Chick-fil-A Gives to Charity Lobbying Against Equality Act; Reneges on Promise Not to Fund Anti-LGBTQ Causes

Saturday June 5, 2021
Originally published on June 3, 2021

A Chick-fil-A store in Manhattan
A Chick-fil-A store in Manhattan  (Source:Associated Press)

Before you go to Chick-fil-A again, be aware that the fast food chain has reneged on a promise made last year not to donate to anti-LGBTQ charities.

The Daily Beast reports that Dan Cathy, the billionaire owner of Chick-fil-A, the six-days-a-week fast-food chain, is amongst a group of conservative high rollers who are funding the National Christian Charitable Foundation (NCF), the nation's sixth-largest charity who are spearheading an effort to derail the Equality Act. Joining Cathy are Betsy DeVos' eponymous family foundation, as well as the private foundations of the Anschutz oil dynasty, the late Republican megadonor Foster Friess and Hobby Lobby, the arts and craft chain. The Daily Beast arrived at their findings after a review of the charity's tax reports.

"The NCF functions as a donor-advised fund, which theoretically means that a donor allocates funds and then recommends where those funds are allocated. For tax reasons, those recommendations are not supposed to be determinative, but often are," adds the Daily Beast.

"The whole point of the donor-advised fund structure is that the donor can't make the decision — that they can only suggest," one person who analyzed the tax disclosures said, "but they certainly sell it to donors as, we do what you want with this money."

The Daily Beast added that the NCF granted some $6.5 million to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal interest group, one of its largest grants to a single political organization that year. "With that cash in hand, ADF has crafted a vast network of more than 3,300 affiliated 'allied attorneys.' A Media Matters for America report on ADF included a list of about 300 of those, noting that the cadre includes multiple state attorneys general and state lawmakers."

LGBTQ movement leaders say that the structure is deliberate in order to keep fingerprints of some of the nation's richest families off of some of the more unseemly activities of NCF's grantees, wrote the DB.

While the NCF funding is broad, funding some 63,000 nonprofits since the early 1980s, the charity is "also a major grantor of many of the biggest players in the push to defeat the Equality Act. In particular, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Alliance Defending Freedom have been major players in the fight over expanded rights for LGBTQ people since the wars over same-sex marriage," added the DB.

The campaign against the Equality Act is low-key, with phone calls being its main avenue in reaching out to senators to influence their vote. Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, acknowledged the influence of the phone calls on his vote. Manchin, the DB reported, "promised in 2019 to help forge 'a viable path forward' for anti-discrimination legislation despite personal reservations over some of the bill's provisions." But now "has privately indicated that he can't support the Equality Act this time around. Manchin told one co-sponsor of the act that the flood of phone calls asking him to vote against the Equality Act was 'a thousand to one.' (Manchin's office did not respond to a request for comment about that remark, nor would they comment on his current stance on the legislation.)"

When Chick-fil-A announced they were not planning on giving to anti-LGBTQ charities in 2019, company president and chief operating officer Tim Tassopoulos said in an interview with Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message." The Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home are among the charities that Chick-fil-A says it will stop supporting. In the new year, the chain's philanthropic arm will focus on three initiatives, each with an accompanying charity: education, homelessness and hunger.