Been rather busy in my personal life of late, that trying to catch up with the news has left me rather all over the place…
Romney and the Olympics
I’ve heard Mitt Romney upset a few people in England by in some way indicating or questioning that they might not be ready for the Olympics.
“There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.”
I am not sure why he felt the need to say that. When you are a visitor or a guest to a country, and my word, in front of the British press, one can hardly do anything right. What possessed him to open up with a negative?
Having said that though, some of the headlines might end up proving him correct?
Chick-fil-A and Traditional Marriage
Also of late, it seems if you ask the owner of a chicken sandwich establishment, a professed Christian, even closes his business on Sunday, (gasp) would surprise the masses when asked about his view of marriage. I think it makes sense that he would support the Bible’s view, and this has turned into something ugly, and a threat to our freedom of speech and religious freedoms we have cherished so far in this country.
Last week, reports emerged that Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy had condemned gay marriage. It’s no secret that the company is run by devout Christians, but this still caused an uproar. Boston’s mayor threatened to deny the company business permits, celebrities condemned the company, and the Muppets announced fast food chain wouldn’t be able to license any new toys for their kids meals.
One small problem: The president of Chick-fil-A never actually said anything condemning gay marriage. Here’s how CNN reported the story:
(CNN)–The fact that Chick-fil-A is a company that espouses Christian values is no secret. The fact that its 1,600 fast-food chicken restaurants across the country are closed on Sundays has long been testament to that.
But the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire.
“Guilty as charged,”, Cathy said when asked about his company’s support of the traditional family unit as opposed to gay marriage.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” Cathy is quoted as saying.
Free Speech: I had to agree with an article in CNN
(CNN) — Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-fil-A, proudly proclaimed his opposition to marriage equality and drew flak from politicians and citizens nationwide, who said Cathy’s position made the chain unwelcome on their turf. Some of the condemnation crossed the line, offending the First Amendment. Some did not. Many don’t understand where the line is, and now a population already sharply divided over same-sex marriage is collectively less informed about the First Amendment.
The First Amendment protects you from government action suppressing your right to free speech. It does not protect you from private individuals’ negative reaction to your speech. As an extreme example: In my younger and more impulsive days, I punched out a guy who offended my then-girlfriend (now wife). He said he was exercising his First Amendment rights. I agreed and told him that I would defend him if the government messed with him, but the First Amendment didn’t protect him from a private punch. I broke a few laws that day, but I didn’t violate the First Amendment.
Similarly, the First Amendment does not protect you from criticism. Sarah Palin infamously took us all back a few steps by ignorantly criticizing the media for its negative commenting on her views. She said, “I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.” This statement is utterly wrong. The First Amendment does not protect you from scrutiny or criticism by the media or others.
Therefore, those claiming that the private calls to boycott Chick-fil-A have any First Amendment implications are wrong. Cathy put his thoughts into the marketplace of ideas, where they may be bought or rejected. He has no First Amendment right to our approval, or to our money for his sandwiches.
But can cities use zoning to combat unpopular speech?
When municipalities are told for years they can make up zoning or other regulatory issues to make an end run around the First Amendment, is it any surprise that they would look to zoning obstacles to stop Chick-fil-A from coming into town because they don’t like the CEO’s views on same-sex marriage?
Some cities responded to Cathy’s statements with proper deference to the First Amendment, but others have not. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino initially said, “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult. …” After considering the issue, though — and probably talking with his attorneys — Menino acknowledged he did not have the power to block the chain from operating in Boston.
In contrast, Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno went further, saying he would work to block any Chick-fil-A in his ward. Moreno defended his view by saying, “You have the right to say what you want to say, but zoning is not a right.” He then took a page out of the “adverse secondary effects” doctrine playbook by saying he had concerns about increased traffic in the area. So far, Moreno has not backed down.
These statements clearly raise First Amendment issues. A city can’t deny permits because it disapproves of the owner’s exercise of his First Amendment rights. Both Menino and Moreno were dead wrong even to claim they would do so. That crosses the line between simply speaking out and abusing government power.
Menino’s critics are right about his initial misuse of zoning law being a violation of the First Amendment, but after backing down on his threats, the mayor maintained he did not welcome Chick-fil-A in Boston.
He was within his rights to do so — expressing his own opinion, both personally and as mayor. In a letter to the chain, he wrote: “When Massachusetts became the first state in the country to recognize equal marriage rights, I personally stood on City Hall Plaza to greet same-sex couples coming here to be married,” he added. “It would be an insult to them and to our city’s long history of expanding freedom to have a Chick-fil-A across the street from that spot.”
As mayor of Boston, Menino has a First Amendment right, and perhaps even a duty, to express his views, as all political figures do. They have a position that gives them a platform to speak out, and be heard, on matters of public concern. Rick Santorum had a right to say that a mosque shouldn’t be built in Lower Manhattan.
A mayor in a less enlightened city has a right to say that Chick-fil-A is especially welcome, just as he might want to say that Starbucks is not welcome because it gives benefits to same-sex couples. A city council member has a right to say that “my district doesn’t want an adult bookstore,” and Menino has a right to say that Boston does not welcome a business run by someone who is prejudiced. As long as they do not then try and give their views the force of law, they are within bounds.
And if their constituents disagree with their views, then they use the political process to cure the problem.
Politicians’ rights, however, do not bleed over into using their official power to deny a business its fair due because of its, or its CEO’s, exercise of our cherished First Amendment rights.
The Curse of Global Warming…Man Made NOT…or Maybe so?