Home Top Stories Chick-fil-A Battle Turns Political

Chick-fil-A Battle Turns Political

By Todd Starnes

The Chicago Republican Party says it will file a complaint with the Illinois Dept. of Human Rights and Attorney General Lisa Madigan after a local alderman vowed to stop Chick-fil-A from opening a second restaurant in the Windy City.

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Alderman Joe Moreno said he will block the Atlanta-based company’s expansion plans because he disagrees with the owner’s affirmation of traditional marriage.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported Moreno, saying, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”

Chris Cleveland, vice chair of the Chicago Republican Party, told Fox News that Moreno’s actions “constitute clear religious discrimination.”

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“Alderman Moreno has violated the First amendment rights of Chick-fil-A and the individuals in the corporation by bringing the hammer of government down upon them purely because they disagree with the religious view of the owner,” Cleveland said.

Chick-fil-A faced similar threats in Mountain View, Calif. and Boston – by Mayor Thomas Menino has since backed off his vow to ban the privately owned company.

Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, ruffled feathers nationwide when he told Baptist Press that his company was “guilty as charged” when it came to supporting traditional marriage – a statement many critics said was an attack on same-sex unions.

Gay rights advocates have also expressed fury over the company’s financial support to a number of evangelical Christian ministries like the Family Research Council and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes – groups called anti-gay by detractors.

“This solidifies Chick-fil-A as being closely aligned with some of the most vicious anti-gay voices in the country,” said Carlos Maza of Equality Matters told Associated Press.

But Cleveland said this issue has nothing to do with gay marriage.

“That’s not the issue,” he told Fox News. “It’s about religious freedom. Businesses in the city of Chicago should be able to operate without fear of saying the wrong thing.”

Chick-fil-A posted more than $4.1 billion in sales last year, most of it below the Mason-Dixon Line. Just 14 of its restaurants are in the six states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal. Illinois, which does not have same-sex marriage, has around a dozen, though only one in Chicago.

The Cathy family has never hid its Southern Baptist faith. Since Dan Cathy’s father, Truett, opened the first Chick-fil-A in 1967, the restaurants have been closed on Sundays, and the company refused to reconsider during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, sacrificing profits. It also boasts that the Chick-fil-A Bowl is the only college football bowl game with an invocation.

Roger Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, said many Christians want to support businesses owned by fellow believers, and the loyalty intensifies “when Christians see a fellow Christian being persecuted.”

“They will come out of the woodwork when a theologically based position is being politicized by individuals for their own purposes,” he said.

The company has also drawn support from Billy Graham, Sarah Palin, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Fox News Channel host Mike Huckabee – who launched “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on August 1.

With reporting from Associated Press

Todd is the author of Dispatches From Bitter America – Culture War Stories From a Gun-toting, Chicken-eating, Son-of-a-Baptist. Click here to get your copy!