If you were to stop by one of Chick-fil-A’s restaurants today, you might see a lot of people waiting in line dressed up as cows.
Why? Because it’s Cow Appreciation Day at the popular fast food restaurant.
What you won’t see is anyone standing in line for a chicken sandwich and waffle fries at airports in San Antonio, Texas and Buffalo, New York. In these cities, government officials have decided that this popular restaurant chain is not welcome.
But it’s not because they don’t want people dressed up as cows traipsing through their airport enjoying some chicken nuggets. In fact, it has nothing to do with their delicious food or impeccable service. (Because who could object to that, really?)
Rather, these cities have blocked Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant in their airports because of Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s religious beliefs – specifically, the biblical belief that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman – and because Chick-fil-A has donated to organizations that share this belief.
When the San Antonio City Council was considering the vendor contract for the airport, councilmembers claimed that Chick-fil-A has a “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior” and is a “symbol of hate” that will make people feel unwelcome. A New York state assemblyman expressed similar sentiments. And city council members in San Jose voted against a contract extension between Chick-fil-A and the Mineta San Jose International Airport citing its “anti-LGBTQ stance.” In the meantime, they voted to make the airport location the “gayest Chick-fil-A in the country” by hanging LGBT flags around the restaurant.
Yet, Chick-fil-A hires people who identify as LGBT and serves everyone who walks through its doors.
The restaurant chain is also dedicated to serving the local community – and has done so on many occasions. In the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016, Chick-fil-A employees made free food for law enforcement officers and blood donors. Another Chick-fil-A partners with a school that serves students with developmental disabilities to help improve their working skills and build their resumes. Many other local Chick-fil-As participate in community service projects. And we can’t forget the Chick-fil-A employee that recently jumped through the drive-through window to help a choking customer.
Does any of that sound hateful to you?
It seems that government officials in Texas, New York, and California are actually the ones that need to explain their hostile behavior.
The government cannot exclude Chick-fil-A from a government contract simply because it doesn’t like the religious beliefs of its owner. That’s anti-religious hostility. And it’s unconstitutional.
And it’s why Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton opened an investigation into San Antonio’s decision to ban Chick-fil-A from its airport and sued for access to public documents after the city refused to produce them. The Federal Aviation Administration has also launched an investigation into the city’s ban of the restaurant from its airport.
At What Cost?
San Antonio’s decision to punish Chick-fil-A for its beliefs comes at a cost.
There’s a monetary cost for the people of San Antonio, as the city has postponed applying for nearly $14 million in grants to update the San Antonio International Airport because of the investigation into its Chick-fil-A ban.
But there’s a hefty cost for all of us too.
If the government can banish certain businesses from the marketplace simply because of their religious beliefs about marriage, that should concern us all.
It might be Chick-fil-A’s beliefs that the government doesn’t like today, but it could be your beliefs tomorrow. And a government that has the power to exclude Chick-fil-A because of its beliefs can exclude any other organization for its beliefs.
As companies become more and more open about the values they support, this could become a big problem.
You don’t have to agree with Chick-fil-A about its beliefs – you don’t even have to dress up as a cow and stand in line for a chicken sandwich – but we should all support its freedom to express its beliefs. If Chick-fil-A doesn’t have that freedom, then none of us do.