Since when is your right to obtain a permit to open a business based on your beliefs? If you think this is a silly question, think again.
A recent above-the-fold newspaper headline proclaimed, “Vote delays Chick-fil-A project, (Architectural Review) Board unanimously approves delay amid controversy over chain founder’s remarks.”
What were those remarks?
Simply stated, that Dan Cathy, the founder and chief operating officer, is opposed to gay marriage.
An article by Thomas Schaller in the Baltimore Sun notes, “Chick-fil-A head has a right to speak, not a right to be taken seriously. ... The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee that people will respect your views. ... Conservatives have been howling for the last week that the backlash against Chick-fil-A after president and COO Dan Cathy expressed opposition to gay marriage amounts to an attack on the First Amendment. Yes, people who serve, eat or profit from the sale of those tasty, Southern-style chicken-and-pickle sandwiches are perfectly entitled to express their political views. ... But Mr. Cathy’s defenders seem to be confused about what the First Amendment guarantees. It provides him with a right to express his views. It doesn’t guarantee that the public will respect those views. The right to speak is not the same as the right to be heard, to have one’s opinions taken seriously by the public, or be incorporated into policy. Indeed, citizens who harbor misinformed, logically inconsistent, ahistorical and fact-free beliefs often disqualify themselves from serious public discourse. ... The First Amendment is no guarantee against being justifiably ignored. And the truth is that many citizens hold foolish, even self-contradictory opinions on a variety of subjects.”
Writing in Political Outcast, Jennifer Ferryman reports that when Chick-fil-A’s owner was asked about his “support of traditional values,” he replied, “Guilty as charged.”
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values. ... They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.”
“If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the First Ward,” he told the newspaper.
Chick-fil-A is privately owned by the Cathy family. The company’s president, Dan Cathy, drew the wrath of gay rights advocates and supporters when he recently made statements that some have alleged are anti-gay.
Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was unapologetically in favor of traditional marriage.
“We are very much supportive of the family — the Biblical definition of the family unit,” he said. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”
In a separate interview on the Ken Coleman (Radio) Show, Cathy suggested that the nation could face God’s wrath over the redefinition of marriage.
“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’” Cathy said. “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we would have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about.”
Moreno called Cathy’s comments “bigoted” and “homophobic.”
So, does the Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review have the right to decide who can establish a business based on the opinions or beliefs of the owner(s)?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think the beliefs of the applicants who apply for a city or county permit to open a business should be the basis for deciding whether to approve the application.
I still believe this is a free country, although the growing trend toward increased government regulation and control sometimes makes me wonder.
— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.