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READING, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Chick-fil-A's first location in England will be closing amid blowback from LGBT activists. But some say it was just a temporary location.
When a Chick-fil-A location opened at the Oracle shopping center in Reading, England on Oct. 10, local LGBT activists were quick to call for a boycott. The family that owns the U.S. chain of chicken restaurants has been criticized for opposing same-sex "marriage" and donating to pro-family Christian groups.
LGBT group Reading Pride said in an Oct. 17 statement, "The chain's ethos and moral stance goes completely against our values, and that of the U.K., as we are a progressive country that has legalized same-sex marriage for some years and continues to strive towards equality."
Chick-fil-A commented on the controversy, "We hope our guests in the U.K. will see that Chick-fil-A is a restaurant company focused on serving great food and hospitality, and does not have a social or political agenda."
Amid the pushback, the shopping mall announced it would not extend Chick-fil-A's lease beyond the "six-month pilot period."
We have been very pleased with what we've seen in the U.K. 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 Mall in Reading as part of a longer-term strategy for us as we look to expand our international presence.
The restaurant's spokesperson also told VICE that the situation in Reading had been "mischaracterized" by the press.
LGBT groups have said they will continue to have protests outside the Chick-fil-A in Reading until it closes for good.
Martin Cooper, chief executive of Reading Pride, stated, "We're here to inform the community in Reading what has been allowed to set up in our town. It's a business based on anti-LGBT beliefs."
Leftist activists complained that the Chick-fil-A Foundation has donated millions of dollars to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the US Salvation Army. These organizations, they claim, are hostile to the LGBT agenda.
U.K. Pride Organisers' Network member Stephen Ireland opined, "Parliament should be questioning businesses like this, that work against the values of our amazing country."
But the U.K. Salvation Army told the BBC in a statement that it "strongly objected to being presented as homophobic or transphobic."
In like manner, a Chick-fil-A spokesperson stated, "Our giving has always focused on youth and education. We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda."
U.K.-based journalist Will Maule wrote for The Federalist on Thursday:
For the simple sin of giving away millions of dollars to worthy causes, the popular eatery has fallen victim to the mob of intolerance and will be forced to shutter its doors to a British people who, sadly, hardly got the chance to taste and see that it was good.
Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in the United States, falling in behind McDonald's and Starbucks. Its founder, the late Truett Cathy, was a Southern Baptist. He decided the company's restaurants would be closed on Sundays — a practice that remains in effect today. His family has continued to own Chick-fil-A.
The company says its "corporate purpose" is "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A."
Chick-fil-A's Christian roots have been the cause of controversy for a number of years. Leftists often criticize the company for giving millions in donation money to Christian organizations that support traditional marriage.
In March this year, two U.S. airports walked out on deals to put Chick-fil-A locations in the passenger terminals, citing the company's reputation of being "anti-LGBT." Then in May, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was investigating religious discrimination claims against the two airports.