While many liberals cheer the harsh words that Democratic Mayors Thomas Menino (Boston) and Rahm Emanuel (Chicago) have had for the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain as a result of its conservative, pro-traditional marriage president, editorial boards at liberal newspapers in those two cities have come out with strong criticisms for the anti-conservative bullying.
“[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,” the Boston Globe complained in a July 25 editorial. ”History will render judgment on the views of Chick-fil-A executives. City Hall doesn’t have to,” the editorial board concluding, having noted that there’s no evidence that Chick-fil-A breaks any anti-discrimination laws.
Mayor Emanuel should “back off” thundered the Chicago Sun-Times. “Government has no business withholding zoning permits and licenses just because it objects to a businessman’s religious or political views,” the editorial board added in its July 25 opinion. It’s one thing for private organizations to boycott or pull out of business arrangements, but it’s another thing entirely “for government to put on the squeeze.”
Other liberal outlets like the Los Angeles Times and Time magazine’s Michael Scherer leveled attacks on the liberal mayors for, well, acting against the liberal value of free speech. Wrote Scherer (emphasis mine):
The only issues at play are the personal view of the owner of the restaurant chain and the philanthropic efforts of the private company.
Robust public disagreements over issues like the definition of marriage are a symptom of a functioning democracy, not evidence of its dysfunction. A recent poll in Massachusetts found that 30% of the state believes same-sex marriage should be illegal. In the Chicago area, 42% of residents support same-sex marriage, while the same number, 42%, oppose it. (Indeed, Emanuel’s depiction of “Chicago values” is misleading; the city is divided on the issue of marriage.) Presumably, many business owners in both states are among those who oppose same-sex marriage. Should those businessmen and women worry that their hopes for city permits or mayoral cooperation could be jeopardized if they express their opinions publicly?
Consumers have every right to patronize or boycott any restaurant they choose for any reason. But a government’s responsibility is different. It is one thing for big-city politicians to voice their own views. It is another thing for them to threaten businesses with the power of their elected office for not sharing those views.
In fairness, Menino has since backpedaled a bit and insisted that he won’t actively seek to block Chick-fil-A. However, his July 20 letter to Chick-fil-A’s president was sent on city stationary in his official capacity as mayor AND was CC’d to the real estate broker who would sign off on a lease for the Chick-fil-A franchise that was hoping to open in Boston. The message to Chick-fil-A, and the real estate brokerage, was clear: political considerations on controversial social policy issues could play into how easy or how difficult it is to navigate the regulatory hoops of the Thomas Menino administration.
Menino has not, and appears unwilling to, admit that that tactic was bullying and an abuse of power rather than an innocent, overzealous “mistake.”
I’m not holding my breath for the liberal media to push Menino to admit as much.
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters.