imageChick-fil-A continued over the weekend to defend itself against charges that the Atlanta-based restaurant chain is anti-gay, with its president contradicting his own family foundation about whether it accepts gay couples.

Dan Cathy (photo), president and COO of Chick-fil-A, issued a statement Saturday to “clarify recent news coverage” about the chicken chain’s ties to anti-gay groups and its WinShape Foundation. The statement came in response to a New York Times piece on the brewing controversy. Cathy, the son of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, also spoke with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution for a report that raised more questions than it answered.

“In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay,” Cathy says in a statement issued Saturday. “We have no agenda against anyone. At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions. We seek to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, and believe in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.”

Cathy also defended WinShape, the company’s North Georgia foundation that holds marriage retreats among other activities, and his father’s longtime marriage.

“Chick-fil-A has a long history of trying to encourage and strengthen marriages and families, both within our Chick-fil-A system and with our customers. My father and our Founder/CEO, Truett Cathy, is a role model for the Cathy family and all those who have joined Chick-fil-A. His personal and business values have always reflected a belief in the importance of marriage and family. We have seen these principles honored powerfully in Dad’s marriage of more than 63 years to our mother Jeannette and those of his family, including my wife Rhonda and me in our 37 years of marriage,” Cathy says.

It was Cathy’s second attempt to diffuse the controversy that ignited in early January over Chick-fil-A’s donation of food to the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

Last week, an email exchange between an LGBT activist and WinShape surfaced that showed the foundation does not accept same-sex couples into its retreats. Cathy, in an interview with the AJC published Monday, says the company is “not anti-anybody” and that the foundation does not bar gay couples from its marriage retreats or training.

But the email exchange contradicts what Cathy told the AJC.

The question: “Are your programs open to homosexual couples or do you only support traditional marriage?”

The answer: “WinShape Retreat defines marriage from the Biblical standard as being between one man and one woman. Groups/Individuals are welcome who offer wholesome, educational conferences and programs that are compatible with Biblical values and WinShape’s purpose.”

“We do not accept homosexual couples because of the statement in our contract.”

The AJC article, written by business reporter Jeremiah McWilliams, was the paper’s first foray into the controversy, despite Chick-fil-A being based in metro Atlanta. In addition to letting Cathy’s statements about WinShape go unchallenged, the article also lacks any response from Atlanta-based LGBT activists. Instead, it quotes the administrator of a gay blog with no ties to the region.

At least the AJC finally weighed in. They’ve been missing in action on other LGBT issues since a retrenchment to the suburbs.

Like the AJC, the New York Times treatment of the controversy also lacked any interviews with LGBT activists despite including comments from Michael Geer, the president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

imageCathy’s full statement, issued Saturday:

Recently, there have been some misleading stories about Chick-fil-A in the media and on the Internet.  As a result, I feel strongly about the need to clarify some things. 

In recent weeks, we have been accused of being anti-gay. We have no agenda against anyone.  At the heart and soul of our company, we are a family business that serves and values all people regardless of their beliefs or opinions.  We seek to treat everyone with honor, dignity and respect, and believe in the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself.

We also believe in the need for civility in dialogue with others who may have different beliefs.  While my family and I believe in the Biblical definition of marriage, we love and respect anyone who disagrees. 

Chick-fil-A has a long history of trying to encourage and strengthen marriages and families, both within our Chick-fil-A system and with our customers. My father and our Founder/CEO, Truett Cathy, is a role model for the Cathy family and all those who have joined Chick-fil-A. His personal and business values have always reflected a belief in the importance of marriage and family.  We have seen these principles honored powerfully in Dad’s marriage of more than 63 years to our mother Jeannette and those of his family, including my wife Rhonda and me in our 37 years of marriage.

At Chick-fil-A, we have a heart for helping marriages because we know marriage can be difficult at times.  Through the years, we have supported our Chick-fil-A staff and franchised Operators in their marriage journey, and since the formation of our family foundation, the WinShape Foundation, we have helped others as well. Primarily through WinShape, we have supported summer camps for girls and boys, 14 foster homes, more than $26 million in college scholarships and the development and operation of the WinShape Marriage Retreat Center.

Some recent coverage has incorrectly reported that we require potential franchisees to discuss their church involvement.  In addition, we do not require this in our franchisee selection process nor do we require a pledge to follow Christian values for the college scholarships we provide.

Chick-fil-A’s Corporate Purpose is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”  As a result, we will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family. This decision has been made, and we understand the importance of it.  At the same time, we will continue to offer resources to strengthen marriages and families. To do anything different would be inconsistent with our purpose and belief in Biblical principles.

In summary, we are a dedicated family business committed to three core areas:

A 65-year history of operating the business according to Biblical principles.
A 65-year history of providing genuine hospitality for all people.
A 65-year history of serving families and communities without a political agenda.

Our commitment to these areas has never been more important in light of recent events.  Speaking of commitment, I want to thank our restaurant Operators and their more than 60,000 team members for their commitment to customer service.

We appreciate, value and have enjoyed serving all of our customers for many years.  We also appreciate this opportunity to clarify any confusion about our beliefs, and we thank everyone for supporting our restaurants and your love for the Chick-fil-A experiences.  It has and will continue to be our pleasure to serve you.