UPDATE – Sept 21, 2012: Friday evening, Chick-fil-A (CFA) CEO Dan Cathy issued this statement to Mike Huckabee:
“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.”
The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA) is an LGBT advocacy group out of Chicago that had been working with Alderman Joe Moreno on negotiations to change Chick-Fil-A’s policies before letting them into town and were instrumental in publicizing the reported concessions.In a phone interview, Jacob Meister, President of the Board at The Civil Rights Agenda said that he believes Chick-fil-A CEO’s statement was “backpedaling” and “wishy-washy,” and that the new statement conflicts with CFA’s prior agreement not to be involved in “political and social debates.”
That prior statement was part of the reason Moreno relented in his stand against letting CFA into Chicago. Meister stood by Moreno’s claim that CFA would no longer give to groups like Focus on the Family or Exodus International, but he wouldn’t speculate on whether CFA’s recent statement would cause Moreno to renew his stand against CFA.
He said we could expect a statement from Moreno sometime Friday evening.
In response to a widely-publicized claim that Chick-fil-A (CFA) has made important concessions to Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno regarding its harmful corporate giving policies, the company issued a press release today that aims to “clarify” its principles. This is news that many of us have been waiting for! Let’s take a look:
“For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized.”
Oh, this is not a good start. Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving is a matter of record, and the numbers and organizations are factual, not characterizations. They are easily found and quite clear and include millions of dollars to groups like Focus on the Family and Exodus International. Just to recap:
- Focus on the Family is notorious for its opposition to adoption rights for same-sex couples. It has most recently misrepresented research to suggest that children from the homes of coupled lesbians were incapable of raising healthy children.
- Focus on the Family opposes hate crimes legislation that protects LGBT people, calling such legislation “evil”.
- Focus on the Family opposes protections for LGBT people from being fired simply for being gay (pdf), opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because it supposedly gave us “special rights”.
- Exodus International is in a special category because its “ministry” promotes the dreadful fiction that people can “pray away the gay” – a fiction now repudiated by its very founders. Despite this blow to their credibility, doubled down, with a trip to Uganda to promote the deadly anti-gay agenda there (They have since apologized for the Uganda trip, but the damage was done).
In light of these facts, it’s difficult to imagine how either Moreno or Chick-fil-A could claim any sort of progress when Chick-fil-A is still claiming to be the victim. Progress first requires an admission that something needs to be changed, not another defiantly specious claim that the real anguish of LGBT people over the real giving of Chick-fil-A is all illusion or slander.
But let’s not let one bad egg ruin the whole carton. What else does the press release say?
“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 “events from Chicago” referenced here are the result of ongoing negotiations by Chick-fil-A to establish stores in the Chicago market, where they were finding resistance from local residents and officials, including Moreno and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
But now Moreno has stated that he is satisfied by negotiations which led to the private concession of “look, we’re not going to give to those groups anymore,” and would no longer stand in the way of Chick-fil-A’s move into the Chicago area.
(Moreno also claimed he was moved by Chick-Fil-A’s new internal memo stating that all people should be treated with “dignity and respect.” While this is laudable if enforced, the statement in the memo doesn’t count as a concession, since it is identical to a statement issued by Chick-Fil-A in July, before negotiations began, and doesn’t address CFA’s history of harmful giving.)
Moreno’s public statement and the subsequent celebratory news from Chicago based advocacy group The Civil Rights Agenda initially brought joy to LGBT and progressive groups, but joy gave way to confusion after subsequent and repeated calls for Chick-fil-A to confirm the breakthrough were met with initial silence until this most recent press release was issued.
“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.”
Okay, good! Finally! The moment we’ve all been waiting for!
“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.”
Okay, well, that’s pretty good. I am for those things. Then again, lots of people are, but hey. It’s a press release.
“We will continue to focus our giving in those areas.”
Wait, “continue”? So nothing is changing? Same giving? Same groups? Or just the same “focus”?
“Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.”
So they’ll stop giving to the groups because their intentions have changed? Or they’ll give to the groups and just not “intend” that the groups hurt LGBT people?
People are paid to write these press releases. They know what they’re doing. They could have just said “we will no longer give to groups that actively work against LGBT equality,” but they did not.
The ambiguity here is intentional, but why?
Perhaps Chick-fil-A wants to concede quietly, behind closed doors.
But perhaps it’s Moreno who acquiesced, getting just enough political cover from Chick-fil-A to declare “Mission Accomplished” and walk away.
This is not going to work for either of them. As the events of the past couple of days have shown, it’s a mistake to signal one thing behind closed doors and another thing in public.
Alderman Moreno, Chick-fil-A officials, millions of people on both sides of this debate are paying very close attention. We don’t agree on much, but we agree on this: waffling is for french fries.
Here’s a partial list of the groups you’ve supported that are harmful to LGBT people or equality:
- Marriage & Family Legacy Fund
- Fellowship Of Christian Athletes
- National Christian Foundation
- Focus On The Family
- Eagle Forum
- Family Research Council
Now, if you’ll pardon the expression, give it to us straight. Will Chick-fil-A be donating to them or not?
Please, for your own sakes, hurry. In the absence of a direct answer, it looks for all the world like someone hopes to profit from all this confusion.
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Cartoon by Joe Parrie.
Wayne Self is a playwright and composer whose current project is a musical tribute to the 32 LGBT and allied victims of the 1973 arson fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans, LA. Considered by many to be the largest hate crime against LGBT people in U.S. history, the fire is sometimes seen as a lesson in the perils of silence. ”Upstairs” will give voice to the victims of the fire–many of whom self-identified as Christian–and is scheduled to premier next year, in time for the 40th anniversary of the tragedy. For more information about the Upstairs fire, please visit http://tinyurl.com/8g6lr8j. For booking or production information, contact ewayneself via email at owldolatrous.com.