CHICAGO (CBS) — Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno recently agreed to allow Chick-Fil-A to go ahead with plans to open a location in his ward, after the chain reportedly issued a statement respecting all sexual orientations and promised to end donations to anti-gay organizations.
But former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who organized the “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” when the fast food chain was under fire for its president’s comments about gay marriage, said nothing had changed and Chick-Fil-A had made no concessions.
In a statement released on his Web site Friday, Huckabee said he had talked earlier in the day with Cathy, about reports that Chick-Fil-A had, in Huckabee’s words, “capitulated to demands of the supporters of same-sex marriage.”
Huckabee said Chick-Fil-A answered him with a statement saying the company’s policies had not changed.
“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,” the statement from Chick-Fil-A published by Huckabee said. “Chick-Fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”
Earlier this week, the Chicago Phoenix reported that Moreno had received a letter signed by the senior director of real estate at Chick-Fil-A, in which the chain pledged to “respect” all sexual orientations and end donations to anti-gay organizations. The letter said WinShape Foundations – the company’s charitable arm – will take “a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping,” the Phoenix reported.
WinShape has made headlines for donating to companies that oppose same-sex marriage and gay rights, including Exodus International – a proponent of “reparative therapy” for homosexuality, according to published reports.
Moreno called it a “win for the LGBT community” and “a win for everyone who works for the cause of equal rights.” The Civil Rights Agenda, the gay rights advocacy group that worked with Moreno in his negotiations with Chick-Fil-A, also expressed satisfaction with the agreement to “(cease) donating to organizations that promote discrimination, specifically against LGBT civil rights,” executive director Anthony Martinez told the Phoenix.
But the Chicago Tribune reported that the pledges in Chick-Fil-A’s letter to the alderman made were not necessarily new. Chick-Fil-A made almost identical pledges in a Facebook posting back on July 19, even before the controversy erupted following comments by Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy about the company’s “support for the traditional family” and opposition to same-sex marriage ,the Tribune reported.
Still, the Phoenix reports, the Civil Rights Agenda is not happy with the implications of the statement on Huckabee’s site.
Anthony Martinez, the executive director of the group, tells the Phoenix’s Tony Merevick that he wants clarification from Moreno and Cathy, and that the Huckabee statement indicates that Chick-Fil-A “either lied, or they are being very stealth about how they characterize this matter for their base.”
The announcement about Chick-Fil-A’s new pledge drew doubt from the beginning. On Thursday, the Advocate magazine reported that even though Moreno said WinShape had agreed to stop donating to anti-gay groups, the group held a fundraiser that benefited the Marriage and Family Foundation – a group that lobbies against same-sex marriage rights – soon afterward.
Later Thursday, Chick-Fil-A did release a statement saying its charitable donations by have been “mischaracterized” and that it did not intend to donate to organizations with political agendas, the Phoenix reported.
But gay rights activists pointed out that the statement also said, “A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us,” and thus, it would continue to donate to organizations “focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriage and support communities. Activists suspected that the “families” and “marriage” in the statement exclude same-sex marriage, and also pointed out that the statement made no mention of Moreno or the Civil Rights Agenda, the Phoenix reported.
The controversy all started in Chicago back in July, when n response to an article profiling the company ran in July on the Christian news site Baptist Press.
The article notes that some have opposed Chick-Fil-A’s “support for the traditional family,” and goes on to quote Cathy as saying, “Guilty as charged.”
Afterward, Moreno said he would not grant a zoning permit for Chick-Fil-A to open a second Chicago city location in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue. While Cathy’s comments have been presented as being only his personal views, Moreno said last week that he is unconvinced that Chick-Fil-A will not discriminate against the LGBT community.
Supporters of Chick-Fil-A said Moreno’s plan to deny the permit would have amounted to illegal censorship, and that the comments about same-sex marriage were Cathy’s alone and not representative of any company policy. But Moreno said at the time that he was not convinced that Chick-Fil-A would not discriminate.
The new planned Chick-Fil-A would be located in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue.