UPDATED: Chick-Fil-A Claims It Will Stop Donating To Anti-Gay Organizations
September 19, 2012 3:14 pm ET by Carlos Maza
Fast food giant Chick-fil-A has allegedly promised to cease its donations to anti-gay organizations, striking a major blow against right-wing activists who tried to rally support for the company over the summer.
On Tuesday, Illinois-based activist group The Civil Rights Agenda issued a press release claiming that Chick-fil-A had sent a letter to Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno pledging to end its practice of donating to political organizations through its charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation, and later clarified in a meeting that it will no longer support anti-gay groups. According to the press release:
In a letter addressed to Alderman Moreno and signed by Chick-fil-A’s Senior Director of Real Estate, it states, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”
“We are very pleased with this outcome and thank Alderman Moreno for his work on this issue,” said Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda. “I think the most substantive part of this outcome is that Chick-fil-A has ceased donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights.
Chick-fil-A’s pledge is remarkable given the effort by right-wing activists to protect the company’s image, after its president voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage. Led by Fox News’s Mike Huckabee, anti-gay activists rallied around the fast food chain over the summer, celebrating a nation-wide (and heavily attended) “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in August. The company received the support of prominent anti-gay groups including the Family Research Council (FRC) and the American Family Association (AFA). Even Fox News did its part to protect the company.
And few organizations were as vocal in their support of Chick-fil-A as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which even launched a petition to personally support the company’s president, Dan Cathy, and his family and (unsuccessfully) tried to institute “Chick-fil-A Wednesdays.”
These groups have been quick to cite Chick-fil-A as evidence that being anti-gay is good for business. As NOM President Brian Brown stated last month:
Business leaders and voters would do well to consider... the millions of people who voted in support of traditional marriage at Chick-Fil-A on August 1st with their pocketbooks, when they are being told by gay marriage proponents that support of same-sex marriage will be good for their bottom line and the business community in general.
Chick-fil-A’s new promise, however, seems to undermine the narrative that the company’s anti-equality stance has benefited its bottom line.
To be fair, it’s too early to take Chick-fil-A at its word.
For one, the pledge isn’t entirely new for the company. In January of 2011, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy released a statement claiming that his company would not “champion any political agendas on marriage.” The fast food giant also has yet to confirm Tuesday’s development, and it’ll be years before the relevant IRS 990 forms detailing the company’s donations are publicly released.
But if the latest report is accurate, it seems that even the best efforts of groups like NOM and FRC weren’t enough to convince Chick-fil-A that embracing anti-gay branding is a smart business decision.
UPDATE: According to a report from The Advocate, Chick-fil-A held a fundraiser this week for the Marriage and Family Foundation, the top recipient of the company’s anti-gay donations in 2010. The Marriage and Family Foundation is the implementation and funding arm of the Marriage CoMission – a coalition of groups formed in response to the “downward spiral of marriage and the traditional family in America.”
UPDATE 2: Chick-fil-A published a press release on Thursday clarifying that it will continue to fund programs “that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities”:
For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized. And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving.
Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.