Three years ago, Chick-fil-A found itself in the middle of the culture wars over same-sex marriage. After sponsoring an LGBT film festival, the chain is once again at the center of controversy but this time from across the road.
In 2012 gay-rights groups called for protests and boycotts of the chain after its CEO, Dan Cathy, answered a question posed by a Baptist state newspaper editor about the company’s support for groups that oppose same-sex marriage, “Well, guilty as charged.”
That was then. The fast food chain is now taking heat online from evangelicals for sponsoring what is billed as the world’s first faith-based LGBT film festival for evangelical Christians.
Baptist News reports that a change.org petition was recently posted demanding that Chick-fil-A explain the firm’s sponsorship of “Level Ground,” a movement started in 2013 by two Fuller Theological Seminary students — one gay and one straight — to create “safe space for dialogue about faith, gender and sexuality through the arts.” The petition calls on Chik-fil-A to clarify its “corporate stance regarding previously stated Christian values on marriage and stewardship.”
The  controversy forged an unlikely friendship between Cathy, a member of SBC-affiliatedNew Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ga., and gay-rights activist Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride and Cathy’s guest at the Chik-fil-A Bowl football game in 2013.
Level Ground started as a student-run film festival in 2013 founded by Chelsea McIntruff, a lesbian, and Samantha Curley, a straight activist for LGBT rights, who have both since graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.
The most recent film festival was held October 8-10 in Nashville.
Participants in the group’s most recent film festival, held Oct. 8-10 in Nashville, Tenn., included former contemporary Christian artist Jennifer Knapp, who came out as a lesbian in 2005, and Karen Swallow Prior, a Liberty University English professor and research fellow for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sponsors included Gracepointe Church, an evangelical church in Franklin, Tenn., that made headlines in January by coming out in support of marriage equality.
Last summer, a Chick-fil-A franchise in Iowa donated food to a gay pride picnic.
GetReligion.org notes the relative media silence today compared to three years ago.