On Friday, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy said media reports claiming the restaurant chain will no longer give charitable donations to groups that oppose same-sex marriage are untrue.
Cathy issued a statement on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s website, one day after Chick-fil-A released a company statement arguing that their corporate giving has been “mischaracterized” by the media.
“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,” Cathy wrote in his statement.
The controversy flared up this week when a Chicago politician said the company was no longer giving to conservative groups, like Focus on the Family, that oppose same-sex marriage in exchange for being allowing to open up a restaurant in Chicago.
In its statement Thursday, the Georgia-based company said its corporate giving was not intended to “support political or social agendas” but rather to support “programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities.” Read some of the statement below:
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 statement did not make any reference to gay marriage.
The company’s response on Thursday, its second in recent days, was posted on its website after Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno announced the alleged policy change. Moreno said the change followed extended negotiations, and as a result, he would no longer try to block a Chick-fil-A restaurant from opening in his district.
Social networking sites lit up following Moreno’s remarks, with many people saying Chick-fil-A had caved to pressure from gay rights organizations.
The Cathy family has always been public about its faith. Since Dan Cathy’s father, Truett, opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967, the restaurants have been closed on Sundays. The company refused to reconsider the policy during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, sacrificing even more profit.
Dan Cathy became a flashpoint this summer when he told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, `We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'”
Earlier this week, before the statements, Dan Cathy tweeted to celebrate a fundraiser by Chick-fil-A’s primary charitable arm, the WinShape Foundation. The beneficiary? The Marriage and Family Foundation, which was among organizations cited by gay rights groups as opposing same-sex marriage.
When The Advocate, a leading gay rights publication, called attention to Cathy’s tweet, some civil rights groups quickly reassumed the critical posture they had abandoned only a day earlier.
“Chick-fil-A can’t claim to be turning over a new leaf while simultaneously funneling thousands of dollars towards a group that does not acknowledge the dignity and respect of LGBT people,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for The Human Rights Campaign.
In recent years, civil rights advocates have also publicized at least $3 million in contributions the WinShape Foundation has made to conservative organizations such as the Family Research Council. The group’s headquarters was the site of a shooting last month when authorities said a gunman and gay rights supporter, carrying a backpack full of Chick-fil-A sandwiches, opened fired on a security guard.
Chick-fil-A posted more than $4.1 billion in sales last year, most of it below the Mason-Dixon Line. Just 14 of its restaurants are in the six states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal. Massachusetts has just two locations, both more than 10 miles from Boston.
The company reports that its sales figures have increased annually each year of operation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.