-By Warner Todd Huston
It’s a “First Amendment buzzsaw,” that the mayors of Chicago and Boston have walked into over misuse of their powers in denying Chick-Fil-A the right to open and operate their fast food stores in the two cities. This is from TIME, yet. And if even TIME realizes that the Democrats are misusing their powers, well, let’s just say it’s a major violation of Chick-Fil-A’s free speech plain and simple.
For TIME, Michael Scherer goes over the whole series of events that led up to the two mayors — Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Thomas Menino of Boston — imagining they have the power to deny Chick-Fil-A a right to operate merely because committed Christians run the company. Scherer’s analysis is that this mistaken belief in their powers puts the mayors in “tricky legal waters.”
Generally speaking, governments have a responsibility to not discriminate against businesses on the basis of personal beliefs, just as restaurant chains cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of personal beliefs (or sexual orientation). “It’s very problematic,” explains Alan Weinstein, a law professor at Cleveland State University who studies municipal zoning. “The political, ideological and theological views of a person seeking the land-use permit are entirely irrelevant.” Mayors are free to speak their minds, and city councils can pass resolutions expressing their views, but a judge would almost certainly toss out any punitive action taken against the restaurant chain on such grounds, Weinstein says.
Scherer goes on to point out, and correctly so, that if the shoe was on the other foot and some mayor was denying a business the right to open in his town because the businessman was a committed Muslim, or if, say, a mayor denied a newspaper the right to operate because that newspaper was going to write editorials that went against the mayor’s interests, well, that would be “clearly repugnant to the liberal constituencies” of said mayors.
Scherer goes on scolding the mayors saying the discussion over gay marriage is a healthy expression of Democracy.
Robust public disagreements over issues like the definition of marriage are a symptom of a functioning democracy, not evidence of its dysfunction. A recent poll in Massachusetts found that 30% of the state believes same-sex marriage should be illegal. In the Chicago area, 42% of residents support same-sex marriage, while the same number, 42%, oppose it. (Indeed, Emanuel’s depiction of “Chicago values” is misleading; the city is divided on the issue of marriage.) Presumably, many business owners in both states are among those who oppose same-sex marriage. Should those businessmen and women worry that their hopes for city permits or mayoral cooperation could be jeopardized if they express their opinions publicly?
Of course, Scherer didn’t go far enough to scold Emanuel, at least.
Even as Mayor Emanuel was raking the owners of Chick-Fil-A over the coals for being Christians, saying that Chick-Fil-A’s values were not “Chicago values,” the mayor was welcoming the assistance of virulent Jew-hater, Reverend Louis Farrakhan who offered to help with the city’s gang violence and its soaring murder rate.
Farrakhan is not only a clear anti-Semite, but he has himself been a staunch opponent of homosexuality and gay marriage.
So as his city is suffering higher unemployment than the rest of his state and some of the highest in the nation and as businesses are fleeing the city for nearby communities and other states, Chicago Mayor Emanuel is attacking a jobs maker over a lack of support for gay marriage. And this even as he extends a hand of friendship to Louis Farrakhan, a man who is even more virulent against homosexuals than the businessmen Rahm is attacking.
This isn’t even to mention the fact that Rahm worked as chief of staff to a president that spoke out against gay marriage the whole time Emanuel worked for him nor that even Rahm’s home state has not passed any bills legalizing gay marriage.
In the meantime a former Chicago Alderman estimated that corruption has cost Chicago $500 million and notes that the Chicagoland area has seen 1,531 officials go to jail for corruption since 1976. Statewide that number climbs to 1,828 which includes four of the last seven Governors.
So much for those “Chicago values.” Yet instead of working to correct all those existing ills, Mayor Emanuel decides to wage a war against Christian businessmen.
In any case, it’s good to see TIME standing on Constitutional principle for a change.