The 1st Ward community that stopped Chick-Fil-A from opening its 1,600th restaurant was 100% right to do so, had the legitimate power to do so, and in no way cost anybody their freedom of speech nor of religion.
Because a business is not a person.
Chicken CEO / bigot Dan Cathy is not Chick-Fil-A. Chick-Fil-A is a legal construct distinct from any person.
I expect libertarians and mainstream national politicians to get this wrong, funded as they are by corporate boardrooms who directly benefit from this now-classic ruse.
But watching so many liberals knee-jerk against the Alderman this week on the basis of “free speech” and “government overstep” has taught me a few things, none of them good news for the average liberal’s state of civic literacy.
I have learned:
- That a whole lot of people have never seen up close what it looks like when a business asks for permission to open.
- That it’s news to a whole lot of people that it is no longer 1830 and commercial entities have to ask permission to open in a densely populated area, and that it’s a very good thing that they do.
- That lots of people apparently believe any community should allow any legal business to open in their backyard because being legal is the only standard that exists, everywhere. Even though a perfectly legal business can legally kill and sicken its neighbors for decades.
- That Chick-Fil-A is already in business in Chicago, yet somehow I keep reading over and over about how Chicago banned it.
- That the right of the 50,000 residents in the 1st Ward to petition their duly elected representative to shape their area’s economic life is called oppression, while opening a 1,600th restaurant over the wishes of the locals is called liberty.
- Most disturbingly, I’ve learned that lots of people can mistake the sacred and monumental protections a CEO has for the things that he says and believes with some kind of weird magic protection for the things the CEO’s business does, such as occupy land, use access, obtain tax breaks, use city services…and of course, discriminate, exclude, and fund hate groups.
People who I respect have actually fallen hard for this nonsense, countering me by pointing out I wouldn’t support a community blocking of a permit if a business pronounced pro-gay tendencies. To which I reply something I once thought was obvious: If a proposed business had announced it preferred to hire gay people, and had been in court repeatedly because it puts its employees and franchisees through tests to make sure they were gay enough, and had funded psychos who deprogram sexual preference — which is the only set of conditions that matches what Chick-Fil-A does — you’d better believe I would tell my Alderman that such a place and its practices was not welcome in my neighborhood. and that the Alderman would lose my support next election if he didn’t reflect my view. The central issue is corporate practice, not a CEO’s idiotic, discriminatory views nor LGBT equality per se.
Truly, this is a post-Citizens United world when we can get it this wrong. We laugh at Mitt Romney when he stands on a 18″ hay bale and sneers “corporations are people”, but when we mistake chicken bigots (protected) for their corporations (not protected, and subject to our standards), we have no right to laugh at Romney — we’re loudly agreeing with him.