Chili’s plans, then cancels fundraiser for anti-vaccination group

More than 1,200 restaurants planned to donate 10 percent of Monday’s revenue to the National Autism Association. That foundation lists vaccinations as one of the causes of autism. The event is now canceled. (UPDATE)

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While we remain committed to supporting the children and families affected by autism, we are canceling Monday’s Give Back Event based on the feedback we heard from our guests. We believe autism awareness continues to be an important cause to our guests and team members, and we will find another way to support this worthy effort in the future with again our sole intention being to help families affected by autism.

— On its face, there doesn’t seem to be anything controversial about Chili’s hosting a fundraiser for the National Autism Association on Monday, April 7. More than 1,200 of the chain’s restaurants will donate 10 percent of customer checks to the organization. Take a look at the association’s website, however, and it becomes clear why some people view the fundraiser as a big problem. Among the causes of autism listed on the site are vaccinations. The full statement is: “Vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions.” That’s a highly contentious stand, and quite a few members of the medical community have gone to great lengths to disprove it. The CDC has concluded that there’s no link between vaccinations and autism, and recent measles outbreaks have led to harsh criticism of the anti-vaccination movement. The National Autism Association cites the National Vaccine Information Center as its key source for vaccine information. The center’s website includes a long list of TV reports and books anecdotally linking vaccines and autism. The Chili’s Facebook page was full of comments Friday morning from people on both sides of the debate. “Disappointed to see you supporting an organization which promotes a highly negative view of autism and encourages parents not to vaccinate,” wrote commenter Lizzy Soraya. “There are numerous autism charities you could support which do not disseminate lies and hatred. Please reconsider your decision.” Commenter Sheila Carney responded with, “Why are YOU disseminating lies and hatred, Lizzy?” Quite a few other commenters openly thanked Chili’s for supporting the organization. Many of those comments ignited arguments, too.

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