There is a constitutional controversies brewing in my hometown and it seems that Chicagoans have elected leaders that want to ignore the First Amendment.
Yesterday the latest Chicago controversy emerged on the news, on Twitter and every other medium in between (such as Fox News). It is blatant disregard for the first amendment that the Mayor and my Alderman are publicly engaging in to deny a job-creating, tax-paying business from opening just down the road from where I live. The business is Chick-Fil-A and the reason that is apparently the hang-up is that the parent company supports fiscally groups that espouse traditional Christian values and oppose same-sex marriage.
This is not news.
Anyone who has bothered to Google or Wikipedia the company can readily see that it is a company that is religiously conservative. This is the food chain that is closed on Sunday to observe (shockingly) the Sabbath and whose motto begins “To glorify God...”. The company, according to the news coverage surrounding this kerfuffle, have always supported groups like the ones at issue here but at the same time, do not discriminate in their business. In sum, the corporation and their executives have a position on a political issue. And this, according to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Alderman Joe Moreno they will not be allowed building permits to open an additional store as the company doesn’t represent Chicago values. Lest you think I am trying to subvert the words or actions of the main players, here is what Alderman Moreno said today in his Op-Ed piece published by the Chicago Tribune:
“Initially, I had some traffic concerns with their plan. But then I heard the bigoted, homophobic comments by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, who recently came out against same-sex marriage. There are consequences for one's actions, statements and beliefs. Because of this man's ignorance, I will deny Chick-fil-A a permit to open a restaurant in my ward...”
If this isn’t viewpoint based discrimination, I am not sure what is. Apparently, it was a big secret to the Chicago City Council and the mayor that these were the corporate values when the first Chick-Fil-A was licensed and opened in Chicago two years ago.
Can you imagine the City of Chicago engaging in zoning shenanigans with the Catholic Church because they don’t support gay marriage? Of course not. If we wanted to play this out a little further, the largest health insurance company in the state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be targeted for elimination as their employees were the largest campaign contributors to Rick Santorum. Next thing we are going to hear about is how the Chicago Cubs have been evicted from Wrigley Field as one of their owners has a conservative political action committee. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing for us long suffering Cubs fans mind you.
Let be very clear, I love Chick-Fil-A and I don’t give a hot damn what their corporate headquarters or Dear Leader gives money to nor do I care about what causes they support. I am sure that I frequent plenty of businesses that engage in political activities or have policies that I would find offensive, but these activities are protected by the First Amendment thus leaving me to judge them in whatever way I choose. Because I am a private citizen, and I have the power to engage in content and viewpoint based discrimination in choosing where to buy delicious, perfectly fried chicken sandwiches. So do you. If you don't like the way corporate profits are spent, you don't have to eat there. The state on the other hand doesn't get that freedom. It doesn't get to deny your business the right to operate because it doesn't like the way you spend your rightfully gained profits.
These corporate entities have every right to do with their profits as they see fit and people who are much smarter than I am think that this is perfectly constitutional. I think that Chicagoans who are offended, angered or irate have the ability to protest the corporate policy whether it be by peaceful demonstration or not frequenting the establishment. Freezing a business out of a market for their political or religious views is a horrible idea and ridiculously unconstitutional.
For the most part, the news coverage that I have read has rightfully addressed the egregious assault on the First Amendment and what sort of behavior this could lead to if allowed to stand. This sort of constitutional intolerance is nothing new in the City of Broad Shoulders but I can hope that someone kindly reminds the Chicago Politburo.