas, encouraged his congregation Sunday to eat more Chick-fil-A.

Jeffress, who has a long history of anti-gay activism, told his congregation that “this is not about bashing homosexuals,” the CW33 reports.

Instead, Jeffress said supporting the company and the president’s comments supporting only the traditional family was “to support religious freedom in America.”

Upset about the angry reaction from LGBT advocates, Jeffress said “the liberals have gone into a frenzy.” Indeed, they have, with a same-sex kiss-in day planned for Aug. 3. That nationwide event is only two days after Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day Aug. 1, of which you’ll be sure to find Jeffress and his many followers.

When he was pastor at First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls in 1998, he tried to eliminate gay-themed books from the city’s public library. And after joining First Baptist in Dallas in 2008, he sparked protests with a controversial sermon advertised on the church’s marquee, “Why Gay is Not O.K.”

But supporting Chick-Fil-A isn’t about gay bashing for Jeffress. Sure, it’s not.

Watch the video below.

—  Anna Waugh

Plano Chick-fil-A claims safety issues with Muppets toys; former Dallasite organizes same-sex kiss-in

A Chick-fil-A location in Plano reportedly is among those that have posted signs announcing an alleged Muppets toy recall, after the Jim Henson Co. severed its ties with the chicken chain over its opposition to gay rights.

The above photo from a Chick-fil-A store announcing it “voluntarily recalled all of the Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Puppet Kids Meal toys due to a possible safety issue” is from a Plano location.

Human Rights Campaign board member Meghan Stabler, who lives in Round Rock, told Instant Tea the sign is from the Plano store at the Willow Bend Mall, where servers were instructed to tell customers that there were safety issues with the toys.

The sign states that “there have not been any cases in which a child has actually been injured, however there have been some reports of children getting their fingers stuck in the holes of the puppets.”

Phone calls to the restaurant were not answered.

The Jim Henson Co. announced that it would sever ties with Chick-fil-A after its President Dan Cathy again made anti-gay comments last week and expressed continued support for “traditional family values.” Henson Co. CEO Lisa Henson is a supporter of marriage equality and announced that the company would donate money from Chick-fil-A to GLAAD.

Meanwhile, former Dallasite Carly McGehee, who attended Flower Mound High School, has created the event National Same Sex Kiss Day at Chick Fil A, scheduled for Aug. 3. McGehee, who now lives in New York, said she has boycotted the company since 2010 when she found out it funds anti-gay groups.

—  Anna Waugh

Freep this Chick-fil-A poll

In case you missed it, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said earlier this week in an interview with the Baptist Press that the company is “guilty as charged” in supporting the “biblical definition of the family unit.”

Well no shit!

But in an apparent effort at damage control, the company tried to walk back Cathy’s comments on Thursday, releasing a statement saying that “going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

However, Thursday’s statement fails to address the question of whether the company will continue giving money to anti-groups, which it has funded to the tune of about $5 million over the last 10 years.

On a side note, WOAI-TV in San Antonio has a poll up asking readers, “Will Chick-fil-A’s stance on gay marriage affect your decision to dine there?”

So far 66 percent say no, so perhaps you should go vote.

—  John Wright