A Chicago alderman wants to kill Chick-fil-A's plans to build a restaurant in his increasingly trendy Northwest Side ward because the fast-food chain's top executive vocally opposes gay marriage.We've been talking a lot about Chicago politics here lately and what Moreno is doing here is a classic example of the arcane way things work in Chicago. An alderman, should he choose to do so, can act as a bit of a divine right monarch. Not surprisingly, they all do. And City Hall usually lets them get by with it, so long as they toe the line on the things that really matter to City Hall at the time:
Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno announced this week that he will block Chick-fil-A's effort to build its second Chicago store, which would be in the Logan Square neighborhood, following company President Dan Cathy's remarks last week that he was "guilty as charged" for supporting the biblical definition of marriage as between a man and woman.
"If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don't want you in the 1st Ward," Moreno told the Tribune on Tuesday.
Moreno stated his position in strong terms, referring to Cathy's "bigoted, homophobic comments" in a proposed opinion page piece that an aide also sent to Tribune reporters. "Because of this man's ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A's permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward."
Moreno is relying on a rarely violated Chicago tradition known as aldermanic privilege, which dictates that City Council members defer to the opinion of the ward alderman on local issues. Last year Moreno wielded that weapon to block plans for a Wal-Mart in his ward, saying he had issues with the property owner and that Wal-Mart was not "a perfect fit for the area."Mayor Rahm Emanuel backs up Moreno:
"Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values," the mayor said in a statement when asked about Moreno's decision. "They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty."How so? Well, let's look at what Dan Cathy actually said:
“We don’t claim to be a Christian business,” Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, “There is no such thing as a Christian business.”
“That got my attention,” Cathy said. Roach went on to say, “Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.”
“In that spirit … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are,” Cathy added. “But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be. [We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.”
The company invests in Christian growth and ministry through its WinShape Foundation (WinShape.com). The name comes from the idea of shaping people to be winners. It began as a college scholarship and expanded to a foster care program, an international ministry, and a conference and retreat center modeled after the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.
“That morphed into a marriage program in conjunction with national marriage ministries,” Cathy added.
Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. …
“We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”
Except in Chicago, apparently.
There is no shortage of chicken purveyors in the Chicago area, of course. Sometimes you get more than chicken, too, but we'll leave that aside. The larger issue here isn't even the institutional corruption of Chicago politics, although that plays a role. Here's the question you need to ask yourself -- look again at what Cathy says and compare it to what Moreno is alleging. Is it clear to you that Chick-fil-A is actually discriminating against gays? I would wager that any gay person could walk into a Chick-fil-A anywhere in the country and get served with a smile. Chick-fil-A isn't really about doing anything other than serving chicken sandwiches. The politics here are all from Moreno and Emanuel, not from Cathy. Not surprising, since that's what they do. But let's be honest about it. The larger issue is that Ald. Moreno is essentially denying Chick-fil-A an opportunity to operate because they haven't got their mind right on a particular issue. Elizabeth "Anchoress" Scalia sums up the matter well:
This is not about being “right” or “wrong” on an issue. This is about menacing and bullying people into conforming or paying the price. It’s about the bastardization of the word “tolerace” in our society, to the point where the word no longer means “live and let live” or “let people be who they are”; the word has become distorted in a very unhealthy way. Someone’s a bigot? Let him be a bigot; like it or not, a man is entitled to his damn bigotry. Someone’s a curmudgeon? Let him be a curmudgeon. Someone’s a misogynist (or, conversely, a male-hater?) let them be! People are entitled to be who they are — just as a church is entitled to be what it is — free of government compulsion to be what they are not. We cannot “make” people be more loving. We cannot “legislate” kindness. A bigot, or a hater (of any sort) will eventually find himself standing alone, will have to figure things out for himself. Or, not.
If people are no longer entitled to their own opinions, or to think what they think, then we are not free people, at all. Period. Full stop. That’s a fundamental as it gets.
Now I wouldn't expect Chick-fil-A to back down on their values. They have given up a lot of business over the years by closing their restaurants on Sundays. And given the screwed up value system that Chicago has, I'm guessing that Cathy would wear the claim of Rahm Emanuel that his company doesn't have "Chicago values" as a badge of honor. It's the difference between chicken and something else.