Person

Rodney Bullard

Occupation:

Corporate Executive

Rodney Bullard is the executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the charitable arm of the restaurant company Chick-fil-A, for which he also works as vice president for corporate social responsibility. Bullard headed the foundation when it severed relations with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and Salvation Army after boycott efforts organized by LGBT activists in 2019.

Background

A native Georgian, Bullard attended the United States Air Force Academy and Duke University Law School. He served as a Judge Advocate General and legal counsel in the Air Force, as well as a White House Fellow in 2005-2006, seconded to NASA. After leaving the Air Force in 2009, he became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, prosecuting narcotics and national security cases. He received the Justice Department’s “Director’s Award” from then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010. [1]

Later, Bullard attended graduate business school at the University of Georgia and Harvard University, receiving a degree from the former. He is also the author of Heroes Wanted: Why the World Needs You to Live Your Heart Out, published in 2018. [2]

Bullard donated to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016. [3] Bullard is also a member of the board of Ameris Bancorp. [4] A motivational speaker, he charges between $5,000 and $10,000 per speech. [5]

Controversies

In 2011, Bullard joined Chick-fil-A and later became executive director of the newly formed Chick-fil-A Foundation. The foundation was set up to be the philanthropic arm of the company after it was criticized by gay activists for its support of organizations that were advocating against same-sex marriage, and for CEO Dan Cathy’s comments supporting “the biblical definition of the family unit.” [6]

The company pledged not to support advocacy organizations involved in the legal and political fights over same-sex marriage, but it continued to support faith-based organizations that opposed same-sex marriage as a religious precept. Over the next several years, Chick-fil-A was the target of intermittent boycott efforts and elected officials in several states and overseas criticized the company and sought to stop franchises from opening, because of Cathy’s views on same-sex marriage and other issues. [7] Consumers had rated Chick-fil-A highly on scores of brand satisfaction despite the controversy. [8]

In February 2019, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation criticized the U.S. Air Force Academy, Bullard’s alma mater, for inviting him to address the student body, due to Chick-fil-A’s support of faith-based charitable organizations. [9]

In 2019, Chick-fil-A was again the target of criticism from the advocacy organization ThinkProgress for a $115,000 donation it made to the Salvation Army for its Angel Tree program, which gives gifts to the families of incarcerated persons, and a $1.65 million grant to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) for a summer program for at-risk youth at historically black colleges. [10] Both the Salvation Army and FCA are explicitly Christian organizations that have traditional Christian views on sexual activity and ethics. [11] In a statement issued in March 2019 that also quoted Bullard, the foundation accused the media of peddling “misleading report[s]” and added, “To suggest that our efforts in supporting these organizations was focused on suppressing a group of people is misleading and inaccurate.” [12]

In November 2019, the foundation announced that it would no longer donate to the Salvation Army or FCA, would narrow its focus to homelessness, hunger, and education, and “will reassess its philanthropic partnerships annually to allow maximum impact. These partners could include faith-based and non-faith-based charities.” [13] In an interview with Business Insider, Bullard downplayed the controversy, stating that “The calling for us is to ensure that we are relevant and impactful in the community, and that we’re helping children and that we’re helping them to be everything that they can be. For us, that’s a much higher calling than any political or cultural war that’s being waged.” [14]

Bullard and the foundation came in for substantial criticism from right-wing and Christian writers who accused the company of betraying its roots. One right-wing writer alleged that “With the tacit approval of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, Rodney Bullard has transformed the company from one involved with charity, to one that is involved with social justice, gender identity, and diversity.” [15] Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee wrote that “@ChickfilA betrayed loyal customers for $$. I regret believing they would stay true to convictions of founder Truett Cathey [sic]. Sad.” [16]

References

  1. “Rodney Bullard.” LinkedIn.com. Accessed February 12, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rodneybullardatl ^
  2. “Rodney Bullard.” LinkedIn.com. Accessed February 12, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/rodneybullardatl ^
  3. Rodney Bullard. “Individual Contributors.” Federal Election Commission. https://www.fec.gov/data/receipts/individual-contributions/?contributor_name=Rodney+Bullard ^
  4. “Rodney Bullard.” Wallmine. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://wallmine.com/people/54908/rodney-d-bullard ^
  5. “Rodney Bullard.” Great Black Speakers. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://www.greatblackspeakers.com/author/rodneybullard/ ^
  6. Leon Stafford. “Fast-food company deals with firestorm.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 26, 2012. Accessed January 10, 2020. ^
  7. David Roach. “Chick-fil-A Stops Giving to Salvation Army, FCA Amid LGBT Protests.” Christianity Today. November 18, 2019. https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/november/chick-fil-stops-christian-donations-fca-salvation-army.html ^
  8. Stine, Lauren. “Chick-Fil-A Tops QSRs in Brand Intimacy, Report Says.” Restaurant Dive, August 15, 2019. https://www.restaurantdive.com/news/diners-feel-more-brand-intimacy-toward-chick-fil-a-than-any-other-qsr-rep/560956/. ^
  9. “Air Force Academy criticized for inviting Chick-fil-A exec.” Associated Press. February 13, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/colorado/articles/2019-02-13/air-force-academy-criticized-for-inviting-chick-fil-a-exec ^
  10. Josh Israel. “Chick-fil-A donated to anti-LGBTQ group that bars employees from ‘homosexual acts.’” ThinkProgress. March 20, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://thinkprogress.org/chick-fil-a-anti-lgbtq-donations-tax-filings-62ca15281f17/ ^
  11. Matt Kempner. “Chick-fil-A, criticized for its charitable giving, narrows donations.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 18, 2019. Accessed February 10, 2020. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/chick-fil-cricitized-for-its-charitable-giving-narrows-donations/B3JdR5yTuXoAL73WoSiotM/ ^
  12. Michael Bartiromo. “Chick-fil-A responds to controversy over charitable donations, denies seeking out groups with anti-LGBTQ views.” Fox News. March 21, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/chick-fil-a-responds-to-controversy-over-charitable-donations-denies-seeking-out-groups-with-anti-lgbtq-views ^
  13. Matt Kempner. “Chick-fil-A, criticized for its charitable giving, narrows donations.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. November 18, 2019. Accessed February 10, 2020. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/chick-fil-cricitized-for-its-charitable-giving-narrows-donations/B3JdR5yTuXoAL73WoSiotM/ ^
  14. Kate Taylor. “For Chick-fil-A, impact trumps ‘any political or cultural war’ when it comes to controversial donations.” Business Insider. May 15, 2019. Accessed February 13, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/chick-fil-a-explains-donations-groups-considered-anti-gay-2019-5 ^
  15. Greenfield, Daniel. “Chick-fil-A Put an Obama and Hillary Supporter in Charge, but Dumped Christians.” FrontPageMag. November 22, 2019. Accessed February 21, 2020. https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2019/11/chick-fil-put-obama-and-hillary-supporter-charge-daniel-greenfield/ ^
  16. Michael Huckabee. Twitter. November 18, 2019. Accessed February 10, 2020. https://twitter.com/GovMikeHuckabee/status/1196493828519321602?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1196493828519321602 ^
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