- - Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Religious freedom continues to be under attack by those who preach tolerance but don’t practice it themselves. First it was the federal government redefining the role of religious organizations and forcing them to provide health care services to their employees that go against their religious beliefs or be fined. Now it is local government explicitly discriminating against Dan Cathy, the owner of Chick-fil-A, for his religious beliefs about marriage. Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a marginalization of people of faith.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proclamation that Chick-fil-A is “not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members” reflects an unprecedented level of arrogance displayed by an elected official about a person of faith. Mr. Emanuel seems to be forgetting the hundreds of churches in Chicago that support the “biblical definition of the family unit,” as Mr. Cathy said. Does he realize how many people of faith he has offended?

Even more appalling are cities and politicians using zoning to limit free speech and prevent businesses from opening. It happens more than one might imagine.

The First Amendment protects any company from being denied a zoning permit because of its owner’s religious beliefs. However, a common maneuver politicians use to get around the Constitution is using the 1991 Supreme Court case Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc. to ban businesses. This case allowed municipalities to use zoning laws to regulate strip clubs and adult bookstores through the concept of “adverse secondary effects.” This phrase means a city can ban an adult bookstore, for example, claiming that the store may cause negative effects like increased traffic or lowered property values. But under the Constitution, a politician cannot ban an adult bookstore from operating because of the books it sells.

Unintended consequences have arisen from this Supreme Court ruling. City governments for years have been creating zoning laws justified by a stretched definitions of “adverse secondary effects.” Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno is a perfect example, using it to block Chick-fil-A from coming to his ward. He cited increased traffic concerns but clearly, Mr. Moreno disagrees with Mr. Cathy’s views on marriage. Rather than respect the business owner’s First Amendment rights, Mr. Moreno has chosen to misuse his political power. He exemplifies the corrupt abuse of power Chicagoans have come to expect from their politicians.

Homosexual “marriage” advocates are displaying a double standard about what tolerance means and for whom. Rather than say all views are protected by the Constitution, politicians are doing the unthinkable — limiting free speech and expression of religion for those with whom they disagree. Not only is this an egregious misuse of power but it flies in the face of American character. It also reflects the hatred for religious people and their values by the pro-homosexual community, who want equality, but not for those with whom they disagree.

Americans are no fools. Thousands lined up to oppose this sort of dirty politics by ordering food at their local Chick-fil-A using “free speech” or “freedom of religion” as their order name. People of faith throughout the nation have come out in droves to support the restaurant chain, recognizing that much more is at stake than free enterprise.

Bethany Blankley is a religion and politics commentator who also writes for Huffington Post and beliefnet.com.