Chick-fil-A, the nation’s favorite purveyors of fast food chicken and faith-based discrimination, is back in the news again. The company’s charitable arm has been continually criticized for its donations to organizations classified as anti-LGBTQ, specifically the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), in the years since the family-owned company declared it would no longer donate to political groups.
In an interview with Business Insider, Chick-fil-A Foundation executive director Rodney Bullard offered justification for the continued financial support of such groups.
“The calling for us is to ensure that we are relevant and impactful in the community, and that we’re helping children and that we’re helping them to be everything that they can be. For us, that’s a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that’s being waged. This is really about an authentic problem that is on the ground, that is present and ever present in the lives of many children who can’t help themselves. Regardless of where you may find yourself on any particular issue, this is our collective problem and that we all can be a part of the solution. … We all should join together and be a part of the solution”
The defense comes after analysis of the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s 2017 tax returns revealed donations to the FCA totaling $1,653,416. According to Bullard, those funds go toward youth summer sports camps co-hosted by the foundation and the FCA that aim to help inner-city Atlanta youth without targeting a specific religious group.
But the continued association with an organization that is rooted in a specific religious belief to the point that it literally has Christian in its name undercuts that inclusive mission.
Especially considering there are large youth sports organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, that promote LGBTQ inclusion while servicing the same inner-city communities. There are even specfic LGBTQ youth sports initiatives, like You Can Play and LGBT SportSafe, that aim to cultivate inclusion and equality through all levels of sport.
The problems run much deeper than the name, though. The FCA requires leaders, including student leaders, to agree to a “sexual purity policy” that forbids them from participating in “heterosexual sex outside of marriage nor any homosexual act.” It further defines such acts as not “[constituting] an alternative lifestyle acceptable to God.”
The organization’s statement of faith also includes a clause defining marriage as “exclusively the union of one man and one woman,” citing that the Christian God established this “as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society.”
That’s some super inclusive language, let me tell you.
Carrie Kurlander, Chick-fil-A’s vice president of external communications, stressed that camp participants aren’t required to sign the purity policy, but come on now: surrounding youth, some of which identify as LGBTQ, with authority figures that have signed it, could cause adverse effects.
This is particularly highlighted when applied to the already frustrating state of LGBTQ youth sports participation as compared to their cishet teammates. In a 2018 report, the Human Rights Campaign revealed that only 24 percent of LGBTQ youth participate in sports compared to 68 percent of all youth.
That number dips to 20 percent in states that still have anti-LGBTQ sport participation policies. The gap continues to grow when focusing on gender identity. 14 percent of non-binary youth, 14 percent of transgender boys and 12 percent of transgender girls participate in youth sports.
Overall, 84 percent of Americans witnessed or experienced anti-LGBTQ attitudes in sports. Dumping $1.6 million dollars into an organization that operates from a base that refuses to identify LGBTQ people as valid isn’t going to bring that number down. And it sure isn’t going to help Chick-fil-A tint their charitable practices as inclusive.
But the foundation seems OK with that insincerity. “we actually had a conversation two years ago about this very thing and said, ‘Alright, we’re probably going to get dinged. But the impact is real and authentic.’ And so, there was a judgment call,” said Kurlander.