On October 12 2019, the following tweet appeared and renewed interest in claims that chicken-themed fast-food chain Chick-fil-A directly funded violent, anti-gay political movements and laws in Uganda:
The tweet, which was “liked” and retweeted thousands of times, read:
Today Uganda announced a bill to legalize murdering gay people. National Christian Organization paid a preacher to go to Uganda and help their lawmakers with the bill. Chick-fil-a funds National Christian Org. If you eat at Chick-fil-a, this is what your money goes to.
It wasn’t immediately clear where on Reddit the poster found their information nor in which context the information was presented, but the claims broadly matched a comment on a thread in r/Atheism (later r/all) about contemporaneous civil rights news from Uganda.
Subsequent Twitter responses claimed that the added information was from 2012 and 2010:
The original poster’s two links were dated 2012 and 2014 respectively, but neither conclusively indicated what the tweet said they did. One was a long blog post, the other a 2012 Business Insider article. The longer of the two (the 2014 blog post) made no mention of a group called the “National Christian Organization,” and “Chick-fil-A” only came up in separate contexts unrelated to Uganda.
In that 2014 post, Chick-fil-A was described as having ceased donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations:
In 2005, top leaders from Chick-Fil-A, including Don Cathy, launched the Marriage and Family Legacy Fund, which later change its name to the Marriage & Family Foundation. It was a project of the Chick-Fil-A led “Marriage CoMission”, a coalition of dozens of ministries and organizations dedicated to fighting the “downward spiral of marriage and the traditional family in America.”
The project included the participation numerous anti-LGBT organizations and leaders including Exodus International, Citizens for Community Values, the Alliance For Marriage (a driving force behind state anti-same sex marriage amendments), leaders from Focus on the Family, leaders from The Navigators, Campus Crusade For Christ Military Ministry, Alan Carlson and Larry Jacobs of the Howard Center, members of the Georgia Family Council, and representatives from Campus Crusade For Christ (Family Life). All of the above have been funded by the National Christian Foundation. Also participating was Hugh O. Maclellan of the Maclellan Foundation – one of the most important funders of the NCF and an attendee at The Gathering. (see: https://web.archive.org/web/20070724230345/http://marriagecomission.com/partners/?&page=1)
While Chick-Fil-A’s funding of anti-LGBT organizations, at least through its Winshape Foundation, appears to have ceased following scrutiny and pressure from LGBT rights organizations, Chick-Fil-A’s Senior Vice President and CFO James B. “Buck”: McCabe nonetheless serves on the board of directors of the National Christian Foundation, one of the top funders of anti-LGBT rights groups on earth.
Like the 2014 post, the Business Insider post did not in any way support the tweet’s claims about Uganda or the National Christian Organization.” Business Insider reported Chick-fil-A was — as of 2012 — making its donations through the WinShape foundation, adding:
Chick-fil-A gave $2 million to seven anti-gay groups in 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, according to Equality Matters’ analysis of its charitable giving.
Chick-fil-A gave the Marriage & Family Foundation $1.1 million and another half million dollars went to the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes, according to the report.
That article named the organizations as follows: Marriage & Family Foundation ($1,188,380), Fellowship of Christian Athletes ($480,000) National Christian Foundation ($247,500), New Mexico Christian Foundation ($54,000), Exodus International ($1,000), Family Research Council ($1,000), and the Georgia Family Council ($2,500). Also of note is that a search for “Chick-fil-A” and “National Christian Organization” restricted to before the tweet appeared primarily returned results for uncapitalized, unspecified “national Christian organization(s),” not a group specifically going by that name.
To recap, the original tweet spread virally on Twitter and in screenshots posted to sites like Reddit and Facebook, itself creating search results appearing to verify its own claims in a circular fashion. But the original tweet responses linked to an item from 2012 about Chick-fil-A’s 2010 donations to groups with anti-marriage equality stances, and a 2014 article about donations from 2005 to various organizations the author claimed were advancing anti-LGBTQ viewpoints or positions. Neither citation actually proved the claims in the tweet, which were that in 2019 Chick-fil-A was either donating to a “National Christian Organization” (or “National Christian Org”), or that Chick-fil-A donated to any group funding anti-gay violence in Uganda.
One of the groups not mentioned in the tweet but mentioned in the excerpt from the 2014 post was Exodus International. That group’s Wikipedia page contained a section titled “Ugandan conference,” which read:
In 2009, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and two other evangelical Christians traveled to Uganda to speak at a conference on homosexuality, informing thousands of attendees that homosexuality was “evil” and could be “cured”. A month later a Ugandan politician, with the help of the organizers of the conference, introduced what became known as the “Kill the Gays” bill. If passed, the bill would have made homosexuality punishable by death. Close to a year later, [then-president of Exodus International Alan] Chambers expressed regret for the organization’s involvement, and spoke out against the proposed bill.
At the very top of the general page, Wikipedia referenced Exodus International in the past tense, noting that the organization wound down in 2012, around the time the Chick-fil-A controversy was still percolating:
In 2012, then president Alan Chambers renounced conversion therapy, saying it did not work and was harmful. The following year, Chambers closed the organization and apologized for the “pain and hurt” participants of their programs had experienced. Several other prominent former members, including John Paulk, have made similar apologies. While Exodus International no longer operates, many of its member ministries continue to do so, either forming new networks, joining existing ones such as the Exodus Global Alliance or operating independently.
So at best, the information was both inaccurate and outdated, as it appeared to misidentify former national Christian organization Exodus International as the “National Christian Organization.” For context, that particular organization disbanded in 2012.
It also appears that the issue arose again after international outlets reported on the same controversial “kill the gays” legislation in Uganda. One day prior to the tweet, the UK’s Independent published an article headlined, “Uganda announces ‘Kill the Gays’ law imposing death penalty on homosexuals.”
It seemed that the Twitter user likely saw related content on Reddit, and based their tweet on that news. The outlet reported renewed plans to attempt to codify a death penalty sentence for homosexual acts:
Uganda has announced plans to impose the death penalty on homosexuals.
The bill, colloquially known as “Kill the Gays” in Uganda, was nullified five years ago [in 2014] on a technicality, but the government said on [October 10 2019] it plans to resurrect it within weeks.
The government said the legislation would curb a rise in “unnatural sex” in the east African nation … Under British colonial law, gay sex in Uganda is punishable with up to life imprisonment.
A representative for the group Sexual Minorities Uganda said that renewed interest in the bill may have led to attacks on LGBTQ people in Uganda in 2019:
[Pepe Julian] Onziema said three gay men and one transgender woman had been killed in homophobic attacks in Uganda this year — the latest last week when a gay man was bludgeoned to death.
Chick-fil-A was not mentioned in the reporting, and neither was the long-defunct group Exodus International — which leads again to the question of Chick-fil-A’s charity giving as of 2019.
In May 2019, Business Insider examined charitable giving for the fast food chain. Two of the organizations receiving charitable donations from the fast-food chain through its foundation attracted some backlash, but not for any link to Uganda:
Chick-fil-A ceased its donations to all political groups and those organizing against LGBT rights in 2012, and it now makes its charitable donations though the Chick-fil-A Foundation. However, the chicken chain’s donations to two major organizations — the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army — continue to draw criticism.
Tax returns show that in 2017 Chick-fil-A donated $1,653,416 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and $150,000 to the Salvation Army: two organizations that ThinkProgress and other publications have classified as anti-LGBT, due in part to their historical opposition to same-sex marriage. The company also donated $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a Christian residential home that teaches that same-sex marriage is “rage against Jesus Christ and His values.” Chick-fil-A stopped its donations to the Paul Anderson Youth Home prior to ThinkProgress’ report in March , saying that the organization was unaware of these policies and ended donations when they were brought to light. However, the company has defended its donations to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army.
The viral tweet about Chick-fil-A’s support of the National Christian Organization seemed, in context. to stem from news out of Uganda about a controversial death penalty bill for LGBTQ citizens. Reporting of that news appeared to revive a complex chain of events involving donations from Chick-fil-A’s WinShape foundation to Exodus International at some point before 2012. But Exodus International disavowed any involvement with the previous iteration of the Ugandan law, and the organization itself disbanded in 2012.
The connection drawn here was outdated, the group in question was defunct, and Chick-fil-A continued to cause ire by giving to other organizations (such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army) in 2019. Although that criticism was current, the connection to the Ugandan death penalty bill was misleading on several fronts.
Update, October 22 2019 12:34pm: An October 14 2019 post shared by the Facebook page Young Democrats of Wisconsin reiterated the points of the Twitter version of the rumor. Published on the same day as our fact check, that post was shared tens of thousands of times as a separate iteration of the same core rumor:
Separate iterations of what appeared to be the same screenshot of a public Facebook post, originally shared by an individual named Brian Broome, spread on various walls and pages. All versions we located did not feature a date, only a “6 hours [ago]” notation, and it appeared the original poster either deleted the post or changed it from “public” to “friends only.”
Text on the screenshot of a post read:
I have never had a Chick Fil A sandwich or any other food from Chick Fil A. I swear. This isn’t me bragging it’s just that I live in the city and all the Chick Fil A’s tend to be farther out than I care to go. Chick Fil A is out of the way for me because I don’t drive.
When I see them in airports or whatever, I just keep walking because I know what they’re about. They’re about hating me and most of the people I love.
I see people eating Chick Fil A all the time. They say it’s delicious. I see people who claim to be “liberals” eating Chick Fil A and I wonder if maybe I’m being a stick in the mud with my anti-Chick Fil A stance. But today Uganda announced a bill that would make it OK to kill gay people. The National Christian Foundation paid a preacher to go to Uganda to help with this bill. Chick Fil A funds the National Christian Foundation.
Ain’t no way a gatdamn sandwich can be that fucking delicious.
In the post, Broome stated that “today Uganda announced a bill that would make it OK to kill gay people,” that the “National Christian Foundation paid a preacher to go to Uganda to help with this bill,” and that “Chick Fil A funds the National Christian Foundation.” All were points addressed in our original fact check, published on October 14 2019.