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Give Chick-Fil-A the Benefit of the Doubt, But …

The fallout from Chick-Fil-A’s decision to stop supporting the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army continues. The company needs to clarify its position. For the sake of argument, let’s give Chick-Fil-A the benefit of all doubt. When we do, the situation presents them with a path out of the communications quicksand.

Presume, if you will, a perfectly innocent explanation — the company wants to support local nonprofits that do local work in local communities and does not want to keep supporting the same nonprofits every year. That’s totally fair. Chick-Fil-A can spend its money however it wants and no organization is entitled to Chick-Fil-A’s money.

Now, giving them that benefit of the doubt, we are still presented with a few problems from how they communicated this.

First, it comes at the same time the Salvation Army is being attacked. The CFA management may not be aware of this, but much of their customer base is aware of this and supports the Salvation Army.

Second, it comes at a time Chick-Fil-A is under attack for supporting both the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In the best case scenario for CFA — that it simply wants to support other, locally focused nonprofits — the timing unfortunately suggests the organization is caving and will only embolden its critics and the Salvation Army’s and FCA’s critics. Whether CFA meant to signal it is caving is irrelevant to how it looks at this time given the present howls from the left.

We should also acknowledge that the company’s COO saying, “There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” sounds like the organization wants to distance itself from the very nonprofits the left is using as excuses to keep CFA out of new markets.

Consequently, I would encourage Chick-Fil-A to do the following.

First, reiterate that it thinks highly of both the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and that it has been proud to support both.

Second, suggest that while it wants to support other nonprofits, it is not opposed to supporting the Army, FCA, etc. in the future.

Third, acknowledge the concern from its customers and put the burden on its customers diplomatically. If they like the Salvation Army so much, CFA should work with local franchisees to allow Salvation Army bell ringers at CFA stores through Christmas.

That sends a pretty strong signal that Chick-Fil-A is not caving; it does defend both organizations; and it does recognize its customers’ concerns.

Charitably, if CFA was not really trying to cave to progressive activists, they could have done a tremendously better job in handling this than they did. They may not want to be in the culture war, but they are there whether they want to be or not. The radical gay rights group GLAAD is already signaling its continued contempt for CFA. The only way to satisfy the left is to bend the knee to groups like GLAAD. That seems against CFA’s convictions.

But right now a lot of people are bothered by the timing and CFA needs to offer some clarity.

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