Are Catholic businesses unwelcome in Boston?

… or in Chicago?

The controversy started this way:

Dan Cathy, the president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A, was invited to appear on the “The Ken Coleman Show,” during when he revealed that those advocating for same-sex marriage will in turn bring “God’s judgment” upon us.

“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 have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”
“We need to be more faithful to depend on a God who does love us and wants to have a relationship with us, and wants to give us the desires of our hearts … We intend to stay the course,” Cathy said.

“We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles,” Cathy explained. (Christian Post)

Then, when a controversy arose over these comments, Dan Cathy reasserted his position to the Baptist Press:

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized.

“We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.” (Baptist Press)

There were many commentators online and in the mass media who disagreed with Dan Cathy’s position on marriage. But the response of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino went far beyond disagreement with an opinion:

And in Boston, Cathy’s comments led the city’s mayor to go so far as to say he’d fight to keep the chain out of the city, as he believes it to be at odds with Boston’s values.

“Chick Fil A doesn’t belong in Boston,” Thomas Menino told the Boston Herald. “You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.” (

Other politicians and mayors took the same tack as Menino, promising to work to keep Chick-fil-A businesses out of their city or district.

Officials in at least three cities have vowed to block efforts to open Chick-fil-A restaurants after the company’s president told reporters that he supported the traditional definition of marriage….

“Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.” Emanuel was vowing his support for Alderman Proco Moreno’s announcement that he would block construction of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in his district. “If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the First Ward,” he told the newspaper…. “Because of this man’s ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the First Ward,” he announced. (Foxnews)

Dan Cathy is a Southern Baptist. But his position on marriage as between one man and one woman is the same position as the Catholic Church, and the same position as Jesus Christ:

{19:4} And he said to them in response, “Have you not read that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female?” And he said:
{19:5} “For this reason, a man shall separate from father and mother, and he shall cling to his wife, and these two shall become one flesh.
{19:6} And so, now they are not two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.”

{7:21} “For from within, from the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
{7:22} thefts, avarice, wickedness, deceitfulness, homosexuality, an evil eye, blasphemy, self-exaltation, foolishness.
{7:23} All these evils proceed from within and pollute a man.”

{10:6} “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
{10:7} Because of this, a man shall leave behind his father and mother, and he shall cling to his wife.
{10:8} And these two shall be one in flesh. And so, they are now, not two, but one flesh.
{10:9} Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.”

Essentially, what Mayors Menino and Emanuel are saying is that Jesus Christ and his devout followers are not welcome in their cities, that businesses owned by conservative Christians or by devout Catholics are not welcome in their cities. And this further implies that the Catholic Church is not welcome either. It is a short step from denying businesses the right to do business in a city, to denying churches the right to teach and believe as they see fit.

Fortunately, reasonable voices on the left as well as on the right have spoken out against these politicians. Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune says:

“I’m guilty as charged for supporting the idea that loving couples of the same sex should have the exact same rights to form a legally recognized union as male-female couples…. But I also believe in the freedom of expression — in the right of Dan Cathy and other owners of Chick-fi-A to give voice to their opinions on social and political matters without fear of reprisal from the government.

“Those who are cheering on these pols ought to imagine the jackboot on the other foot – reactionary public officials in some backwater town denying an entrepreneur the right to operate an ordinary business simply because he’s an open supporter of Obamacare, abortion rights or even marriage equality. Such a hypothetical should make it easy to see how it plainly offends the spirit of the Constitution – and sets a horrible precedent – for public officials at any level to punish otherwise legal forms of speech with arbitrary exercises of government power.”

The LA Times published an editorial piece defending free speech rights, despite their disagreement with Cathy’s position:

“But public officials have a responsibility to carry out their ministerial tasks fairly and evenhandedly — and to uphold the principle of free speech — whether or not they like a business executive’s social or political stances. We disagree heartily with Cathy, but are far more troubled by the reaction of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who vowed to block Chick-fil-A’s effort to open an outlet in that city…. It’s a different matter if he attempts to trample the free-speech rights of others by using the power of his office to fight against a business license for Chick-fil-A…. It was the freedom to express politically unpopular views and to oppose such views that the Founding Fathers fought to establish.”

The Boston Globe also sided against Menino, on the same grounds, in their editorial:

But which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license…. Ironically, Menino is citing the specific location along the Freedom Trail as a reason to block Chick-fil-A. A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents.

If a believing and practicing Catholic owns a business, can he locate that business in Boston, or Chicago? How long will it be before government officials use the same types of excuses to restrict the free speech and freedom of religion of the Catholic Church and conservative Protestant denominations?

UPDATE: The ACLU of Illinois is weighing in on the proposed ban of Chick-fil-A restaurants in Chicago:

“The government can regulate discrimination in employment or against customers, but what the government cannot do is to punish someone for their words,” said Adam Schwartz, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “When an alderman refuses to allow a business to open because its owner has expressed a viewpoint the government disagrees with, the government is practicing viewpoint discrimination.”

The ACLU “strongly supports” same-sex marriage, Schwartz said, but noted that if a government can exclude a business for being against same-sex marriage, it can also exclude a business for being in support of same-sex marriage. (Foxnews)

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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