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Antigay Hate Group Exaggerates Influence on Chick-fil-A Donations

Tim Wildmon and Chick-fil-A

Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association boasts of receiving a letter from the company's CEO about its giving policy that actually went to hundreds.

The American Family Association, one of the most homophobic and transphobic groups in the nation, is exaggerating its role in pushing Chick-fil-A to continue to donate to faith-based organizations, including (perhaps) those that are anti-LGBTQ.

The fast-food chain, owned by a conservative Christian family, sent mixed signals in November about whether the Chick-fil-A Foundation would continue to give to organizations with anti-LGBTQ policies and histories, prompting outcry from the AFA (classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and other members of the religious right. The AFA posted on its website Tuesday that it had received a "clarification" of the giving policy and shared a letter from Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A's president and CEO, but this same letter actually went to hundreds of recipients, The Advocate has learned.

Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos said in November that the foundation had fulfilled multiyear commitments to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, both of which have anti-LGBTQ policies or histories, and said none of the charities under consideration had such policies. Then he backtracked a bit, saying, "No organization will be excluded from future consideration -- faith-based or non-faith-based," without addressing if an organization's stance on LGBTQ rights would be a concern.

AFA President Tim Wildmon, who had contacted Cathy, wrote in his Tuesday post that Cathy "responded to my personal letter and the more than 116,000 people who signed AFA's petition asking the company for clarification after Chick-fil-A stunned much of the evangelical community by changing its corporate giving." The Advocate has confirmed, however, that the letter, dated December 5, went not just to Wildmon but to many other recipients.

Cathy's letter said that when the company announced changes to the Chick-fil-A Foundation giving strategy "to better focus on hunger, homelessness and education," it "inadvertently discredited several outstanding organizations." The foundation is not "abandoning faith-based organizations" but will "give to faith-based and other organizations that we believe to be highly effective in a particular area," he wrote, adding that grant recipients will likely change from year to year. The letter did not address organizational stances on LGBTQ rights, an indication that it's a good idea for LGBTQ supporters to be wary of patronizing Chick-fil-A. The company has been under fire for several years for donations to anti-LGBTQ groups and for Cathy's public stance against marriage equality.

The letter also did not mention the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the Salvation Army by name, but Wildmon read it as a vindication of them, saying Cathy "stated that these Christian groups were 'inadvertently discredited.'" Wildmon was less than satisfied that Cathy did not mention Covenant House, a Chick-fil-A grant recipient that provides services to homeless youth. "While it is admirable to help hurting youth in desperate circumstances -- including those who are LGBTQ -- Covenant House also openly promotes homosexuality as normal, natural, and healthy," Wildmon railed. He denounced Covenant House's participation in the New York City Pride parade "and a number of other efforts that make it clear the ministry does not hold to a biblical view of human sexuality." Because of this, "AFA will continue to monitor Chick-fil-A's corporate giving, at least for the foreseeable future," Wildmon wrote.

This isn't the first time Wildmon has been caught bearing false witness, something the Bible warns against. He announced in December that he had been named to Donald Trump's Faith Advisory Council -- but a White House spokesman said just days later that there had been no such appointment, nor is there any such council.

"I have no idea what he's talking about," White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told the Washington Blade. "There is no such thing as a White House Faith Council or Advisory Board. There is a Faith & Opportunity Initiative led by an adviser, Pastor Paula White, but it does not include a council or advisory board." Both the Blade and The Advocate sought clarification from the AFA but received no response.

The president is known, however, to receive advice and support from many religious right activists and recently launched an Evangelicals for Trump coalition as part of his reelection campaign. It's unknown whether the AFA is part of the coalition.

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