WASHINGTON, August 29, 2015 — Should politicians be able to punish corporations for their owners’ beliefs? Should they deny travelers through Denver International Airport Chick-fil-A sandwiches and milkshakes for non-business reasons? Should they do this even if those polled at DIA say they want to have a Chick-fil-A in their airport?
According to State ex rel. v. Grimm, 239:
“the last section [United States Constitution] also provides that no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of immunities of the citizens of the United States, which, of course, includes all of the Court of the United States has repeatedly held, that the latter clause includes corporations, whenever engaged in interstate commerce, or whenever legally authorized to do business in any such state or states.”
Neither the state of Colorado nor the Denver city council can legally prohibit the Chick-fil-A franchise, which legally won the bid for the space in the Denver International Airport, from conducting business.
News Channel 7 Denver reports that the city council, acting for a small minority of Coloradans and an even smaller minority of air travelers, will decide whether you can enjoy Chick-Fil-A in Denver, despite the company’s legal rights. To defend its position, the council is using political correct-speak: “Really, truly it’s a moral issue on the City”; “We are worried about corporate profits to fund discrimination.”
The council has little to back up its claim. There is little evidence that Chick-Fil-A funds discrimination or that it routinely discriminates against employees or customers.
There are some lawsuits against the franchise chain, and some by franchise owners against the corporate entity, but these occur for a variety of reasons and are not strong evidence of discrimination against LGBT employees or customers.
Despite the facts, politically-correct, concerned council members in Denver have invoked laws against discrimination to bar Chick-Fil-A from lawful operations. The council seems unaware that one of the long-standing categories of protection from discrimination is religion.
You cannot discriminate against a franchise owned by an individual franchise owner because of the owner’s religious beliefs; you can punish that owner only when those beliefs translate into a pattern of illegal discrimination.
Chick-fil-A employees at the Denver Airport (or anywhere else) don’t ask customers, “would you like fries, and by the way, are you gay?” Nonetheless, Council members have said the following:
“I think the airport also has a question about our reputation,” said Robin Kniech, a Denver City Council Member, during Tuesday’s meeting. “It has been the corporate philosophy [of Chick-fil-A] to use the dollars they earn to fund discriminatory lawsuits and to fund discriminatory political rhetoric. So that’s of concern to the extent that they will be forming profits from operating in our airport.”
Kniech and Council Member Jolon Clark on Wednesday said their focus now is on Chick-fil-A’s current practices and policies.
“Constituents of mine, people who are very near and dear to me, have been fighting for their relationships to be recognized and for their rights to be equal,” said Clark, who also questioned allowing the lease at DIA during Tuesday’s meeting.
One council member said doing business with Chick-fil-A would be similar to doing business with Donald Trump.
“I would throw up in my mouth a little bit if we did business with Trump,” said Councilman Paul Lopez. Lopez called Chick-fil-A’s attempt to return to the Denver Airport after being absent for the past decade “really, truly a moral issue on the city.”
Which bring us back to the fact that it’s ok to discriminate, as long as the discrimination is politically correct. The cynic might wonder if the decision has more to do with tax revenues. Chick-fil-A’s are not open on Sunday, reducing their tax income by 1/7th.
In her article Chick-fil-A Anti-Gay Controversy: Gay Employees Speak Out, Huffington Post reporter Lila Shapiro offers a number of anecdotal statements by LGBT persons who have worked for the chain. There are reports of rude customers who make homophobic comments, as well as managers who need some sensitivity training, but these are anecdotes that do not establish a trend or a pattern, and some people are rude. It’s time to get over it.
It appears that Chick-fil-A attracts customers and employees who reflect the general population in their views of the LGBT community.
“It’s a very monochromatic, white, male driven company,” Andrew Mullen, a gay 26-year-old who quit his job last winter after less than a year with the company told the Huffington Post. Once, Andrew recalled, a company operator leading an employee training session, saw two men kissing on the patio outside the restaurant and proclaimed to the group he was leading that he thought it was “disgusting.” Mullen later told the person in charge of corporate training about the incident, and the man was fired. “[This person] was very apologetic for it, and there are a few people here like that, but from what I saw, it’s a predominantly pro-ignorant culture.”
But the gay employee who works at headquarters in Atlanta disagreed with this assessment. Aside from the occasional homophobic joke or comment outside of working hours, he said, his experience with the company has been “extremely positive.”
The core issue is not that Chick-fil-A, the store where we buy our sandwiches, regularly discriminates, but that the Denver City Council has issues with the religious views of Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy.
Council member Robin Connect says she is “worried about corporate profits to fund discrimination.”
Cathy funds extremely conservative groups—none of which has been accused of breaking laws on discrimination—and has stated publicly that his deep religious beliefs do not allow him to accept the idea of marriage as being anything other than between a man and a woman. He is on the unpopular side of this argument; according to a May 2015 Gallup Poll, 60 percent of Americans believe that same-sex marriages should be valid.
That leaves 40 percent of Americans disagreeing, and they have that right. The Supreme Court has ruled that SSM is legal, and that is not going to change, but no one has to like it, or even pretend to like it.
SSM will no more go away now than Roe v. Wade will be overturned, regardless of whether the next president is named Trump, Sanders, Cruz, Clinton, or Huckabee. But restaurants owners cannot be forced to bend their beliefs to meet the demands of the public. Nor should they.
If the owner’s beliefs are unpopular, public opinion at the cash register should impose consequences, not the Denver City Council.
In 2013 in Hong Kong, Mufti Muhammad Arshad contacted McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut with the request that their stores serve halal meat, “permissible” to Muslims, in their restaurants. He said it would be a shrewd move.
The South China Post reported in McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut say no to request to offer halal meat:
“It’s disappointing that we could not convince the companies,” Arshad said. “It doesn’t have to be Hong Kong-wide. In the main areas, like Central, Wan Chai, Tsim Sha Tsui, the New Territories and at the airport, it would be a great service. The companies have to realise there is a need for this and that it is good business for them.”
Tourism sector lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun said he would welcome anything that would increase the diversity of Hong Kong and cater for people from different religious backgrounds. He said it would also be good for local businesses.
“The government has been trying to promote Islamic investment here, so the move would be beneficial to tourism in Hong Kong and our financial market,” Tse said. “It’s also a chance to attract tourists from Muslim countries to Hong Kong. We’re showing that we are catering for them.”
The decision to not serve halal or kosher meat at fast food restaurants has more to do with the cost than with discrimination. It costs more, and the defining characteristics of fast food are cheap and fast.
For meat to be considered “halal,” the animal must be ritually slaughtered, its throat cut and the blood allowed to drain while the animal slowly dies. The more common practice is to stun the animal, a procedure that makes them insensible to pain and distress before slaughter and permits animals to be processed more quickly.
For a restaurant kitchen, even McDonald’s, to be considered kosher requires Rabbinical oversight.
Muslims insist that stunning is not halal, hence it is an offence against Qur’anic law and tradition. The halal method of slaughter is almost the same as that used to define meat as kosher. The following (warning: graphic and disturbing video) shows that process in the kosher agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa.
As a result of this video, and the knowledge of the kosher process, I choose to not eat meat deemed either kosher or halal, including my beloved Nathan’s hotdogs.
In the grocery story, my choices are made with a bias toward local, small farm producers or, in chains, meat that is humanely processed and antibiotic free.
Its not perfect, but I boycott big chicken producers like Tysons and Perdue, preferring for example Food Lion’s Natures Pantry. This is not to start an argument about which is better, but to point out that I as a consumer have a right to protest, and that protest is done at the cash register.
I don’t buy Chick-fil-A sandwiches because I don’t eat fast food for health and quality of food reasons. But I like their milkshakes. Neither decision has anything to do with the religious or sexual politics of Dan Cathy.
Our local Chick-fil-A does employee women, blacks, gays, hispanics. They seem happy and I have never seen a disgruntled employee on my infrequent visits. If they appeared mistreated or there were credible charges of discrimination, then those milk shakes would also be off my list of approved treats.