Chick-fil-A's Crisis in Reverse: After Shifting Its Corporate-Donations Course Last Week and Deciding to Avoid Involvement In Social Issues, Chain Now Risks Alienating the Audience That Staunchly Defended Its Original Position

A new controversy has landed Chick-fil-A once again in the PR fryer. A Chicago politician’s statement the fast food chain was no longer giving to groups that oppose same-sex marriage has reportedly angered the Christian conservatives who supported Chick-fil-A this summer when its president reaffirmed his opposition to gay marriage. Civil rights groups hailed last week’s change of heart, even though the company never actually confirmed it — instead, it released two public statements, neither of which made Chick-fil-A’s position any clearer.

The events suggest the franchise may be trying to steer clear of hot-button social issues while it expands in less conservative regions of the country. In its statement, the company said its corporate giving had for many months been mischaracterized, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reports.

"Part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us," the statement said. "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 three-page statement did not say whether that included gay marriages.

The company’s response, its second in as many days, was posted on its website after Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno announced the alleged policy change. Moreno said the change followed extended negotiations, and as a result, he would no longer try to block a Chick-fil-A restaurant from opening in his district.

Social networking sites lit up following Moreno’s remarks, with many people saying Chick-fil-A had caved to pressure from gay rights organizations. University of Georgia marketing professor Sundar Bharadwaj said the company is risking alienating its customers.

"You can change your position, but you have to have a rational reason for the change and be consistent and communicate that to your customers," he said, the Avalanche-Journal reports. "Two different brands cannot be visible to the customer. Your authenticity is questioned after that, and your brand loses equity."

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