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A group that advocates for religious liberty in the military says the U.S. Air Force Academy should cancel a planned speech by a Chick-fil-A executive.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation said Wednesday the company has a history of supporting anti-gay causes and that Rodney Bullard, a Chick-fil-A vice president and academy graduate, shouldn't speak at the school's upcoming leadership conference.

Bullard said the company and its charitable foundation don't fund anti-gay programs. He says Chick-fil-A's foundation funds programs to help children in poverty, including groups that work with LGBTQ youth.

Chick-fil-A has faced accusations that it is anti-gay since 2012 when its president, Dan Cathy, publicly opposed gay marriage. The company has said Cathy's statements are his personal views.

The academy said it invited speakers with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and conference participants choose which talks to attend.

 

Airport starts 2019 with 10 percent gain

Chattanooga Airport started 2019 on a high note with a 10 percent gain in January passenger boardings over the same month in 2018, figures show.

The airport posted boardings of 37,888 passengers last month with Delta Air Lines and American Eagle reporting double-digit percent gains, according to Lovell Field.

Last year, the airport set a new record for passenger boardings and total traffic, citing the city's growing economy and more flights.

Passenger boardings hit 504,298 last year, the first time ever over a half million, up 4.08 percent from 2017.

"When you look at our growth, it ties into all the economic growth in the region," said airport Chief Executive Officer Terry Hart.

 

First Tennessee made grain beer introduced

Batey Farms, an 8th generation family-owned farm located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is now producing malted barley sourced from their farm as part of a multi-year brewing initiative to make the first all-Tennessee grain Tennessee State Park Blond Ale.

Since 2015, Tennessee Brew Works has partnered with Batey Farms to produce wheat for their beers. Previously, the grains used in Tennessee craft beers were sourced from an array of suppliers ranging from the Midwest, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom and Belgium.

"We're planting the seeds that will bring our farmers and breweries to prosperity together," said Brandon Whitt, owner of Batey Farms. "And, Tennessee State Parks will benefit along the way!"

Tennessee Brew Works and Tennessee State Parks first partnered in July of 2017 producing the first Tennessee State Park Blonde Ale benefiting the Tennessee State Parks Conservancy and the state's 56 State Parks System. To date, more than $7,000 has been donated from the beer proceeds.

"This partnership has produced a truly unique and local Tennessee craft brew that considers the preservation and protection of our state's natural resources from start to finish," said Brock Hill, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Bureau of Parks and Conservation.

Both the Tennessee Brew Works' State Park Blonde Ale and Southern Wit, a Belgian-Style White Ale also made with Tennessee grains, are now available in Chattanooga.

 

Panera to close free paying cafes

Panera Bread is closing the last of its experimental cafes that let customers pay what they wished.

The company says its Panera Cares location in Boston will close Friday after six years. Panera says it's helping employees find jobs at other locations. Panera opened its first Panera Cares restaurant in Clayton, Missouri, in 2010. It later opened similar stores in Chicago; Dearborn, Michigan; Portland, Oregon; and Boston. All eventually closed.

In a statement, Panera said the stores were no longer viable and the locations weren't as profitable as regular Panera cafes. In 2013, the company said Panera Cares stores made 70 to 80 percent of the revenue that traditional stores did.

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