Fast-food chain Chick-fil-A's devoted conservative fanbase dealt the company some harsh criticism after it cut off support for three groups that oppose gay marriage and have drawn the ire of protesters.
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The loss of funding from the chain, famous for refusing to open on Sundays because of its founder's religious beliefs, is significant to the organizations. In 2017 and 2018, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave $2.4 million to the Missouri-based Fellowship of Christian Athletes for sports camps for underserved youth, and $165,000 to the Salvation Army to buy Christmas gifts for needy children. The foundation also gave $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Homes.
Conservatives who stood by the restaurant in 2012 when CEO Dan Cathy said in several interviews that he didn’t support gay marriage, say the company has abandoned them. In more recent interviews, Cathy — who is the son of Chick-fil-A’s founder — has reiterated his personal beliefs but says he treats all customers with respect.
The Salvation Army said in a statement that it was "saddened" by Chick-fil-A's decision.
"We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community," the Salvation Army told FOX Business in a statement. "In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population. When misinformation is perpetuated without fact, our ability to serve those in need, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or any other factor, is at risk."
"@ChickfilA had invaluable brand loyalty because of their beliefs and convictions," Newsmax host John Cardillo wrote on Twitter. "Their customers were brand ambassadors who appreciated that they stood their ground while the rest of corp. America caved to leftist radicals. Now they’re just another fast food chicken place.
"Lol. Chick-fil-A's just abandoned the only people who were defending them against these insatiable woke wolves. Good luck!" conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey wrote on Twitter.
Chick-fil-A, which operates about 2,400 restaurants, has been also taking heat from gay-rights supporters, which has impeded some of its growth efforts.
Earlier this year, airports in Buffalo, New York and San Antonio blocked the restaurant from opening at their sites because of the company’s record on gay rights. Some college campuses have banned the chain, while students at an Oregon high school walked out of classes last week, in part to protest the presence of a Chick-fil-A food truck at home football games, citing the company's donations to the anti-LGBTQ charities.
A location in the United Kingdom is also closing because of protests.
GLAAD, an LGBTQ rights group, said it greeted Monday's news with "cautious optimism," but said Chick-fil-A has made similar pledges before.
Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said if Chick-fil-A wants to be taken seriously, it should disavow its anti-gay reputation and ensure restaurants are safe for gay employees.
Chick-fil-A has committed $9 million to initiatives supporting education and fighting homelessness and hunger in 2020, according to its website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.