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Chick-fil-A head states: No changes were made; Chicago reports were “erroneous” on gay policy

[Note: See below for the latest updates to this post.]

Chick-fil-A has not made any changes to its “practicies and priorities” says its CEO Dan Cathy.

This latest statement casts doubt on reports out of Chicago which claim that the company has agreed to stop making donations to anti-gay political groups in order to open restaurants in that city.

Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-AMike Huckabee, a preacher and anti-gay talk show host, said Cathy released the following statement to him personally on Sept. 21, 2012: 

“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.”

Earlier this week, a curiously worded press release appeared on the website of a little-known group called The Civil Rights Agenda. The release, “Chick-fil-A Ceases Anti-gay Donations, Clarifies Stance on Gay Customers & Employees,” claimed that Proco Joe Moreno, a Chicago Alderman, had effectively negotiated “concessions” from the company regarding charitable donations it makes via its WinShape Foundation. The press release mentions “executives” and a “Director of Real Estate,” but does not specify any of their names:

“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.’ … In meetings the company executives clarified that they will no longer give to anti-gay organizations.”

Chick fil a spicy chicken sandwichChick-fil-A responded to the ensuing media firestorm by neither denying nor acknowledging Moreno’s claim:

“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. For that reason, we want to provide some context and clarity around who we are, what we believe and our priorities in relation to corporate giving.

“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.

“As we have stated, the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators.”

The Civil Rights Agenda’s press release claims that it is “Illinois’ leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights advocacy organization.” More material on its website, indicates TCRA has been in existence since June 2010, and is comprised of a staff of three. [Note: See Update #3 below for a correction from TCRA.]

A larger organization, Equality Illinoisreleased a statement on Sept. 22, stating that their organization was “dismayed that Chick-fil-A retains homophobic policies.” That group’s CEO, Bernard Cherkasov, responded to Chick-fil-A’s Sept. 20 statement by saying: 

“While it will let anyone eat in its restaurants, as the law requires, this was a failed opportunity for Chick-fil-A to lead, as have many other corporations, to greater respect for LGBT Americans…

“Chick-Fil-A’s charitable giving to programs that supposedly ‘strengthen families and enrich marriages’ do not include in their vision same-sex couples and the families they are building. And we’re dismayed that in order to ‘strengthen families and enrich marriages,’ Chick-Fil-A chooses to fund organizations that marginalize LGBT families, oppose marriages of gay and lesbian couples and disrespect LGBT people…. 

“There is no evidence and nothing in the statement that says Chick-fil-A has ended donations to anti-gay organizations, changed any internal policies or changed their culture.”

On Friday, Chicago Alderman Moreno made a personal appearance on Current TV’s The Young Turks. Moreno said he had been trying for months to get the company to adopt “an anti-discrimination policy that did not exist.” He added, “I had trouble with their funding, and that’s why I was not supportive of their store.” Moreno said he had seen WinShape’s tax Form 990, and that Chick-fil-A had not “given a dollar to those groups.” (Winshape’s 2010 Form listed Family Research Council, Exodus, and others.) Moreno claimed a corporate statement entitled “Who We Are” had been distributed to all of Chick-fil-A’s franchises and corporate employees, and that:

“It states very clearly that they will not discriminate, and they will not tolerate discrimination amongst a variety of people, including those of sexual orientation.”

Unfortunately, there is no such language in the document dated August 12, 2012. A PDF version online mentions nothing about “discrimination” policies. It only says, as Equality Illinois noted, that the company is open to treating well everyone who who walks through its doors. In addition, the company distances itself from the personal opinions of its employees:

“There are many diverse viewpoints and opinions among those associated with Chick-fil-A, including our independent Owner/Operators and their team members, Chick-fil-A corporate staff, suppliers and business partners. Chick-fil-A and the Cathy family, who own the company, value and respect all of these differences. If someone in Chick-fil-A offers a personal viewpoint, they do not presume to speak for everyone.”

Campus Pride, another gay rights organization, has also been in talks with Chick-fil-A about their policies. The group says it is suspending its campaign called “5 Simple Facts about Chick-fil-A” in order to continue those discussions. Campus Pride also disputed Alderman Moreno’s assertion that the corporation had made any change to it’s policies regarding funding of anti-gay groups. Shane Windmeyer wrote on Huffington Post that he had personally met with Dan Cathy twice about the matter.

UPDATE #1: NBC News quotes Rick Garcia, Policy Director for The Civil Rights Agenda as saying: “I am angry and disgusted…. Chick-fil-A lied to us and lied to the alderman so they could open their store in Chicago.”

UPDATE #2: Alderman Moreno responds to Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy, saying he “wants to confuse people.”

UPDATE #3: Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of TCRA, wrote on Sun. Sept. 23, to say that while three staffers are listed on their website, the organization has 10 staff members. He added that to refer to TCRA as a “small organization is invalid” because they have an “outreach list” of over 160,000.

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