It’s easy to tell which social groups are cool and which are out of favor just by measuring the hysteria level when big-city politicians start posturing. Consider the lesson of the great Chick-fil-A pile-on of recent days: gay-marriage advocates, good; gay-marriage critics, evil – unless they’re also members of another preferred group.
It’s been known for ages that Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy is a strong believer in the traditional family and contributes millions of dollars to anti-gay rights groups, but hardly anybody has paid attention to the fact. Then suddenly within the last week, it was decided that the views of a restaurant owner are an imminent danger to the community, and a national furor erupted.
We do not care to have a restaurant such as this because it does not share Chicago values, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said while putting out the welcome mat for Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, who is both anti-gay and virulently anti-Semitic. Chick-fil-A is not welcome in Boston, said Mayor Tom Menino, who has effectively given away city land worth $1.8 million to the Islamic Society of Boston’s mosque, where imam Yusef al-Qaradawi preaches that homosexuality is a “crime that must be punished by death.”
The assault on Cathy’s First Amendment rights was so outrageous that even the staunchly liberal Boston Globe couldn’t stand it. An editorial wondered “which 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.” And the Chicago Tribune declared that “free speech is a Chicago value, too. And it’s a good thing because we’re sure there are plenty of businesses in town run by people whose views are offensive to some.”
The politicians were so embarrassed that they quickly started trying to walk their statements back. But the desired effect had already been achieved, and a lowly little chicken restaurant is now the center of controversy.
So if you go to a Chick-fil-A in the near future, don’t be surprised if you have to break through a line of protestors to get it. Unless it’s on ThursdayAug. 1, which former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has declared as “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”
That’s all well and good. Customers have rights, too, including the right to patronize a place or stay away, for any frivolous reason or none at all. Seems like it might be a full-time job just learning what all the forbidden political views are, but people have the right to be silly, too.