- - Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chick-fil-A may not represent Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s perception of “Chicago values,” but it sure represents the values of “We the People.” Today, millions of Americans, including the half-a-million members of Concerned Women for America (CWA) will show their appreciation for those values by joining the Chick-fil-A Day of Appreciation. Aside from the fact that every single time that Americans have had the chance to vote on the definition of marriage they have elected to preserve the traditional definition of one man and one woman, Americans love and treasure their First Amendment rights.

Those rights are under assault today with the recent anti-Chick-fil-A efforts by government officials. These officials are not just exercising their First Amendment rights. What we are witnessing is the government using its force to squelch speech, suppress religion and punish anyone who dares live out their Christian beliefs.

For example, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino says he will block Chick-fil-A from opening a facility in his city. “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the City of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” he spouted.

In Chicago, Alderman Proco Joe Moreno said he will block the company from building a second store in the city. Councilman Jim Kenney in Philadelphia is telling the business to “take a hike.” Here in Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray says he will oppose the expanded presence for Chick-fil-A in the District, calling it “hate chicken.”

Even the extremely liberal American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recognizes the disturbing nature of these statements. Senior Attorney Adam Schwartz, of the Illinois chapter of the ACLU, told Fox News, “When an alderman refuses to allow a business to open because its owner has expressed a viewpoint the government disagrees with, the government is practicing viewpoint discrimination.” That is crystal clear.

But the dangerous practice that might go unnoticed here is the more subversive part of this anti-Christian bigotry. These city officials are speaking within their capacity as officials. When a mayor makes such a statement on behalf of the city, the consequences are a bit more elusive, yet very real.

Certainly everyone, including a city mayor, is entitled to their opinion, and people can vote with their pocketbooks by going somewhere else to eat their “chikin.” But what is happening here, again, is something our Founding Fathers tried to guard us against —― government using its power to suppress viewpoints and expressions with which it disagrees. That’s something that, just as in this situation, is usually accomplished in a subtle way at first.

How many other businesses got the message not to do business with Chick-fil-A if they want to do business in these cities? It’s been reported that the Jim Henson Co., producers of the Muppets, canceled an agreement with Chick-fil-A, as a result of this controversy. Why now? Chick-fil-A has not changed. They have always supported traditional marriage. Could the pressure applied by government officials have played a role in that decision? Could it play a role in similar decisions moving forward?

When government shows its force, the ramifications are innumerable.

How many business owners who may believe as Chick-fil-A’s founder does about marriage and family now feel that they must be silent if they want to retain their business in these particular cities?  Not only that, but these officials’ comments empower others within their administration to apply the same prejudices in their own area of control. The First Amendment is being trampled, and we all lose when our constitutional rights are diminished.

Chick-fil-A posted annual sales of more than $4 billion last year. It employs hundreds of Americans, providing them excellent benefits and a great environment in which to work. This year, it will award $1.6 million in scholarships to its restaurant team members. Keep in mind that this is in a time when national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent. In the District of Columbia and Chicago it is 9 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively.

Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation does incredible charitable work, operating foster homes and camps for disadvantaged youth, among many other endeavors. It’s all born out of the same deeply held religious beliefs that lead them to support traditional marriage — the same beliefs for which it is being singled out and discriminated against by these local government officials.

All Americans should stand with Chick-fil-A today, Republican and Democrat, conservative and liberal, Christians and non-Christians. Freedom breaks through all stereotypes, reaching to the heart of what it really means to be an American.

 

Penny Young Nance is president and CEO of Concerned Women for America (CWA). Mario Diaz is CWA’s legal counsel.