Following reports that Chick-fil-A had agreed to stop funding certain traditional family groups in order to get approval for a new Chicago restaurant, company President Dan Cathy said Sept. 21 the restaurant made no concessions and “we remain true to who we are.”
Cathy’s statement, posted on Mike Huckabee’s website, came one day after the company released its own statement saying that its corporate giving has “been mischaracterized” for many months and that it will continue to fund programs that “strengthen and enrich marriages.”
Said Cathy, “There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect. Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”
Focus on the Family President Jim Daly – whose organization supposedly had been de-funded by Chick-fil-A – also has spoken up for the company. And gay activist groups – who initially applauded Chick-fil-A’s supposed move – now are criticizing the restaurant once again.
Chick-fil-A was facing a backlash after Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno and an Illinois gay activist group announced in Sept. 19 news reports that Chick-fil-A had agreed to no longer fund groups opposed to gay marriage. That alleged agreement led Moreno – who had criticized Chick-fil-A for its president’s comments affirming the traditional marriage – to stop blocking a new franchise from being built. In comments to the Chicago Tribune, Moreno called it a “big win.”
Media stories nationwide then gave Chick-fil-A another public relations headache. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s headline read, “Chick-fil-A said to change stance.” The Los Angeles Times’ headline: “Chick-fil-A promises to stop giving money to anti-gay groups.”
The problem? Chick-fil-A’s base of support remains largely in conservative states, and those customers hardly consider Focus on the Family and other groups “anti-gay.” Many felt Chick-fil-A had caved.
Earlier this summer, hundreds of thousands of customers took part in Chick-fil-A Appreciation after company president Dan Cathy was criticized for comments supporting the biblical definition of marriage. Chick-fil-A’s stance on values is well-known: It is closed on Sundays, and its corporate statement includes the desire to “glorify God.”
In the 24 hours after the story out of Chicago broke, Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page was flooded with criticism of the new policy. Chick-fil-A released a statement Sept. 20, saying that “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,” the statement said. “A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. 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.”
The company also released a document that had been referenced in the media called “Chick-fil-A: Who We Are.” In it, the company repeats language from this summer and says its tradition is to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”
The Who We Are document also says Chick-fil-A “supports programs and marriage retreats to help strengthen and enrich marriages,” which more than 4,000 couples attend annually. The document did not address whether Chick-fil-A has indeed agreed to stop funding certain groups. It’s also unclear how the company’s policy will appease gay activist groups.
In fact, the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest gay group – expressed disappointment in Chick-fil-A’s new statement, particularly its pledge to fund marriage enrichment programs.
Focus on the Family’s Daly said in an article at Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink that he supports the company. He did not directly address whether Chick-fil-A was no longer funding Focus on the Family.
“I feel bad the Cathys are having once again to endure media accounts mischaracterizing their values and charitable efforts – and, unfortunately, I know how they feel,” Daly said. “How is an organization that helps save one marriage every six minutes and helps parents navigate through a crisis involving their children every 90 seconds deemed ‘anti’ anything but ‘anti-family breakdown’?” Daly concluded.
Gay groups also were upset that Dan Cathy was helping raise money for traditional groups, including taking part in a Sept. 18 WinShape Ride for the Family fundraiser. The money, the Advocate said, will benefit the Marriage and Family Foundation, which it said funds the Marriage CoMission, a traditional group.