My two cents are going towards the tastiest food.
I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to weigh in on the controversy that has so quickly galvanized the social media community and garnered headline news stories on almost every major media outlet in the country. But the amount of commentary that is informed and well-reasoned is so pitifully small, that I feel some level of compulsion to add to the noise. My crusade isn’t pro-gay or anti-gay. Instead it is pro-sandwich.
Which sandwich? I don’t care. Make it a Big Mac, Classic Triple, Spicy Chicken, or 5 dollar footlong. But spend your money on the sandwich that you want. The government shouldn’t be censoring your sandwich selections. That’s exactly what happened when Boston Mayor Tom Menino threatened to block Chick-Fil-A from obtaining a building permit in his city. The threat was in response to President Dan Cathy’s comments about supporting the “traditional family unit.” Here’s the kicker: Cathy didn’t mention gay marriage. Not once.
The mainstream press has been portraying a very different picture from what actually happened. A recent Los Angeles Times article reported that “Chick-fil-a [Stepped] Out of Public Debate on Gay Marriage.” Here’s a fun fact for you: Chick-fil-A was never in the public debate on gay marriage. On the contrary, Chick-fil-A has stated publicly that it never discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. A gay person has never been refused service because they were gay. The company doesn’t send its employees as lobbyists to Washington to support the Federal Marriage Amendment.
But what Cathy did do was espouse his personal views on family. He has never made it a secret that he does not support gay marriage. But the Boston Mayor’s threat to keep the company out of Boston based on Cathy’s personal beliefs is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment. Eugene Volokh has made this clear in a recent article, arguing that the government has no authority to punish companies for the personal beliefs of their executives or employees. If those beliefs make their way into discrimination in hiring or employment practices, the issue becomes a different one. But that isn’t what we’re talking about.
Menino has since stepped back from his stance, recognizing that he has no power to prevent Chick-fil-A from moving in. But Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno has echoed Mayor Menino’s sentiments, announcing that he would try to block Chick-fil-A from opening another store in the Chicago area. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has verbally supported Alderman Moreno’s effort, brashly declaring that Chick-fil-A’s values “are not Chicago’s values,” adding that opening a store “would be a bad investment, since it would be empty.” (This is an aside, but perhaps Mayor Emanuel missed the supply/demand lesson of Econ 101; this would be Chick-fil-A’s second store in Chicago, suggesting that business at the first was actually pretty good.)
But here’s the problem: as Elizabeth Scalia rightly points out, this philosophy of government very closely resembles the leviathan of Fascism. Government leaders in our constitutional order aren’t supposed to prevent companies from opening because of the personal views espoused by their leaders; they’re supposed to make sure that they adhere to right business practices. That’s how capitalism is supposed to be bridled and restrained. The threats of these public officials should produce an equal outcry from both political sides; unfortunately, the majority of those who are angered are conservatives. But even conservatives are having the wrong response.
Governor Huckabee has muddled the discussion significantly with his declaration of a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” making the sandwich a brazen social and political symbol. That’s not what the sandwich is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a piece of chicken with a few pickles and some cheese right in between two buns.
I won’t be participating in the Governor’s Appreciation Day. Nor will I be protesting outside the doors of my local Chick-fil-A. The company doesn’t let its views affect its business practices, so I see no reason to let it taint the way I give or withhold my business. I just want a good sandwich.
Of course, everyone can boycott all they want. They have a right to do that. I just pity them because those new fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies on the Chick-fil-A menu are pretty darn tasty. My two cents will go there when my sweet tooth starts acting up.