CHARLOTTE, N.C. — New filings with the IRS show Chick-fil-A has dramatically decreased its non-profit funding for anti-LGBT groups and causes, more than a year after a Charlotte-based LGBT advocate ended his organization’s boycott against the group.
Federal tax filings for 2012 for Chick-fil-A’s primary corporate foundation, the WinShape Foundation, show the group has shifted its focus to its own programs — marriage retreats, camps and other services, as well as a scholarship fund at Berry College in Georgia and Lars WinShape, a home for needy children in Brazil.
Separate filings for a newly-established foundation, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, show the group has ceased all funding to some of the more controversial and extremist groups it has funded in the past. From 2010-2011, Chick-fil-A came under fire for giving as much as $3.6 million in support to groups like the Marriage & Family Foundation, the National Christian Foundation, Family Research Council and Exodus International — groups with specifically-stated anti-LGBT political and social agendas. The Family Research Council had also been named an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Those groups are no longer supported by the new Chick-fil-A Foundation or WinShape, holding true to a statement released by Chick-fil-A last January.
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“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 said at the time. “Our intent is to not support political or social agendas. This has been the case for more than 60 years. The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect and to serve great food with genuine hospitality.”
The new foundation shows grants to groups like Habitat for Humanity, the United Negro Scholarship Fund and two groups that work with homeless and at-risk youth in Atlanta. Only one arguably anti-LGBT group remains, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which holds some anti-LGBT leadership policies and religious doctrines. But, that group received just $25,390 in 2012, down from nearly a half-million dollars in funds it received in 2010.
Charlotte-based advocate Shane Windmeyer, of the national group Campus Pride, had once sought to boycott Chick-fil-A, later backing off in September 2012 after developing a personal relationship with company COO Dan Cathy — a relationship he wrote about for Huffington Post last year.
Windmeyer was also the one who announced last year that Chick-fil-A would be shifting its focus. He now says the new financial documents prove his personal dialogue with Cathy helped to move the conversation forward.
“I still wouldn’t call Chick-fil-A a gay-friendly company, but I would say that our dialogues and conversation that Campus Pride has had has been a positive one. There is some, albeit small, progress there,” Windmeyer tells qnotes.
[Ed. Note — This writer worked briefly as a communications manager for Campus Pride in the spring of 2012.]
Windmeyer had come under fire from some activists and bloggers for his relationship with Cathy, with some commentators asking tough questions of the leader and asking for proof of Chick-fil-A’s change of heart.
Windmeyer has defended his conversations with Cathy, calling them “a lesson to learn for the future of our movement.”
“It’s not always about winning or losing,” Windmeyer said. “It’s about having tough conversations we need to have with people who disagree with us but doing so in a way that creates understanding and creates care for each other.”
He added, “It’s my purpose to role model that you can come together and talk to someone with opposite views and you don’t have to have opposing voices. You can sit down and have conversations. One can decide to boycott, but as long as that person is willing to do work heading toward common ground, then I don’t want to shut off the dialogue.”
Common ground is exactly what Windmeyer says Chick-fil-A’s Cathy wants. And, indeed, the company’s Hollywood store was a sponsor just in the past two weeks of Level Ground, a Los Angeles festival that ran Feb. 20-March 2 that “uses art to create safe space for dialogue about faith, gender, and sexuality.”
Though Windmeyer believes Cathy and Chick-fil-A are making progress, there remains much more work to do. The company, for example, does not offer non-discrimination protections for LGBT employees and it does not offer benefits for LGBT employees’ partners. Additionally, some critics will have continued concerns over Cathy’s personal religious views or the Chick-fil-A Foundation’s continued funding of groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Even so, Windmeyer intends to continue his dialogue.
“We sometimes forget that we may achieve equality when it comes to marriage in the near future,” he says, “but ultimately there will still be people who disagree with us. How can we have conversations and engage those individuals?”