The head of Chick-fil-A's charitable arm, Rodney Bullard, defended his contributions to anti-LGBTQ organizations and claimed the money wasn't about targeting the queer community.
“There’s a calling to help people, and I think at times that has been confused with a calling, somehow, to exclude,” Bullard told Business Insider. “And that’s not the case. The focus, the phrase ‘every child’ — we’re very intentional about that. We do have programs and we look for programs that are inclusive as well to help every child.”
Recently released tax filings, uncovered by ThinkProgress, show Chick-fil-A's charitable arm gave $1.8 million to three anti-LGBTQ organizations in 2017. Two of the groups specifically target LGBTQ people for ire. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes enforces a "sexual purity" policy that bars "homosexual acts." Meanwhile, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, which provides housing for troubled youth, "teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong" and that same-sex marriage is a "rage against Jesus Christ and his values." The athletic organization received over $1.65 million from Chick-fil-A, and the youth home was given $6,000.
Chick-fil-A also gave $150,000 to the Salvation Army, which has a checkered past with LGBTQ issues, but does not endorse blatant discrimination like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.
“At the end of the day,” Bullard said in his interview, “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.”
Bullard then chalked up criticism of Chick-fil-A's donations to fallout from a "cultural war." Resentment over Chick-fil-A does not just revolve around its philanthropy — it has a zero in the Human Rights Campaign's annual buyers guide thanks to a lack of protections for LGBTQ employees, and its CEO, Dan Cathy, famously said same-sex marriage equated to people shaking their fists at God.
“For us, [helping children] a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that’s being waged,” Bullard said. “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.”
Meanwhile, ire over Chick-fil-A has boiled over in Texas, where the student government at Trinity University, a private liberal arts university in San Antonio, voted earlier this month to ban the chain. The Texas legislature is now debating a bill that would prevent jurisdictions from banning or limiting businesses because of their religious or moral beliefs.
Chick-fil-A is now the third-largest fast food chain in the nation, trailing only Starbucks and McDonald's.