Chipotle restaurants are common fixtures in college towns across North America and the U.K., known for quality burritos and quick service. But the past few days have been awfully political for this multinational chain after it announced it would sponsor Utah's Scout-O-Rama, the annual fundraising event for the largest council in the Boy Scouts of America.
The BSA has been in the news a lot lately because of its controversial ban of LGBT scouts and leaders, but a company is allowed to give its money to whoever it likes — right?
For Chipotle, this isn't exactly the case.
The restaurant chain's own charitable giving policy states that the company "will not support organizations that discriminate against a person or a group on the basis of age, political affiliation, race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation or religious belief."
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold replied to an email inquiring about the contradiction, saying the company's "intention in doing that isn't to endorse the policies of those groups, but rather to reach individuals (in this case the scouts themselves) through groups that are important in a given community."
He added that the company sponsors community events across the country to make connections with residents.
Whether or not Chipotle's real intention was to try to get away with advertising at this huge event, it only took one day after the public outcry began for the company to reverse its decision.
Good call. It turns out that the BSA's Great Salt Lake Council is the leading voice against lifting the nationwide LGBT ban.
Arnold's second email was vastly different from his first:
"By way of follow up, we have terminated our sponsorship of this event. [...] We believed that terminating the sponsorship and remaining consistent with our policy was the right thing to do, and we have reinforced our policy with the team that makes these decisions to try to prevent similar issues in the future."
The Boy Scouts are an enormous presence in the state of Utah, with 5,500 troops and 73,400 members. Because scouting has become an integral part of Mormon culture, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsors 99% of troops in the Salt Lake City area.
Rick Barnes, an executive of the Boy Scouts' Great Salt Lake Council, seemed unaffected by Chipotle's sudden withdrawal; probably because they have already acquired $65,000 in sponsorship dollars. This, Barnes said, is about average.
"If that's what they need to, we respect that," he said. "The show will go on."
As expected, Chipotle will be watching the BSA executive board's May vote that will decide whether or not LGBT scouts and leaders will be allowed to join. This will follow results of a survey sent to adult scouts nationwide asking for responses to hypothetical situations involving LGBT scout leaders or fellow scouts.
Although the Mormon Church teaches its members that marriage is only between a man and a woman and that same-sex relationships are sinful, the church launched a website in December instructing members to accept LGBT people in the church and encourage them to stay. This could bode well for LGBT scouts and leaders, as the Mormon church has more Boy Scouts than any denomination nationwide.
Time will tell whether or not this latest of several BSA protests, combined with potential Mormon support, will convince the BSA executive board to embrace equality this spring.