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Chick-fil-A's decision to discontinue donations to Salvation Army won't affect La Crosse shelter

Chick-fil-A's decision to discontinue donations to Salvation Army won't affect La Crosse shelter

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Restaurant chain Chick-fil-A's controversial decision to pull charitable donations to The Salvation Army will not affect funding at the La Crosse shelter, a local representative says. 

On Monday, Chick-fil-A, which has locations in the Madison, Appleton and Milwaukee areas, announced it would no longer financially support both The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, two nonprofits that have faced allegations of being anti-LGBTQ.

In 2018, the fast-food chain donated $115,000 to the former's Angel Tree Program and $1.65 million to the latter's youth sports camps. 

Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy's son, Dan Cathy, has previously come under fire for expressing anti-same-sex marriage sentiments, and recently several airports have declined to allow the establishment to open in their terminals. Restaurant openings, including in Chicago earlier this month, have garnered herds of protestors.

“There’s no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are,” Chick-fil-A president and CEO Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow this week. “There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message.”

The funding cut -- Chick-fil-A states on its website it will give exclusively to Junior Achievement USA, Covenant House International and the Shared Table Program in 2020 -- will not impact The Salvation Army in La Crosse.

"All of our funding is raised from local donors and organizations, such as the funds we raise during the Red Kettle Campaign," said Alex Riley, media relations and volunteer coordinator for the local location.

In 2018, the local bell ringing campaign raised $913,000, and the Angel Giving Tree collected and distributed clothing to 500 area children. The La Crosse location is also known for its extensive housing, disaster relief, warming shelter and food distribution efforts.

The Salvation Army as a national organization released a statement from its Alexandria, Va., headquarters earlier this week expressing their disappointment in Chick-fil-A's withdrawal of financial backing.

“We’re saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations — areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed,” the statement reads. “We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. 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. We urge the public to seek the truth before rushing to ill-informed judgment and greatly appreciate those partners and donors who ensure that anyone who needs our help feels safe and comfortable to come through our doors.”

Allegations of the The Salvation Army’s holding an anti-LGBTQ stance stem in part from a now-deleted mission statement on its national website, captured in a 2012 New York Times article. The text read in part "The Salvation Army does not consider same-sex orientation blameworthy in itself. Homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, requires individual responsibility and must be guided by the light of scriptural teaching. Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.”

The current national Salvation Army mission statement notes the organization's religious roots but also denounces discrimination:

"The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination."

“We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population."

Statement from Salvation Army's national headquarters

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General assignment reporter

Emily Pyrek covers health, human interest stories and anything involving dogs for the La Crosse Tribune. She is always interested in story ideas and can be contacted at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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