Chick-fil-A Continues to Dissemble

Maybe Chick-fil-A really does want to turn over a new leaf and rebrand itself as a corporation that doesn’t hate gay people, but if so the company is sure making a feckless hash of it. The purveyors of gay-hate chicken returned to the news earlier this week when a Chicago alderman who had been trying to keep the chain from expanding in his neighborhood announced that Chick-fil-A would now assert publicly its respect for all sexual orientations and would no longer funnel money through its affiliated foundation to groups opposing same-sex marriage. But according to an AP report late Thursday, although the company says its “corporate giving has been mischaracterized,” it still hasn’t made it clear whether its giving approach has actually changed.

So we go to the Chick-fil-A corporate media relations site for the company’s latest press release:

We want to provide some context and clarity around who we are, what we believe and our priorities in relation to corporate giving. A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.

The release links to an accompanying four-page document, Chick-fil-A: Who We Are, that purports to explain the company’s overall policy toward support for social causes and community initiatives. It asserts a commitment to treat “every person with honor, dignity, and respect” regardless of sexual orientation, but on the issues of LGBT rights and marriage equality there is only a restatement of the line in the news release about supporting programs that “help strengthen and enrich marriages.”

There is nothing inherently sinister about a company that wants to “strengthen and enrich marriages” while peddling chicken sandwiches. Chick-fil-A’s problem is that through its donations over the years it has been incorporating vitriolic anti-gay bigotry as a featured condiment. The company’s supporters want us to believe that their pro-marriage agenda is not an anti-gay one. But what are we to think when thousands of dollars end up in the hands of, say, the Eagle Forum, which regards the expansion of LGBT rights as not merely a bit of a bummer, but as a seismic change in “cultural landscape” that could “threaten the very existence of our civilization.”

Telling the public that your corporate goal in this arena is only to support the wonderful institution of marriage while giving money to groups that support the wonderful institution of marriage but also hate gay people with every fiber of their being doesn’t cut it. So forgive us, Chick-fil-A, if we aren’t taking your half-hearted attempt at a corporate PR makeover at your word. You say you want to “remain out of this political and social debate.” Fine, now prove it. Here’s the news release you need to issue:

We regret that in our efforts to strengthen and enrich marriages we have gotten mixed up with groups that traffic in bigotry. We will no longer funnel a dime of corporate money to pro-marriage groups, like Exodus, Eagle Forum, the Family Research Council, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, who regard being gay is a threat to civilization and who support using public policy to deny equal rights to the LGBT community. We now understand that when you support a group financially, even if your intention is limited to some particular aspect of their agenda, you wear their entire agenda as your own. We say as a corporation that we will treat every person with honor, dignity, and respect regardless of sexual orientation. We are now prepared to live that commitment, not just say it.

That will get you out of the political and social debate, and back in the business of selling chicken — to everyone.

A version of this post appears on the Nashville Scene‘s Pith in the Wind blog.

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