Chick-fil-A is trying to downplay its president's proud opposition to marriage equality, saying this week that he and the restaurant franchise are "guilty as charged" in an interview with the Baptist Press.
In a statement submitted to CNN by its vice president for corporate public relations and also posted on its Facebook page, the chain claims it will "leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena." But it doesn't denounce what its president said or its history of antigay donations — which it actually appears to tout in the statement.
"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," said the statement provided to CNN by spokesman Don Perry. "We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena."
It's a much different tone than the one from president and COO Dan Cathy, who in reaction to criticism seemed elated to have riled LGBT customers. Some followers on Twitter congratulated Cathy for saying his company backs biblical teachings on "traditional marriage." "Way to go @dancathy!!" one wrote.
"Thanks Ike," he wrote back to one in a tweet he has since deleted but that was caught by Equality Matters. "BP article really lit up the LGBT community!"
In the new statement, the PR leader still reiterates the importance of the company's "biblically-based principles" and even brags about sending "a percentage of our profits back to our communities." Equality Matters first exposed Chick-fil-A for actually donating millions to antigay groups including the Family Research Council and the Marriage and Family Foundation. In 2010 alone, it gave $2 million to antigay groups.
"Chick-fil-A is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates," the company's statement continued. "From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family."
But it turns out Cathy's anti-marriage equality rhetoric didn't stop with the Baptist Press. In an interview with the Ken Coleman Show, Cathy said, "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,'" Cathy said. "And I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about."
Numerous customers have used social media to declare they won't be eating at Chick-fil-A any longer, including actor Ed Helms, star of The Office and The Hangover.
"Chick-Fil-A doesn't like gay people? So lame," he wrote on Twitter. "Hate to think what they do to the gay chickens! Lost a loyal fan."
Comedian Andy Richter agreed it's right for customers to quit eating there.
"Plenty of other chicken sandwiches out there, folks," he wrote on Twitter. "Everyone has a right to an opinion, but when you give your corp's $ to support bigotry, people have a right to avoid your product."