Kadner: Chick-fil-A and the right to say what you think
Phil Kadner email@example.com | (708) 633-6787 August 6, 2012 9:06PM
Updated: September 8, 2012 6:14AM
When government leaders use their positions to punish people for political thought, they threaten to undermine the core values that allow for a free exchange of ideas central to this country’s democratic process.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) heavily criticized the president of the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain for speaking openly against gay marriage, with Moreno vowing to deny a zoning change that would allow the company to open a restaurant in his ward.
Last week, thousands of Chicago-area residents showed their support for free speech by attending demonstrations at Chick-fil-A restaurants.
Some, perhaps many, may also have been demonstrating their support of company president Dan Cathy’s statements that only “God sets the standard of what the family is or is not” and it’s not going to come out of Washington, D.C. or any government agency. Cathy also bragged that none of his Chick-fil-A executives are divorced.
Some religions do not allow divorce. Our government does.
That’s because, as a society, we recognize that as harmful as divorce may be to a family unit, forcing a woman to stay married to a drunken abusive husband can be even more harmful.
There is a fine line between government and religion in this country, and the rights of each are protected in the U.S. Constitution and have been refined by Supreme Court decisions.
In the case of Chick-fil-A, the company’s officers have not been accused of imposing their beliefs on employees, discriminating in their personnel policies or in the treatment of customers.
There are accusations by the gay and lesbian community that the company donates to political action committees that oppose same-sex marriage. Cathy has denied that, but there is nothing illegal about such donations.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit in May challenging Illinois’ ban on same-sex marriage, issued a news release — denouncing any Chicago politician who tries to block Chick-fil-A from opening a store in the 1st Ward.
How could the ACLU take what appears to be conflicting positions on the issue?
“Alderman Moreno’s single-handed actions are wrong and dangerous,” the ACLU of Illinois stated.
“... The alderman is using his governmental authority to exclude a business from opening its doors simply because the corporate leadership has expressed (anti-gay) views in the public. This use of government authority simply is not permissible under our Constitution.”
I learned that the ACLU had taken a position on the issue, but not the details, during a gathering with friends. Many immediately leapt to the conclusion that the organization was jumping in on the side of homosexuals and against Chick-fil-A.
That’s one of the problems in America today. We assume people have to be liberal or conservative, always for one side or the other, without giving serious thought to the details of an issue.
I prefer to believe, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary, that a significant number of Americans understand why it’s important to sometimes support people whose views might be contrary to their own.
Outside the Orland Park Chick-fil-A last week, a woman walking away with food was asked why she had come out to support the restaurant.
“To show those idiots in Chicago they can’t tell people what to think,” she said.
When asked what politicians she was referring to, she mentioned Emanuel and Moreno by title and name. She obviously was well informed and didn’t say she was there to condemn or support same-sex marriage.
Her statement clearly indicated to me that she was backing people’s right to think as they pleased and say what they thought.
If politicians in Illinois today can block a Chick-fil-A from opening because of an executive’s statements, then someone in Arizona can do the same tomorrow to a restaurant owner who opposes the government’s position on deporting illegal aliens or the war in Afghanistan.
Every consumer, of course, has the right to decide for himself where he spends his money. And an economic boycott is a legitimate political tool.
But government leaders have an obligation to treat everyone the same, no matter their political beliefs.
Religious groups, ethnic minorities and homosexuals should all understand the importance of that because they have all suffered historically from bigotry and bias.
Many countries practice religious and political intolerance.
I have never heard anyone say they want to live in such a place.