News Analysis

Chick-fil-A chickens out of the culture war

It’s been a tough year for conservatives who hope to have champions in the world of business and entertainment. It began with Taylor Swift, a chanteuse traditionalists could once trust, who followed up on her endorsement of Democrats in the 2018 midterms with a full embrace of the LGBT cause, highlighted in her music video for You Need to Calm Down.

At least we still had Chick-fil-A, some no doubt thought at the time, the chicken chain for the discerning Christian consumer, which closed on Sundays and wished patrons a blessed day.

Alas, no more. The chicken chain has dropped the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes as recipients of its philanthropy, both having been accused of anti-gay bias in the media and by activists.
Chick-fil-A has downplayed the move.

Its president Tim Tassopoulos told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “Our goal is to donate the most effective organisations in the areas of education, homelessness, and hunger … No organisation will be excluded from future consideration – faith based or non-faith-based.”

And yet, it’s hard to see how dropping two of the charities that they have been most heavily criticised for supporting amounts to anything other than a capitulation.

The commander of Salvation Army wrote in an op-ed for USA Today this week (which didn’t mention Chick-fil-A by name): “While we can’t claim an exact number, we believe by sheer size and access that we are the largest provider of poverty relief for people in the LGBTQ community.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted in response to Chick-fil-A’s move that, “I’m headed to Bill Miller’s tonight”, indicating that the governor, who had recently signed something nicknamed the “Save Chick-fil-A bill”, was taking his business elsewhere.

An anonymous executive told bisnow.com that the press coverage of Chick-fil-A’s donations to supposedly anti-LGBT organisations led to fears of them “taking it on the chin”, and that it became clear to the company that it was slowing the company’s growth.

On the other hand, there are a fair number of high-profile instances in which boycotts from progressives elicited enthusiastic patronage by more traditionally-minded fried chicken fans. It’s hard to see the company provoking that kind of enthusiasm now.

As several commentators pointed out, it doesn’t seem all that sound to trade the loyalty of social conservatives, a group largely uncatered for by most corporations, in favour of a social justice lobby with constantly shifting – and escalating – demands.

For example, Tim Tassopoulos said in a statement that “no organisation will be excluded from future consideration – faith-based or non-faith-based”, to which a CNN reporter commented: “But that leaves open the opportunity that it could donate to foundations in the future that might hold anti-LGBTQ views.”

It’s almost as if the progressive lobby can’t be placated.