UPDATE: 5:15 P.M. EST -- Chili's has canceled the event after negative feedback from customers.
“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," a Chili’s Grill & Bar spokesperson said to The Huffington Post in an email. "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."
Enjoying a Triple Dipper at Chili's on Monday? Some of your money will be going toward anti-vaccination efforts.
On April 7, the restaurant chain will be donating 10 percent of customers' checks to the National Autism Association in honor of National Autism Awareness month. On its website, the NAA claims that vaccinations can expedite autism in "some, if not many, children."
Though the anti-vaccination movement has gained steam in recent years, more and more data shows that anti-vaccination efforts can result in outbreaks of preventable diseases like measles. The Center for Disease Control has repeatedly disputed the idea of a causal relationship between vaccinations and the development of autism in children.
On its website, the NAA doesn't make a definitive statement about vaccinations and autism, instead directing users to the National Vaccine Information Center, a nonprofit organization. In his book Denialism, journalist Michael Specter writes that the "NVIC is the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children."
Chili's has already felt backlash from its decision to donate proceeds to the NAA, issuing a defensive statement to its nearly 4 million Facebook fans on Friday.
"The intent of our 4/7 National Give Back Event is not to express a view on this matter, but rather to support the families affected by autism," Chili's writes in the post. "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."
The majority of comments on the post are strongly critical of Chili's' choice to partner up with the NAA.
"I am incredibly disappointed with [Chili's] and their decision to host an event/contribute funds to an organization that will directly result in sick and dead children," one comment reads. "Hosting a fundraiser for an organization that encourages parents not to vaccinate their children is not only irresponsible, but also unforgivable. If your restaurant goes through with the fundraiser on april 7 [sic], I will never eat at one of your restaurants again."
Chili's did not return a request for comment Sunday.
Those looking to contact Chili's can do so through its website.