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Chick-fil-A facing new questions over anti-gay donations
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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Recent reports that Chick-fil-A has ceased donations to vehemently anti-gay groups have raised new questions about the company's giving, while the restaurant chain remains silent on the issue.

Shane Windmeyer, founder of LGBT college organization Campus Pride, published a Huffington Post piece Jan. 28 in which he detailed a friendship with Chick-fil-A head Dan Cathy. Windmeyer went on to report that Cathy had shown him the company's tax documents as proof that Chick-fil-A had stopped donating to a number of vociferously anti-gay organizations.

"The IRS has not released the 990 to the public yet, but the financials affirm Chick-fil-A's values a year prior to the controversy this past July," Windmeyer wrote. "The nearly $6 million in outside grant funding focuses on youth, education, marriage enrichment and local communities. The funding reflects Chick-fil-A's promised commitment not to engage in 'political or social debates,' and the most divisive anti-LGBT groups are no longer listed."

Those statements have set off mass speculation over the company's giving policies, which have long been scrutinized by LGBT groups.

Chick-fil-A refuses to confirm or refute Windmeyer's version of events.

The company issued a statement the same day as Windmeyer's piece was published.

"While we evaluate individual donations on an annual basis, our giving is focused on three key areas: youth and education, leadership and family enrichment and serving the local communities in which we operate," the company wrote. "Our intent is to not support political or social agendas. This has been the case for more than 60 years."

Asked repeatedly to confirm the veracity of Windmeyer's story, a company spokesperson said that Chick-fil-A would not comment beyond the statement. The company also declined to offer a spokesperson for a phone interview.

Since Windmeyer published his piece, several have noted that Chick-fil-A has not, in fact, ended its anti-gay giving practices.

Media Matters, a group that has long reported Chick-fil-A's anti-gay giving, called the changes minor and said they did little rectify the company's anti-gay track record.

"Chick-fil-A is not ending the bulk of its anti-gay giving," Media Matters said in a statement. "Chick-fil-A is not implementing any LGBT-inclusive policies like nondiscrimination protections, of which it has none. And Dan Cathy is not apologizing for his vitriolic comments — in fact, he's making no public comments of his own whatsoever. In other words, the company is doing nothing to improve its atrocious record on LGBT issues."

Media Matters cited hundreds of thousands that Chick-fil-A gave to anti-gay groups in 2010.

Windmeyer agreed that the company continues to donate to problematic groups.

"They haven't stopped funding anti-LGBT groups," he clarified. Rather, he said, the company has stopped funding the very worst groups, like Exodus International and the Family Research council.

According to Windmeyer, Chick-fil-A knew that he was going to publish a piece on his friendship with Cathy and Chick-fil-A giving.

"Chick-fil-A has had a hard time, rightly or wrongly, getting their message out," Windmeyer said.

Windmeyer said he didn't write the piece to declare political victory over Chick-fil-A. He wanted to send a message to college campuses that people from opposite sides of an issue can sit down and try to work together, he said.

Windmeyer's comments are the latest source of confusion over the company's policies and giving practices.

Chick-fil-A's charitable giving arm, WinShape, has donated millions to anti-gay causes the past few years, sparking protests by LGBT groups, including Windmeyer's group Campus Pride.

Last summer, Cathy stated that Chick-fil-A was "guilty as charged" of opposing gay marriage and operating on Biblical principles.

His statements sparked national outcry and caused Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno to say he would block the chain from opening in his ward.

Moreno announced a compromise with the fast-food chain, stating that Chick-fil-A had told him they would cease anti-gay donations. Former presidential hopeful Mile Huckabee, however, said that Dan Cathy told him that the company had made no changes in its giving policies. Moreno again vowed to block the chain.

Moreno's spokesperson, Matt Bailey, said that the company has not moved forward with plans to open the restaurant or contacted them since.

"As far as it stands right now, there's nothing going on with it," Bailey said. "We tried to be plain and make our position clear."

But Windmeyer reported that Campus Pride has suspended its campaign against Chick-fil-A.

"I think this is the beginning. I don't think this is the end," said Windmeyer. "I don't know if I'll ever change Dan Cathy's heart or mind…What is important is that there is a relationship there."

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