POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

by David Trumbull -- August 3, 2012

I don’t agree with the A.C.L.U. on a lot of things, but in this case they happen to be right.” -- New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
To the embarrassment of Bostonians, Mayor Menino made national news when he wrote to Dan Cathy, President of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain, warning, "I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston." His comments in the Boston Herald were more menacing: "If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult." One Facebook friend, after reading Mr. Menino's threat, posted, "Did he also add, 'That's a nice restaurant you have up there at the Burlington Mall. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to it.'?" Chicago Mayor and former Chief of Staff to President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, made similar threats against Chick-fil-A in that city.

Why this vendetta against a business, which according to accounts (I've never eaten there myself) serves up some mighty tasty chicken? Well, as you may know by now, Mr. Cathy, citing his deeply held religious convictions, has stated that he does not support same sex marriage. To the best of my knowledge, there is no allegation that Chick-fil-A has engaged in discrimination against gays and lesbians. To the contrary, the company has a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation. So this is not in the slightest about discrimination on the part of Mr. Cathy or Chick-fil-A. What it is is blatant, officially sanctioned intolerance of Mr. Cathy's religious beliefs. Shame on you Mayor Menino!

Mr. Cathy's views are certainly not out of the mainstream. Mr. Cathy is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, the second largest religious body in the United States (over 16 million members). Many millions of Americans, for religious or other reasons, do not support same sex marriage. Why, up until a few weeks ago President Obama was against same sex marriage! Mr. Emanuel, who campaigned and worked for the President, expressed no outrage about Obama's opposition to same sex marriage. Mayor Menino's Catholic Church (largest religious body in America) holds the same position on the subject as Mr. Cathy's Southern Baptist Convention. Why single out Mr. Cathy? Simply this, he doesn't keep his views to himself, he has stated them openly and has donated money to like-minded organizations. In sum, Mr. Cathy has engaged in political speech to say something liberal politicians don't like to hear, so they seek to shut him up by threatening to make it impossible for him to do business in their cities.

"It’s clearly unconstitutional," said University of California at Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh in response to Menino's threat to deny permits based on a person’s opinions. And, as Mayor Bloomberg pointed out, even the American Civil Liberties Union, which supports same sex marriage, warned Chicago politicians against infringing First Amendment rights. “What the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words,” said Adam Schwartz, senior attorney for the ACLU of Illinois.

I think it's about time I find out for myself whether Chick-fil-A tastes as good as they say. To do so I'll have to cross the road -- several roads -- and go up to Burlington.