UPDATE: Chili's has posted a statement on their blog, indicating that the planned fundraiser has been canceled. It reads in part:
"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."
[See original story below]
The restaurant chain Chili's is holding a fundraiser Monday that is causing a lot of backlash.
The fundraiser is for Autism Awareness Month and 10 percent of all profits will go toward charity.
The problem is which charity. Chili's is donating the money to the National Autism Association, which is known by many not for its contributions to autism research but for its habit of cautioning parents against vaccinating children.
Its "Causes of Autism" page says, "The National Autism Association believes vaccinations can trigger or exacerbate autism in some, if not many, children, especially those who are genetically predisposed to immune, autoimmune or inflammatory conditions." (Via National Autism Association)
The anti-vaccination debate is a controversial one. Those who are opposed to vaccination claim a link between vaccines and children getting autism.
"Without a doubt in my mind I believe vaccinations triggered Evan's Autism. ... People are also dying from vaccinations. Evan my son died in front of me for two minutes."
"MMR vaccine can cause autism." (Via YouTube / AutismMediaChannel)
But the majority of the medical community says there is no link — and that includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a 2005 study in Japan found autism rates actually went up after the MMR vaccine was banned there. (Via Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry)
And it's worth noting the study that initially claimed a connection between MMR vaccines and autism has since been retracted after an investigation found the author had faked his results. (Via CNN)
Though the National Autism Association stops short of a "yes" or "no" on vaccinations on its website, instead painting its position as somewhere in the middle, that hasn't stopped many from criticizing the Chili's partnership.
A writer for Forbes says, "Illustrating precisely why awareness of something is not the same as understanding it well, Chili’s has made a particularly poor choice of entity to support if helping children with autism reach their potential is their goal." (Via Forbes)
In response to the backlash, Chili's emphasized it does not have an opinion on vaccination. "Our choice to partner with the National Autism Association was based on the percentage of donations that would go directly to providing financial assistance to families and supporting programs that aid the development and safety of children with autism." (Via Facebook / Chili's)
Vaccine proponents have blamed lower vaccination rates for outbreaks of measles and whooping cough in areas including Washington State, California and Colorado.