On Wednesday afternoon, Emmett Donlon, a junior at Carnegie Mellon’s College of Fine Arts, stood alone on the Cut next to the Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity. He was protesting the fraternity’s means of fundraising: selling chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A.
The business fraternity is not the only organization on campus selling food from Chick-fil-A. During National Coming Out Week earlier this semester, Carnegie Mellon’s Ski Team hosted stands selling the sandwiches. Chik-fil-A sandwiches have been sold by many organizations and Greek Life within the past year, but the Tri Delta Sorority has recently ended all Chick-fil-A fundraisers. Not all clubs at Carnegie Mellon have followed suit.
“On Monday, I decided to give an article to Alpha Kappa Psi about the problems with continuing to support a company that is openly anti-LGBTQ+,” shares Donlon. “When I saw them on Wednesday still selling Chick-fil-A, I realized that I needed to do more, so I made my sign and headed outside.”
The one-man protest by Donlon was not easy, despite the support consisting of head-nods, smiles, and thumbs up.
“A woman — who I believe was a staff member — told me to read the Bible,” Donlon says. “When members of the organization admitted to my face that Chick-fil-A was a queerphobic and bad business, they still defended themselves in wanting to continue selling mediocre homophobic chicken in the future.”
Chick-fil-A, the well-known and loved fast-food company, has a history of donating to fund homophobic projects. In 2012, the company was caught donating to the Family Research Council and Exodus International, a conversion therapy group.
The most controversial donations were to the National Christian Foundation (NCF), a major Christian nonprofit that has donated to conservative religious organizations and charities, including some hate groups. The CEO, Dan Cathy, told the media he was “guilty as charged,” but promised to “treat every person equally, regardless of sexual orientation.” Chick-fil-A has not donated to the NCF since 2012.
However, tax filings from 2017 reveal that the company gave $1,653,416 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), $150,000 to the Salvation Army, and more to other organizations that are known to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community. Their promise had thus been broken.
The FCA, an organization that spreads Christianity through sports, has a “sexual purity statement” that defines marriage as a “covenant between one man and one woman,” and gender as something “determined by biological sex instead of one’s self perception.”
The Salvation Army, despite recent statements and commitments made in favor of the LGBTQ+ community, has a brutal history with homophobia and transphobia to the community and to its own employees. This history includes firing employees upon discovering their sexual orientation or gender identity and subjecting transgender people to physical examinations in Salvation Army housing.
With all this information in mind, Emmett Donlon wanted to take a stand.
“I don't know of any orgs that have stopped selling Chick-fil-A, but I hope that we can just remove their presence completely from campus,” he states. “Supporting Chick-fil-A is supporting the death and erasure of queer people.”
Most recently, Chick-fil-A came under fire for its alleged involvement in the creation of a death penalty punishment for being LGBTQ+ in Uganda. This has been rated “mostly false” by Politifact, a fact-checking website. Nonetheless, critics drew connections between the NCF’s involvement in Ugandan policies criminalizing homosexuality in 2010, despite the fact that Chick-fil-A’s foundation no longer donates to the nonprofit.
“I think a large part of the problem though is apathy in our world towards everything today,” Emmett Donlon says. “People think, ‘I can't see the harm because it isn't in front of my face, and Chick-fil-A is just too good and convenient to give up.’ But this is just bad morals."
“My signs and I will not be leaving next time any organization sells Chick-fil-A,” he continues. “I have people who will take my place if I get dragged away, because I will not be silenced.”
In response to Donlon’s protest, Alpha Kappa Psi provided the following statement: “Alpha Kappa Psi’s new members conduct fundraisers to support a variety of initiatives each semester. We completely support the message behind the protest, and will be more considerate when choosing fundraisers in the future.”