Franklin Graham Looks into Chick-fil-A's Vow to Address 'Hunger, Homelessness' Instead of Supporting Anti-Gay Groups

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday November 22, 2019

When Chick-fil-A, a longtime supporter of anti-LGBTQ organizations, announced earlier this week that it was stepping away from support for such groups and putting its charitable dollars instead toward issues of hunger, homelessness, and education, the country's anti-gay hard religious right flew into a fury. (After all, isn't attacking sexual minorities more "biblical" than feeding the hungry or offering shelter to those who have none?)

As reported here at EDGE, longtime political foe of LGBTQ Americans Mike Huckabee slammed the chain for its decision, underscoring his own role in an "appreciation day" for the restaurant at the height of its anti-gay notoriety. Huckabee helped organize the "appreciation day" in 2012, not long after CEO Dan Cathay sparked controversy when he publicly condemned marriage equality.

"In Aug 2012 I coordinated a national @ChickfiA Appreciation Day after they were being bullied by militant hate groups. Millions showed up," Huckabee tweeted.

The "militant hate groups" in question had encouraged boycotts of the brand. Similar boycotts have been called for within the LGBTQ community when the CEO of Barilla pasta publicly stated that gay customers were welcome to buy another brand and, more recently, an executive for Nivea was reported to have declared on a conference call that the company does not "do gay."

Earlier this year, fresh controversy flared up around Chick-fil-A when the company's claims not to support anti-LGBTQ groups were disproved by tax records showing that the corporation's foundation had gifted millions to — wait for it — anti-LGBTQ groups. In the wake of the new round of controversy, Chick-fil-A lost several airport and college campus concessions. To holy warriors, that might constitute acceptable losses... but to professional businesspeople, the harm to the bottom line, as well as to public image, could hardly seem worth it.

Indeed, the company's PR throughout the latest uproar has been that their primary interest is nothing more or less than providing tasty chicken meals to its customers. But politicians have piled into the fracas, with lawmakers in Texas going so far as to create special legislation — the so-called "Save Chick-fil-A" law — intended to ensure that municipalities cannot live their values by denying businesses based on their "religiously" motivated policies.

White House fixture Franklin Graham — the virulently anti-gay son of famed preacher Billy Graham, whose obsession with non-heterosexuals is as unwavering as it is vitriolic — soon got in on the act, too.

Graham took to Facebook on Nov. 21 to inject himself into the middle of the tempest with a post that began, "Has Chick-fil-A caved?"

The post went on to Graham's description of how he personally sprang into action.

"I picked up the phone and called Dan Cathy," Graham's post related. "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."

Added the post: "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 did not allow the chance to slam the LGBTQ community to pass by. The post went on to say:

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.

Of course, a less fraught explanation might be that the LGBTQ community sees little sense in handing over their hard-earned dollars to a business that has denigrated their marriage rights and is known to plough its profits into support for groups that attack them.

Meantime, anti-gay religious lunchtime crowds needn't despair quite yet, as it turns out; the chain quickly adjusted course when social media exploded with righteous rage, reported Tim Tassopoulos, the COO and president of the chain, offered a cryptic take on the company's plans when he told Vice that:

"No organization will be excluded from future consideration—faith-based or non-faith-based."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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