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Is It Right to Discriminate Against Chick-Fil-A?

In public policy, prejudice dressed up in religious language is still prejudice

The president of Chick-fil-A restaurants, Dan Cathy, proudly opposes same-gender marriage. He says it's contrary to the bible, and that proponents of gay marriage are inviting God’s judgment.

The mayors of Boston and Chicago have each declared the restaurant chain unwelcome in their city because of Cathy’s prejudice and discrimination. Local franchise owners are understandably unhappy—some actively support gay rights—but the corporation’s owner is steadfast. He’s dealing with Eternity, after all.

While I have no sympathy for the company president or his delusions (using a 2,000-year-old book as a modern public policy manual?), I’m not comfortable with the idea of cities excluding legal companies from the marketplace. Cities and counties have been doing that with sexually oriented businesses for years, and it's been unfair almost every time.

Their typical line has typically been, “Our community doesn’t want that kind of business.” And so through zoning, punitive regulations, restrictions on hours or advertising, or just endlessly stalling license applications, city after American city has prevented perfectly legal adult businesses from opening or continuing.

The Phoenix City Council decided “we’re not the kind of city that wants swing clubs” (clearly inaccurate, because of the large number of clubs it shut down). Huntingburg, Indiana believed it shouldn’t have to tolerate the Love Boutique that had so many customers. Even past and present New York mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, who don’t agree on much, both said that neighborhoods had a “right” to exclude (legal) porn shops.

U.S. cities are no longer allowed to tolerate discrimination in housing, education, or employment. Excluding, ghettoizing, and damaging sexually oriented businesses is one of the last forms of discrimination in which municipalities can legally engage. It’s totally unfair.

So I don’t want Chick-fil-A excluded by the same vigilante mentality—“we don’t want your kind around here.” Instead, let’s get rid of them the slower, old-fashioned way—by patronizing the competition. We shouldn’t throw rocks through their windows, either, to demonstrate our moral superiority. Perhaps Dan Savage can start a campaign to name a body fluid after their secret sauce. Something like, “we know what puts the A in Chick-fil-A.”

The really lovely news here is that the mayors of two of America’s most important (and most Catholic) cities have said that mere religious belief does not somehow transform discrimination into something noble or acceptable. The mayors have emphasized that gay people are, um, people, “endowed with inalienable rights” and all that stuff.

So let’s celebrate this affirmation of secularism, and let’s celebrate that during the current plague of political conservatism and play-it-safe-ism, two big-time mayors have said, simply and clearly, “discrimination against gay people is no better than all the other discrimination that’s outlawed.”

Let’s just not go too far and say these people can’t locate in our town. You know, love (or tolerate) the sinner, hate the sin. And hate their chicken, of course.

More from Marty Klein Ph.D.
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