After three days of silence, Chick-fil-A has finally responded to a Chicago alderman's claims that the company plans to stop funding groups that oppose same-sex marriage.
In a statement released late Thursday, the company affirmed its intent to continue supporting causes that "educate youth, strengthen families, enrich marriages and support communities." But it also reiterated its previously stated intent to withhold support from any organizations with a political agenda.
The statement seems to have reassured some pro-family groups that nothing has changed. But others say the company's response doesn't really address questions about its future donation policy.
The current controversy over Chick-fil-A's donations started earlier this week when Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno announced that he had formed an agreement with Chick-fil-A and would allow the company to open a franchise in his district. Moreno, an outspoken supporter of LGBT efforts, previously said he would oppose the company because of its support for traditional marriage.
On Sept. 18, Moreno said Chick-fil-A had promised to stop supporting organizations he deemed "hate groups." Although company executives met with Moreno, it isn't clear exactly what was said in regards to future donations.
Moreno interpreted the discussions to mean that the corporation would cease funding groups that support traditional marriage in exchange for permission to open restaurants in his city. But some say Moreno overstated the company's intention.
When questioned by World Net Daily (WND), Moreno admitted that funding was not a part of the most recent discussions with Chick-fil-A: "I corroborated what they told me back in January; that donations to anti-gay groups...have ceased."
Moreno alleged that Chick-fil-A expressed this agreement via a letter signed by John E. Featherstone Jr., Chick-fil-A's senior director of real estate. WORLD asked for a copy of that letter, but Moreno's staffers said they could not send one.
The only evidence Moreno has to support his claims are tax forms. He told WND that he reviewed Chick-fil-A's 2011 filings and found no donations that raised concern. He previously lambasted the company's support for groups that promote traditional marriage, which suggests he didn't see those organizations on the latest tax filing. Chick-fil-A's 2011 tax records are not yet available to the public.
According to 2009 and 2010 IRS forms, Chick-fil-A donated money through the WinShape Foundation to groups like Exodus International, Family Research Council (FRC) and Georgia Family Council. But the 2011 tax forms Moreno refers to aren't public yet. FRC declined to comment except to confirm that they did receive $1,000 in 2010. Focus on the Family, which received money from WinShape in 2009 but not in 2010, also declined to comment.
The National Organization for Marriage, which Moreno cited in his initial announcement, clarified to WND that it has never received money from Chick-fil-A.
Even some who side with Moreno think he probably overstated his alleged agreement with the company. Shane L. Windmeyer, the executive director of pro-gay group Campus Pride, expressed disappointment in Moreno's "haphazard announcement," pointing out in a column in the Huffington Post that the lack of public validation on Chick-fil-A's part should have raised doubts.
While some conservative organizations have raised alarm about Moreno's claims, others aren't panicked. Janice Crouse, director and senior fellow at Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute told WORLD in an email that her organization received verbal affirmation from brothers Dan and Donald "Bubba" Cathy that "the reports from Chicago are untrue."
"What more does Chick-fil-A have to do?," she said. "They have expressed their pro-family views very strongly -- several times during this PR flap stirred up by the homosexual activists. The politicians in Chicago wanted to bring the restaurants to their city but they didn't want to appear to be caving in so they created a ruse to make it seem that Chick-fil-A was bowing to pressure. Nothing could be further from the truth."
But some Chick-fil-A supporters are disappointed by the company's slow response.
In an email blast, pro-family organization Mass Resistance (MR) condemned Chick-fil-A's stance as an insult: "It's a slap in the face of everyone who took Dan Cathy's words seriously, and stood up and supported Chick-fil-A's right to freedom of speech and religion. At this point, it was all for nothing. We were all played for fools. In an act of cowardice, they've capitulated and agreed to limit their speech and expression of religious belief."
In July, Cathy told a reporter for Baptist Press News that he supported the biblical definition of the family while respecting anyone who disagrees. His comments ignited a firestorm of protest from supporters of gay marriage, who accused the company of inciting hate toward the gay community. But in a counter protest on Aug. 1 organized by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Chick-fil-A backers filled restaurants around the country to show their support for the company.