Tuesday May 01, 2012 | 03:25 PM

Former Gov. Angus King will be a keynote speaker in an event connected to the upcoming Chick-fil-A Leadercast, a web simulcast that will feature such celebrities as NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien.

King, who is running as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, will participate in the local phase of the May 4 event, which is essentially a fundraiser for the Auburn Police Department's Police Activities League Center for at-risk children.

The Pennsylvania-based Chick-fil-A is known for its faith-based corporate culture; its restaurants are closed on Sundays and, according to a New York Times story from last year, some have referred to its product as "Jesus chicken."

The company has also faced its share of criticism for backing groups that actively oppose efforts to legalize gay marriage.

King has traditionally supported marriage equality efforts.

Kay Rand was asked if King considered criticism of Chick-fil-A by some gay groups before he agreed to participate in the Leadercast event. Rand, in an email, wrote that King was invited by the Auburn Police Department to talk about leadership. She wrote that the "break-out session" should not be interpreted as support for Chick-fil-A's political activities. 

"Angus supports the marriage referendum on this fall's ballot in Maine," Rand wrote. "The two issues were never linked for him, the campaign, or the Auburn Police Department."

Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, repeated Rand's comment that King supported the referendum.

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Steve Mistler covers politics and government for the Portland Press Herald. He spends a lot of time in the hallways of the State House.

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