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David Harsanyi
David Harsanyi
21 Aug 2015
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The Next Front in the War on Religious Freedom

Comment

Stop bellyaching about Washington. All the country's best fascists are on your local city council.

Not long ago, Colorado became a leader in the fight against religious freedom, when its Civil Rights Commission, self-appointed ministers of justice and theology, decided that a shopkeeper who refuses to participate in a gay wedding ceremony must be smeared and fined out of business. A Colorado appeals court says this is kosher, finding that the brittle sensitivities of a cakeless couple outweigh the constitutional rights of Christian business owners.

Now, in an effort to save everyone some time, the cultural imperialists at the Denver City Council have decided to skip the pretense of some trumped-up injustice and jumped right to discriminating against a business solely because of the beliefs of its CEO.

The Denver City Council's Business Development Committee has stalled a seven-year deal with Chick-fil-A because CEO Dan Cathy spoke out against gay marriage back in 2012. Cathy, after being flogged for this misconduct, backed off, saying he regretted getting involved. But that won't do. There are no prisoners in this culture war. So the City Council will meet in a couple of weeks to take up the topic again. Not so the members can take time to chew over the significance of a city's punishing its citizens for their thoughts and beliefs or even to weigh the importance of tolerance in a vibrant city such as Denver. They're waiting to have a closed-door committee hearing with city attorneys, who will brief them on the legal implications and practicality of shutting down apostates.

The only thing that might stop Denver from pulling this concession from an apologetic Christian, then, would be a few risk-averse bureaucrats. This, even though Chick-fil-A has not been accused of any infraction or crime. No one has even suggested it's guilty of make-believe acts of discrimination. Chick-fil-A has given assurances, in fact, as all other concessionaires at Denver International Airport restaurants have, it will follow nondiscrimination policies laid out by law, which include protections for sexual orientation.

So what's the point? Well, Councilwoman Robin Kniech asked a concessionaire this question: "If the national corporation with which you are affiliated once again puts themselves at the center of a national debate about depriving people and their families of rights, would you as a concessionaire have any ability to influence that?"

"I don't believe so," he answered.

"I don't think you would, either," Kniech said.

"And that's my concern."

So that's her concern? Setting aside the oversimplification of the debate surrounding marriage, since when is it the interest of a city councilor to monitor the political activities of citizens and wonder how she deals with vendors who displease her sensibilities? Do Americans with minority opinions function under some different set of laws? The only entity with the power to deprive anyone or anyone's family of rights, in this case, is the City Council. So please tell me how Kniech isn't a petty tyrant.

Of course, Denver is not alone. A few years back, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported an alderman's efforts to block Chick-fil-A from opening in his city because of, as the media like to say, the "anti-gay views" of its CEO — which, only a couple of years beforehand, had been the anti-gay views of President Barack Obama and Emanuel, his chief of staff. The Chicago City Council didn't go through with it, after "assurances" from the company that the virtue of Chicago would be protected.

Denver Councilman Paul Lopez, who is leading the intellectual charge for the ban — a task that meshes poorly with his skill set — says that in the end, opposition to the chain at the airport is "really, truly a moral issue." Now, when the Founding Fathers told us that government can make no law respecting an establishment of religion, I took it to mean that the belief system of a union-installed sock puppet on a city council would be completely irrelevant in matters of expression and faith. Really, truly.

Now, people are free to boycott and protest whomever they please. Citizens and elected officials have every right to work to cut off taxpayer funding to businesses and institutions they find morally distasteful. But if the city council of Anytown, USA, were to concoct reasons to deny permits to gay business owners who support same-sex marriage, many Americans would find that rightfully appalling. If you're OK with the idea of a city council's denying Christians who believe in traditional marriage the same freedom, you're a massive hypocrite — and probably worse.

David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist and the author of "The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy." Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. To find out more about David Harsanyi and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

5 Comments | Post Comment
There are no constitutional rights to discriminate!This bakery couple didn't "participate" in anything.They run a business and invite the public in.The notion that religious freedom is infringed on is ridiculous.
Comment: #1
Posted by: WILLIAM KELLEY
Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:32 PM
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

"They run a business and invite the public in."

Massive hypocrite alert. Ridiculous.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Tom
Sat Aug 29, 2015 8:51 PM
The First Amendment is important, yes, but it does not prevail over the Fourteenth Amendment, especially when one puts oneself into the stream of commerce. Running a business is not the same as practicing a religion.
Comment: #3
Posted by: AttyFAM
Tue Sep 1, 2015 7:07 AM
If Colorado wants to go after Chik-Fil-A, there is a much easier way. Just have the airport require that their food vendors be open when the airport is open during normal meal hours. Chik-Fil-A will then withdraw their application because of their policy to be closed on Sundays. I respect Chik-Fil-A's right to be closed on Sundays, but the airport also has a right to manage scarce food vendor slots as they see fit. Of course, the airport may face a public outcry, as their intentions are to bully a Christian business with such false justification.
Comment: #4
Posted by: aed939
Tue Sep 1, 2015 7:53 AM
Re: WILLIAM KELLEY Yes, where there is artistic expression involved (like a commissioned painting) or participation, and there is a contract to be signed, a business cannot be forced to sign a contract. However, when a business posts a product or service for sale to all comers, although a purchase is an implicit contract, there is no freedom-of-association right to discriminate.
Comment: #5
Posted by: aed939
Tue Sep 1, 2015 7:59 AM
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