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Christian-owned Chick-fil-A restaurant to close first UK branch after LGBT rights backlash

Sat 19 Oct 2019
By Tola Mbakwe

The first UK branch of a popular American Christian-owned chicken restaurant is set to close following a backlash over its owner's stance on LGBT rights.

Chick-fil-A opened its first branch of the fast-food chain in Reading on 10th October, however, it was revealed that the outlet would be temporary eight days later.

The opening in the Oracle shopping centre prompted harsh criticism from LGBT groups due to comments made by the founder's Christian son.

 

Both chief executive Dan Cathy and his late father Samuel, who founded the chain in 1946, have publicly made donations towards Christian charities that oppose LGBT lifestyles.

In 2012, Dan Cathy confirmed that the company does not support same-sex marriage because it opposes the organisation's Christian values.

In an interview with the Baptist Press, Cathy said at the time: "We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.

"We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business ... our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.

"We're inviting God's judgement on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage."

After the statement was made LGBT people began a series of boycotts, kiss-ins and same-sex marriages outside the restaurants across the US.

Chick-fil-A has funded charities including Exodus International, a group which helped people who wished to “limit their homosexual desires".

It has also given $1.9 million (£1.4 million) to Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), which is a Christian sports ministry that works to see “the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes”.

The restaurant has donated $150,000 (£115,000) to The Salvation Army. It’s been reported that both charities oppose same-sex marriage.

Chick-fil-A has previously told the BBC: "Our giving has always focused on youth and education. We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda.

"There are 145,000 people - black, white; gay, straight; Christian, non-Christian - who represent Chick-fil-A."

After Chick-fil-A announced its plans for its Reading branch, the decision was condemned by LGBT rights groups across the UK.

Reading Pride said: "The chain's ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the UK as we are a progressive country that has legalised same-sex marriage for some years and continues to strive towards equality."

The group organised protests against the restaurant and called for a boycott of the company.

On Friday, the Oracle announced that it would not extend Chick-fil-A's initial six-month lease.

A statement from the Oracle said: "We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers, however, we have decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period, and not to extend the lease any further."

Reading Pride said it still plans to hold a protest on Saturday morning despite the announcement and will continue to protest against the restaurant until it closes in six months' time.

The restaurant has denied the future closure is related in any way to Cathy's views on LGBT rights or charity donations.

A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told the PA news agency: "We have been very pleased with what we've seen in the UK in terms of customer response to our food and our approach to customer service.

"We mutually agreed to a six-month lease with the Oracle in Reading as part of a longer-term strategy for us as we look to build a permanent presence in the UK."

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