Donald Trump served it to football players in the White House. Kanye West rapped about it on his new gospel album.

But Chick-fil-A, the US fast-food chain famed for its chicken sandwiches that has long been backed by conservatives for its outspoken Christian values, is having a crisis of faith.

For years the company, founded in 1967 by devout Southern Baptist Truett Cathy, has come under fire from LGBT activists, sparking boycotts and counter-boycotts.

Chick-fil-A is the country's third-largest restaurant chain with nearly 2400 locations and annual revenue of $US10.5 billion ($A15.5 billion). Its continued success in the face of attacks from the left has been seen by supporters as a cultural victory.


So many fans were outraged, and puzzled, when the company announced last week it was ending donations to three groups that oppose gay marriage. The move came seemingly out of nowhere and was seen as a capitulation to pressure from LGBT activists.

The three groups — the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Salvation Army and Paul Anderson Youth Homes — had been the target of protesters' ire.

If Chick-fil-A was already on the nose, fresh revelations this week have turned even its staunchest supporters away.

Internal Revenue Service filings published by revealed Chick-fil-A committed something conservatives would consider close to a cardinal sin.

The tax form showed that in 2017, Chick-fil-A donated $US2500 ($3700) to a controversial left-wing "anti-hate" watchdog that has been accused of smearing Christians and other conservatives with false charges of bigotry.

Chick-fil-A's donation to the Southern Poverty Law Centre has drawn criticism because the legal advocacy group lists organisations across the US it views as "hate groups" on its website.

In 2012, a domestic terrorist attacked a Christian organisation called the Family Research Council — explicitly citing the SPLC's list.

When gunman Floyd Lee Corkins II stormed the Washington DC headquarters of the FRC, he was armed with a semiautomatic pistol, 100 rounds of ammunition — and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches.


He was angry at a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" held in response to a same sex-marriage boycott. The FRC had been one of Chick-fil-A's staunchest supporters.

"I wanted to kill the people in the building and then smear a Chick-fil-A sandwich in their face … to kill as many people as I could," Corkins told FBI interviewers.

Asked how he chose his target, Corkins said, "Southern Poverty Law (Centre) lists anti-gay groups. I found them online. I did a little bit of research, went to the website."

He started firing but was tackled by building manager Leo Johnson, who was seriously injured in the attack. Corkins pleaded guilty to terrorism, firearms and assault charges and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

"Seven years ago, a shooter entered our building with the intent to murder as many people as possible and smear a Chick-fil-A sandwich in their faces," FRC president Tony Perkins said in a statement this week.

Chick-fil-A donated $US2500 to the controversial Southern Poverty Law Centre. Photo /
Chick-fil-A donated $US2500 to the controversial Southern Poverty Law Centre. Photo /

"Not only has Chick-fil-A abandoned donations to Christian groups including the Salvation Army, it has donated to one of the most extreme anti-Christian groups in America."


Mr Perkins said anyone who opposed the SPLC, "including many Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and traditional conservatives, is slandered and slapped with the 'extremist' label or even worse, their 'hate group' designation".

After the 2012 attack, Mr Perkins said neither Chick-fil-A boss Dan Cathy "nor anyone with Chick-fil-A inquired about the wellbeing of Mr Johnson or any of the FRC team members".

"But they made a donation to the SPLC, which was linked in federal court to this act of domestic terrorism," he said. "Chick-fil-A has seriously lost their way. It's time for Christians to find a fast-food alternative to Chick-fil-A."

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who initiated the "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day", said the company was betraying supporters. "They surrendered to anti-Christian hate groups. Tragic," he tweeted this week.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz wrote, "If true, Chick-fil-A has badly lost its way. Millions of Christians have been proud of Chick-fil-A's courageous stands for religious liberty. To fund those who hate your customers is just sad."

Charlie Kirk, founder of conservative student organisation Turning Point USA, said Chick-fil-A "betrayed us". "We stood by them for years during every attack and controversy," he wrote.


"Despite this they announced they will no longer support Christian organisations. Even worse, it has come out they support the Southern Poverty Law Center! No more Chick-Fil-A, ever!"

Explaining the decision to end donations to the three groups last week, Chick-fil-A said it would instead focus its giving on three areas — hunger, homelessness and education.

"We don't want our intent and our work to be encumbered by someone else's politics or cultural war," Chick-fil-A Foundation executive director Rodney Bullard said. "If something gets in the way of our mission, that is something that we are mindful of and cognisant of." columnist Ryan Bomberger highlighted a number of other "deeply political" left-wing organisations named in Chick-fil-A's donation list, including pro-abortion groups.

"So much for 'not being encumbered by someone else's politics or cultural war'," he wrote. "Chick-fil-A funds a lot of great initiatives, but they're being publicly dishonest about their corporate evolution."

Bomberger said the "millions of families who've supported" Chick-fil-A over the years because of its "principled stand, deserve to know the cowardice that the company has shown in the face of LGBT activism".


In an email to, Mr Cathy, now chairman and chief executive, said his father's Biblical principles "still guide the business today" and distanced the company from the SPLC donation.

"The SPLC donation was made by a volunteer member of the Chick-fil-A Foundation Advisory Board," he said. "Each volunteer advisor, in 2017, was offered the opportunity to recommend a grant recipient."

Mr Cathy said more than 300 other organisations, including the now-ditched Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Salvation Army and Paul Anderson Youth Homes, were among the recipients that calendar year.

He said the grants were given to a range of organisations including Meals on Wheels, Atlanta Mission, the Holocaust Survivor Support Fund, Georgia Historical Society and brain health research at Emory University.

"Our founder, Truett Cathy, built his business on Biblical principles that still guide the business today," he said.

"He famously said, 'Probably the greatest gift that God has given any one of us, the power that we have to change people's lives by what we do. The best run company is the company that is forever thinking about others.' It is in this spirit that all donations are made."


Mr Cathy did not respond when asked whether the volunteer advisor who donated to the SPLC was still a member of the Chick-fil-A Foundation Advisory Board.

Chick-fil-A has been also feeling heat from opponents.

Earlier this year, airports in Buffalo, New York and San Antonio blocked the restaurant from opening at their sites because of the company's gay rights record. Some college campuses have banned the chain.

A location in the UK is closing because of protests. GLAAD, an LGBTQ rights group, last week greeted the news with "cautious optimism", but said Chick-fil-A had made similar pledges before.

GLAAD campaigns director Drew Anderson said if Chick-fil-A wanted to be taken seriously, it should speak out against its anti-gay reputation and ensure restaurants are safe for gay employees.