Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel insists that he won’t back down from his suggestion that Chick-fil-A doesn’t meet his standard of “Chicago values,” although his staff has tried to backpedal a little since. In a press conference yesterday, Emanuel sounded defiant as he defended “Chicago values”:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he has no regrets about saying that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values” because the company president opposes gay marriage.
“No. I don’t” regret it, the mayor said under questioning at an unrelated jobs announcement.
“And the simple reason is, when it comes to values, there’s a policy as it relates to gay marriage. The values of our city are ones that welcome and recognize that, and I will continue to fight for that.”
“Values that welcome”? To have any meaning at all, “welcome” means open to those who disagree with you. Tolerance means engaging with those whose religion or political beliefs differ. Engaging with only those who march in lockstep with your own agenda is actually the antithesis of “tolerance” and “welcoming.”
We’ll get back to that in a moment. First, a native Chicagoan who also happens to lead the Archdiocese of Chicago wrote an open letter to Emanuel asking for clarification on the meaning — and enforcement — of “Chicago values.” Francis Cardinal George called this “a defining moment” for civil unions, and not the kind related to marriage:
Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.” …
People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life. The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage. This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages. Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free. Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.
Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to “marriage” against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice. The State’s attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile “civil union” as citizens.
In my column for The Week today, I argue that Emanuel’s intolerance — selective intolerance, actually — bears a lot more resemblance to the intolerance of noted 20th-century authoritarian systems than to traditional American ideas of freedom:
The past two weeks have brought to light a truly disturbing political demonstration — and it has nothing to do with presidential elections or generic congressional ballots. At least three mayors in some of America’s largest cities, as well as plenty of other city officials, have publicly demanded political orthodoxy as a condition of doing business in their metropolises. Political correctness has transformed into a strange American version of fascism — over a chicken filet sandwich and an opinion about marriage that even our Democratic president officially held as recently as two months ago. …
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that Chick-fil-A did not represent “Chicago values,” and suggested that Chick-fil-A invest its money elsewhere. Chicago, by the way, has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation among major cities, so it seems odd that its mayor would tell Chick-fil-A to take a hike for having the exact same position on marriage that Emanuel’s former boss — President Barack Obama — held the entire time Emanuel worked at the White House. Even more odd, at the same time Emanuel declared Chick-fil-A fast-fooda non grata, he rolled out the red carpet for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to have his acolytes patrol Chicago neighborhoods. Not only is Farrakhan a well-known anti-Semite, he also opposes same-sex marriage. In fact, Farrakhan publicly blasted Obama for flip-flopping on the issue in May.
Emanuel later backed down, but not one of the local alderman, who still demanded a pledge from Cathy to quit associating with groups that oppose gay marriage as a prerequisite for a business permit. A councilman in New York made a similar threat. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee kept his attack on freedom of thought to Twitter, noting that the closest Chick-fil-A outlet was 40 miles away — and that the company shouldn’t try to get any closer.
People can certainly choose not to eat at Chick-fil-A if they don’t like Cathy’s views on same-sex marriage. That’s a free-market response to political activism, and comes from the liberty of individuals being able to choose for themselves the free associations that best fits their needs. When government demands loyalty to a political agenda rather than compliance with the law as a prerequisite for businesses to operate in their jurisdiction, that’s not freedom or a free market: it’s fascism, plain and simple, as well as extortion, which always goes hand in hand with fascism.
Update: Aaron Walker concurs, and adds this:
[The] syllogism is simple, but it bears repeating:1. The right to vote implies the right to choose freely on every subject relevant to that vote.2. The right to choose implies the right to receive information and hear arguments about that choice.3. We cannot receive information and arguments about the choices we make in our democracy unless people are free to express themselves.4. Therefore freedom of expression is essentially to democracy.And so when an official seeks not only to regulate behavior but even opinion and expression, then that person is seeking to create a very real tyranny, to strike at democracy itself. And we should have absolutely no tolerance of that.So yes, even if you support gay marriage—hell even if you are gay—get a sandwich at Chick-Fil-A. Because this isn’t about gay marriage anymore. This is about freedom of speech.
Update II: These days, new Chick-fil-A outlets are likely to be licensed rather than corporate owned, and that means that Emanuel and others may be locking out those who agree with them anyway.