Attacks by Democratic Mayors Thomas Menino of Boston and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago on Chick-fil-A have backfired in their own hometowns. In both cities, as Newsbusters reports, the leading paper has taken its mayor to the free speech woodshed. In Boston, the very liberal Boston Globe has skewered Menino's attacks in an editiorial, and in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times was equally critical of Emanuel.
After Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy told a Christian publication on July 16 that he was personally opposed to gay marriage, Boston Mayor Menino fired the first anti-free speech salvo four days later when he told the Boston Herald :
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. 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,” Menino told the Herald yesterday.
“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.”
Egged on by a politically correct Chicago Alderman, Mayor Emanuel added to Menino's line of attack:
Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.
What the CEO has said as it relates to gay marriage and gay couples is not what I believe, but more importantly, it’s not what the people of Chicago believe. We just passed legislation as it relates to civil union and my goal and my hope … is that we now move on recognizing gay marriage. I do not believe that the CEO’s comments … reflects who we are as a city.
Both the Globe and Sun-Times have had enough of this mayoral anti-free speech hypocrisy.
In an editorial this past week, the Globe took the Mayor on directly:
[W]hich part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license.
Chick-fil-A must follow all state and city laws. If the restaurant chain denied service to gay patrons or refused to hire gay employees, Menino’s outrage would be fitting. And the company should be held to its statement that it strives to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation, or gender.” But beyond the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, the religious beliefs of the company’s top executive don’t appear to control its operations...
Ironically, Menino is citing the specific location along the Freedom Trail as a reason to block Chick-fil-A. A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents. History will render judgment on the views of Chick-fil-A executives. City Hall doesn’t have to.
The Chicago Sun-Times pulled no punches either:
Alderman Joe Moreno wants to stop a fast-food chain, Chick-fil-A, from opening a restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood because he doesn’t like the company president’s opposition to gay marriage.
Moreno — and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who’s thinking along the same lines — should back off. Government has no business withholding zoning permits and licenses just because it objects to a businessman’s religious or political views.
Moreno has accused the company’s president, Dan Cathy, of making “bigoted, homophobic comments.” In a recent media interview, Cathy warned that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation” when we fail to support the “biblical definition of marriage.” Cathy also has given money to groups working against legalized gay marriage.
Chicago is a proudly gay-friendly town, and Moreno no doubt speaks for many Chicaogans when he says he’s offended by Cathy’s views. But where in the First Amendment does it say that Cathy is free to speak his mind only as long as Moreno agrees with him?
If and when Chick-fil-A discriminates against a gay customer or employee, that violation of the law — and not Cathy’s personal views — would be grounds for the city coming down hard.
But it’s an entirely different matter for government to put on the squeeze.
In perhaps the most surprising turn of events, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, known for his recent nanny-state attempts to ban the sale of soda in his city, came to the defense of Chick-fil-A:
"I disagree with them really strongly on this one,'' Bloomberg said Friday of Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and San Francisco mayor Edwin M. Lee, who have criticized Chick-fil-A.
“You can’t have a test for what the owners’ personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “You really don’t want to ask political beliefs or religious beliefs before you issue a permit. That’s just not government’s job.”
With their usual allies at the Boston Globe and Mayor Michael Bloomberg combining to give them a lecture on free speech, both Boston Mayor Menino and Chicago Mayor Emanuel have subsequently backed off their earlier comments. But, given their track records, it's likely that both Menino and Emanuel will find new opportunities in the future to stifle other constitutional liberties.
Michael Patrick Leahy is a Breitbart News contributor, Editor of Broadside Books’ Voices of the Tea Party e-book series, and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.