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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chick-fil-A Filet

People today often wonder why there are so many lawyers amongst us.
Well, the following story represents the kind of unmitigated nonsense that keeps us lawyers happy, prosperous and busy.
Mayor of Boston, Thomas M. Menino, has vowed to thwart the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain from opening one of its fast food fried chicken franchises in his city solely because he doesn’t approve of the CEO’s personal religious beliefs.
This petty statist tyrant has already blocked Wal-Mart from a Roxbury development last year because of his personal perception of the company’s supposed impact on neighborhood businesses and lower-wage workers. Now he’s after Chick-fil-A because the company president, Dan Cathy, favors traditional marriage.
Cathy, a religious man, gave an interview last week to the "Biblical Press" affirming his personal Christian values, saying that he and his company are "guilty as charged" in supporting a "biblical definition" of the family and suggesting that gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.” While Chick-fil-A is not a "Christian business," it is run on "biblical principles," he said.
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston,” croaked the mayor. “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… That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
But Chick-fil-A is not excluding anyone. The company released a statement saying it has a history of applying “biblically-based principles” to managing its business, such as closing on Sundays, and it insisted it does not discriminate. “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,”
So Chick-fil-A the business is not discriminating against anyone. The CEO just has personal religious beliefs which mayor Menino doesn’t like. He’s going to make the business pay for the personal beliefs of its executive. He said he plans to fire off a letter to the company’s Atlanta headquarters “telling them my feelings on the matter.”
“If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” he warned. “It doesn’t send the right message to the country,” said the tyrant. “We’re a leader when it comes to social justice and opportunities for all.”
Open up their policies? This has nothing whatsoever to do with Chick-fil-A’s business policies. The mayor, who heads the government in the City of Boston, wants a private individual to change his religious beliefs or face the consequence of deprivation of his right to do business in the city.
That is a clear cut violation of a private individual’s constitutional First Amendment rights under the Free Exercise Clause. A city mayor doesn’t have the right to deny a business license to a person because he doesn’t approve of that person’s religious beliefs.
Any good lawyer would have a field day with this case.
If mayor Menino doesn’t like Cathy’s Bible thumping beliefs he doesn’t have to patronize Chick-fil-A but he may not use his government powers to punish the man and his company by violating their rights.
I’m all for gay rights, and don’t agree with Mr. Cathy’s religious beliefs either, but that’s not going to keep me from enjoying Chick-fil-A if the food is good. It would be a different story if the business discriminated against gays as a matter of policy but that is not the situation here.
Apparently lots of people don’t like Dan Cathy’s stand on gay marriage and their response to it is voting with their feet by boycotting his restaurants. Nearly 4,000 people have signed a pledge to boycott Chick-fil-A, and Jim Henson Co., creator of “The Muppets,” “Labyrinth” and “Fraggle Rock,” is backing out of a proposed deal to make products for Chick-fil-A kids’ meals.
There’s nothing illegal about that but it makes no sense to me. It’s not going to change anything and the people doing it are simply missing out on a good meal.
On the other side of the issue, Mike Huckabee and his band of loyal Christian followers are rallying around Dan Cathy and his Chick-fil-A restaurants. Huckabee called the Cathy clan “a wonderful Christian family who are committed to operating the company with Biblical principles and whose story is the true American success story” – one “that is being smeared by vicious hate speech and intolerant bigotry from the left.”
He declared Aug. 1 “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”
“Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we're considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant,” Huckabee wrote.
This will probably result in more customers for the restaurants than there would have been before this controversy started.
It looks like Chick-fil-A will avoid the filet

4 comments:

  1. I actually have to disagree with you somewhat on this one. CFA's business policies are indeed influenced by the owner's "morality", it's more than just "personal religious beliefs". This is actually fairly well documented. They force their franchisees to remain closed on Sundays, as you mentioned, regardless of the franchisees' individual religious beliefs. In fact, the company's official statement of corporate purpose states: "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." Furthermore, they stick religious-themed toys and CDs in their kids meals. They've also been associated with religious discrimination... google "Aziz Latif" for info on that.

    Honestly, I would have thought you would support people "voting with their feet" by simply exercising their right to not eat at CFA. What am I missing?

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  2. You're not missing anything.

    I don't approve of the guy's Bible thumping either, but he has a right to run his busines as he wishes as long as he doesn't discriminate in hiring or service to customers.

    When a city mayor conditions a business license on the applicants willingness to chage his religious beliefs, that is a violation of the First Amendment -- it's against the law.

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  3. Thanks for clarifying.

    For what it's worth, from what I understand CFA *does* discriminate in hiring, and there *have* been reports of discrimination in service to customers.

    That said, I of course agree with you that religion should have no place in state-run actions (per the First Amendment).

    However, by that same token, can't you make an argument that a state sanctioning of a business (via a privilege license) who espouses such religious beliefs so closely intertwined with the business is a de jure endorsement of those religious beliefs?

    ReplyDelete