Chick-Fil-A Finds Loophole in New Advocacy Policy

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 21 2012 9:28 AM

Never Mind, Chick-Fil-A Still Has a Way To Funnel Cash to Anti-Gay Marriage Groups

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A Chick-fil-A logo is seen on a take out bag at one of its restaurants on July 28, 2012 in Bethesda, Md

Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/GettyImages.

Remember when we told you that Chick-fil-A had promised a Chicago alderman that it would no longer donate money to groups fighting to block same-sex marriage?

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Well, while that may be technically true, it appears as though there is a giant loophole in the chicken chain's new unconfirmed policy that allows it to funnel large amounts of cash to its CEO's "biblical" cause anyway.

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The Advocate explains:

Although the company's [WinShape Foundation] might not be donating directly, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy tweeted a photo on Tuesday from the 2012 WinShape Ride for the Family. He wrote alongside the picture of a pack of motorcyclists: "WinShape Ride for the Family bikers locked and loaded for 200 mile ride to Wilmington out of Charleston."
That long ride is a fundraiser for an organization that helps lobby against marriage equality. Registration forms for the event ask that checks be sent, not to the WinShape Foundation that Chick-fil-A operates, but directly to the Marriage and Family Foundation at 5200 Buffington Road in Atlanta, Ga. [an address now shared by Chick-fil-A's headquarters].
The forms say the ride fee is $3,500 for each individual or couple. But sponsorship packages posted online show that organizations could pledge $5,000 for "silver" status, $10,000 for "gold" or $15,000 and more to reach "platinum." The Chick-fil-A logo accompanies everything, and so does the WinShape name, but it's unclear whether the foundation continues to make donations.

Tuesday, if you remember, was the same day that gay rights advocates were talking up a letter the company had sent Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno that promised that its not-for-profit arm "is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas."

It's worth noting that while the letter was confirmed by Moreno, Chick-fil-A stayed noticeably quiet on the topic, neither confirming nor denying the report and instead reissuing a blanket statement about not having any policy or position "against anyone," a defense it has been using since at least this summer when anti-gay marriage advocates and free speech supporters were lined up out the door. On Thursday, the group issued a new statement that read, in part: "Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.”

The Marriage and Family Foundation was flagged by LGBT advocacy group Equality Matters' investigations into Chick-fil-A donations to anti-gay marriage groups earlier this year. In fact, with $1 million, it was the anti-gay marriage group that received the most money from the fast food chain in 2010. It was also founded by Dan Cathy's brother Donald, who is a senior VP at Chick-fil-A. As the Advocate explains, the group's sole focus isn't on blocking same-sex marriage: It also backs a number of efforts aimed at cutting the divorce rate and helping existing heterosexual couples feel more satisfied with their marriages.

Chick-fil-A's Tuesday promise was enough to (at least temporarily) appease Moreno and other local officials, who had previously promised to block the chain's expansion.

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