Pride group: Chick-fil-A doesn't fund most divisive groups

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 9:48am

(CNN) -- Chick-fil-A restaurants' philanthropic WinShape Foundation no longer funds the most controversial and politically charged anti-same-sex-marriage groups and has not since 2011, according to Campus Pride, a leading national LGBT campus organization.

Campus Pride issued a statement Monday claiming that Chick-fil-A gave the organization's executive director, Shane Windmeyer, access to WinShape's 2011 "990" tax documents.

He said they show that the nearly $6 million in outside grant funding "focuses on youth, education, marriage enrichment and local communities" and that in the list of the foundation's beneficiaries, "the most divisive, anti-LGBT groups are no longer listed." Among those groups were the Family Research Council, Eagle Forum and Exodus International.

Windmeyer acknowledged that WinShape continues to fund groups that don't condone same-sex marriage based on biblical beliefs but says these groups, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, don't operate with the same hard-nosed political agenda the other groups are known for.

Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy sparked controversy last July when he weighed in on same-sex marriage, telling The Baptist Press, "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit."

Gay rights groups were most incensed about the chain's financial support for what they called anti-gay groups.

The ensuing debate included politicians from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Some proponents of same-sex marriage called for a boycott of the chain, which had annual sales of more than $4.1 billion last year. It has more than 1,615 locations in 39 states and Washington, and they are closed on Sundays.

Many who agreed with Cathy took the opportunity to share their beliefs on August 1, dubbed "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Their purchase of chicken sandwiches and nuggets to show their support for the restaurant chain and its president brought the restaurant chain record sales.

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation then promoted a National Same-Sex Kiss Day at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country on August 3.

"Students on college campuses have been concerned with the giving practices of Chick-fil-A for years," Windmeyer said. "Those comments just added fuel to the fire."

Students protested on both sides of the issue, and some schools weighed the possibility of removing Chick fil-A from cafeterias and dining halls. However, Windmeyer says many people -- perhaps even himself -- did not take the opportunity to embrace the opportunity for civil discussion on the issue.

"There was a lot of divisiveness and hate on both sides," said Windmeyer. "It was like the Chick-fil-A brand was a chicken sandwich with purpose."

Windmeyer says Cathy called him August 10. He expected an argument, yelling, anger, maybe even a lawyer to jump on the line, but instead there was an hour-long private conversation.

After months of conversations, e-mails and text messages, Windmeyer says, he has developed a personal relationship with Cathy, met his family and even attended the Chick-fil-A Bowl, a college football game on New Year's Eve.

"It is about opposing viewpoints, not opposing people," Windmeyer said. "Dan cares about young people and was upset to hear how his company was being used to hurt LGBT students."

Campus Pride says that after Windmeyer and Cathy began to discuss their beliefs and points of view, it suspended a national college campaign against the restaurant in an "effort to find common ground" around the values of respect and dignity Chick fil-A published on its website.

"The Chick-fil-A controversy continues to impact the lives of LGBT students and provides an opportunity for every college campus to assess their LGBT institutional commitment," Windmeyer said. "Administrators have a responsibility to ensure a safe learning environment and should recognize the toll of the controversy by committing resources and services to ensure LGBT students feel safe and welcome on campus."

Neither Chick-fil-A nor the WinShape Foundation returned calls seeking comment.

According to its website, Chick-fil-A -- a privately held chicken restaurant chain -- has more than 1,615 locations in 39 states and Washington, D.C., with annual sales of over $4.1 billion in 2011.

WinShape Foundation filed the tax forms on November 15, according to Campus Pride, and they are public information that will be released by the IRS when it deems fit.

Tax-exempt organizations and nonprofits such as the WinShape Foundation must file 990 documents each year and release a list of organizations that received support.

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