By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com January 28 2013 7:18 PM ET
Reports are spreading that Chick-fil-A has ended its donations to antigay groups. But that's not the whole story.
Shane Windmeyer, executive director for Campus Pride, wrote a column for the Huffington Post today that appeared to some to indicate Chick-fil-A had ended the entirety of its charitable donations to the groups flagged by Equality Matters in its reports on antigay giving. Equality Matters included a list of groups it considered antigay when tallying $2 million in 2010 alone by Chick-fil-A's Winshape Foundation.
But Windmeyer clarified in an interview with The Advocate that when he saw IRS tax forms last week, provided to him by Chick-fil-A officials, that several of the groups identified by Equality Matters are still indeed receiving donations.
Those groups include the Marriage and Family Foundation, National Christian Foundation and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
What Chick-fil-A was attempting to highlight by showing Windmeyer the tax documents from 2011 is that it had stopped giving to what it considers more activist groups such as Exodus International, which had practiced so-called "conversion therapy," and the Family Research Council, which is labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a "hate group."
All Chick-fil-A has promised is that it doesn't contribute to the likes of Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum or James Dobson's Focus on the Family. Windmeyer describes these as "the more divisive groups that have a political or social agenda."
But what remains are donations to groups Windmeyer says he and others consider "anti-LGBT" but that perhaps don't rise to the same levels.
For its part, Chick-fil-A issued a statement today once again trying to clarify whether it is giving money to antigay causes.
"Our intent is to not support political or social agendas," the company said in a statement. "This has been the case for more than 60 years. The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect and to serve great food with genuine hospitality."
This is the kind of statement that has made Chick-fil-A's giving policy a little murky in the past. When a Chicago alderman named Proco "Joe" Moreno bragged in 2012 that the fast-food chain had told him it ended antigay giving as part of a deal that would let it expand to his neighborhood, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy himself had a conversation with Mike Huckabee — the inventor of "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" — and appeared to deny it.
Cathy said then: "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."
But Cathy may have been making a careful distinction with that statement. It may have been true that Chick-fil-A made no change in its giving policy in response to the alderman's demands, only because the company had already stopped giving to the groups the local lawmaker saw as most offensive. At least, that's what the tax records shown to Windmeyer indicate.
The only real outstanding question is just how antigay are the groups that Chick-fil-A continues to give to?
Equality Matters included the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on its list because the group had once bragged it could "free" people from homosexuality, even featuring on its website in 2011 the story of a coach who was "delivered from homosexuality."
The National Christian Foundation regularly offers grants to groups that might very well continue to include the likes of Focus on the Family.
Equality Matters points out that the Marriage and Family Foundation, for example, hosts a regular conference on marriage that has in the past prevented same-sex couples from attending. And even stranger, that foundation is run from the same address as Chick-fil-A's headquarters in Atlanta. It was founded in 2007 by a member of the Cathy family.
"I have not told anyone to go buy a Chick-fil-A sandwich," said Windmeyer, whose organization faces regular questions from university student organizations trying to decide whether to allow the fast-food chain on campus. "I'm telling students, make your own decisions."
Windmeyer said his organization, CampusPride, has not received any money from Chick-fil-A or its charitable giving arms. And it does not expect to. He said the point of his Huffington Post column, headlined "Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A," was to role model for the movement that boycotts can be effective in getting two opposing sides to sit down and have constructive conversation.