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Christian groups allege threats to religious freedom in anti-Chick-fil-A campaigns
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has discouraged Chick-fil-A from coming to his city.
July 30th, 2012
02:54 PM ET

Christian groups allege threats to religious freedom in anti-Chick-fil-A campaigns

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

The nation’s biggest evangelical group said Monday that religious freedom is threatened by American mayors who say Chick-fil-A is not welcome in their cities because of the restaurant leader’s opposition to gay marriage.

“Individuals have the right to decide whether or not to ‘eat mor chikin.’ But no government leader should restrict a business or organization from expanding to their district based on the personal or political views of the owners,” Leith Anderson, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said Monday.

“Such evident discrimination and attempts to marginalize those with religious values have no place in American democracy,” Anderson said.

The National Association of Evangelicals is the country’s largest evangelical umbrella group, representing 45,000 local churches from 40 denominations.

9 religious companies besides Chick-fil-A

Last week, a handful of mayors urged Chick-fil-A to stay out of their cities after the chain’s president, Dan Cathy, weighed in on same-sex marriage by saying his company backs the traditional family unit.

"Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, said last week. “They're not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members."

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee tweeted last week: "Closest #ChickFilA to San Francisco is 40 miles away & I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer."

Evangelist Billy Graham defends Chick-fil-A

Those comments and other criticisms have prompted conservative Christian groups to rally to the restaurant’s side.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has called for a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" on Wednesday, while former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin tweeted a picture of her and her husband holding Chik-fil-A takeout bags last weekend.

Opinion: Chick-fil-A and free speech

"I have been incensed at the vitriolic assaults on the Chick-fil-A company because the CEO, Dan Cathy, made comments recently in which he affirmed his view that the Biblical view of marriage should be upheld," Huckabee, a Republican and former pastor, wrote in a Facebook posting announcing the Wednesday event.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

More than 300,000 people have accepted Huckabee's Facebook invitation to participate in the event.

Evangelical groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council have also urged their followers to see campaigns against Chick-fil-A as threats to religious freedom.

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“For the government to engage in viewpoint discrimination is not only bad politics - it's unconstitutional,” the Family Research Council said in an e-mail to supporters last week. “Chick-fil-A may be a private company, but that doesn't mean it has to surrender its beliefs at the dining room door.”

“Under the First Amendment, executives at Chick-Fil-A are just as entitled as any American to speak publicly about their views,” the statement continued.

- CNN's Sarah Aarthun contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Food

soundoff (782 Responses)
  1. Idahospud

    I love these liberal comments. Just because we disagree about Gay Marriage we are Bigots ? As Americans we can disagree & we can say its wrong. Just like you can say its right.. Gay's do harm people when they force there way onto America. That is why people are upset & will always support the belief its wrong in the eyes of god.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • tony

      If you don't like living with US citizens, go live somewhere else

      July 30, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Idahospud

      Hi -Idaho...

      " Gay's do *harm* people when they force there way onto America. "

      I'm curious as to what exact 'harm' you speak of ?

      Peace...

      July 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      As a former Christian, who is now an Atheist, I believe you broke the Christian rules of grammar and punctuation by not capitalizing "God" when you wrote that. Shame shame, something else to beg forgiveness for, besides your assbackward thinking.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Look, Potato-head, most people in the US now support the rights of gays to marry. You haven't shown a single way gays "hurt" anyone or anything. When are you going to do that?

      July 30, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Snow

      so.. How are they forcing their life style on you? Have they come to your home to preach they way of life? Have they done their acts out in the public? Have they tried to change the pledge? Have tried to put "in gays we trust" on money? Seriously, HOW are they forcing it on you?

      Face it.. you just do not like what they do and are trying to take the states protection to discriminate/vilify them in public. At the same time, you do not have any problem putting your god on everything mentioned above. thats what make you a BULLY and a BIGOT.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Yeah, pretty much what I expected–crickets chirping in the potato-patch.

      July 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  2. mikeinnc232

    Please Mr. Cathy, sue them so other mayors and government officials will know they cannot discriminate against a christians beliefs.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      Mr. Cathy is probably worried about BEING SUED by some of his employees and stockholders. You are shooting yourself in the foot with that idea of HIM bringing suit. He has a right to his free speech, leave it at that. The courts won't need to intervene on either side of this dispute, the FREE MARKET will give THE ruling on this one

      July 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  3. PaulC

    There is a difference between religious freedom and religious domination. Christians feel they have the right and necessity to dictate how you live your life and what you do in your bedroom but God forbid if you push back against their zeal.
    You'll find that the religious zealots are the first to discriminate against anyone who doesn't feel and worship as they do.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • NFL1

      AMEN...don't dish out the discriminatory actions and views if you can't accept those who disagree speaking out against your actions and views!! If you have the right, so does the OTHER side!

      July 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      exactly

      you do not have the freedom to impose your religion on others once you do you violate the free exercise of religion,
      but do to a f4ck!ng loop whole in their book its a part of their faith,..which makes there faith founded in bigotry

      i have a right to worship what ever goddess i like and if you don't like it try and kill me, don't try and make it illegal to do so that unamerican

      July 30, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  4. Sam Yaza

    Christians protecting religious freedoms is an oxymoron they have never done it before and their not doing it now,..just their freedoms to be bigoted toward others religions and people,... if you think i'm joking look it up we have about 2000 years worth of historical data

    July 30, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  5. SMC

    I'm constantly amazed that everyone can stand up and voice their opinions; but if a Christian does, it sparks an outrage. I do not condone discrimination or hatred of any group of people, but as a Christian I do believe what the Bible states. If that offends others, I'm sorry. Of course, I'm sure no one thinks it discriminatory or hateful to speak negatively about Christians! If you want to practice the "live and let live" policy than you have to apply it to Christians also.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      we would if they did but they don't
      god 1000 year kingdom on earth means the death of my people

      but who doesn't get out raged when a begot speaks, we give the same treatment to Nazi, the Klan, and Dick Chaney,...all of witch christian,...i think people are finally seeing the most common denominator

      July 30, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • tony

      We don't stick our cult sayings on billboards that we all have to drive by.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • Michael

      So you're actively trying to outlaw adultery then... I am sick of so-called Christians claiming to be following the Word of God yet they have deaf ears when it comes to countless topics.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  6. Richard

    lmfao. Christians crying discrimination? Christians discriminate against more people then Kony does. Gays. Blacks. Muslims.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  7. Brian

    Both side cry discrimination all the time. Why don't everyone just do what they want. If you want to go to Starbucks, GO. If ya want to go to Chick Fil A then GO. Holy both side are whiners, libs/repubs. Get over it. Support either side if ya want. If ya don't don't.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  8. janettejordan

    Dan Cathy has a right to his opinion, free speech, et al. A fast food joint does not, and is not legally permitted to discriminate. We did this already in fifties and sixties. And Christians....Pulease...you are cheering discrimination and crying discrimination in the same breath. Just pick one and stop being hypocrites.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • NFL1

      Thank you – this is again, Individuals have rights...companies/corporations do NOT, they must abide by the state, local, and federal laws. Christians are used to dishing out all the disparaging views and not being called on it...American was NOT founded as a Christian nation...people came to America for religious FREEDOM, ability to worship as they believe...and the current Christian Right thinks only THEIR GOD and their Christian beliefs should be RIGHT.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Jayhawker

      Where is the discrimination? Are they against hiring or serving LGBT? Do not even compare what happened in the 60s where blacks could not eat, drink or sit in certain areas to Cathy's comment. It's insulting to those who truly faced discrimination. People all over the world are dying for their beliefs. Cathy's comment is at worse not agreeable. Discrimination? I don't think so.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  9. Tim W.

    So gay marriage is a matter of religious freedom or the lack there of ! I find that very interesting because marriage is a legal matter NOT a religious matter ! You do not have to belong to any religion to get married BUT you do have to file legal forms to get married ! I wonder what people would say if this chicken place decided that it does not support mixed marriages,or it may not support the rights of females to vote or drive a vehicle ? What would the people say if they put up a sign saying " NO Gays, Jews, Blacks or Muslims Allowed" ?

    July 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      THIS IS A GOOD POINT It is the point the plaintiff's attorneys will use when the company's own employees start lawsuits for their treatment in the workplace, even if they are not gay.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  10. Brian

    File this one under "a bit of your own medicine". Like the bully on the playground that doesn't know what to do when someone pops him in the nose.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  11. glorydays

    What an evil religion....

    July 30, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  12. Nietodarwin

    NO MORE BIBLE QUOTES PLEASE If you can't make your point in modern language, turn off your computer and help the man by buying some "CHIKEN" Bilbe quote after bible quote just makes you xstians look like 'CHIKENS' now. "Onward xstian soldiers, marching as to war", with a comment that doesn't quote that boring old book

    July 30, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • glorydays

      Proverbs 31:6 (New International Version)
      Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish

      July 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      "Beer is proof that God loves us" (Benjamin Franklin) I normally don't capitalize "god' but I KNOW Ben Franklin exists.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  13. Mark

    Wow, didn't know a chicken sandwich could get so politicized. What ever happened to "agree to disagree"?

    July 30, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • Kevin

      Why couldn't we all just agree to disagree during the Civil Rights movement? We aren't talking about a color choice for the den. We are talking about freedom. Those of you who yell USA USA the loudest are the very ones who are denying your neighbors the rights you already have. Freedom is more than just displaying your flag twice a year or buying Super Big Gulps.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Mark

      @ Kevin, I kinda agree with you but the whole things just seems silly. If you don't like what Dan Cathy said, there's plenty of places to eat a decent chicken sandwich. I think the silly mayors committed the mother of all over-reactions, and now people who normally wouldn't got there will make it there will make it a point to patronize the establishment. Chick-Fil-A will meet their annual sales goals in 6 mo. ... Me I eat there cuz the chicken tastes good. But I like KFC too. Wendy's had a decent chicken sandwhich also..See...choices...

      July 30, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  14. Mike Davidson

    Where was all the Christian/Conservative cries of discrimination when all these Christian family groups put out boycotts on Starbucks, Target, JC Penny, General Mills and NBC? If a business donates business profits to a political group they are opening themselves up to scrutiny. Grow up and get over it.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • workingmansword

      Ditto, Ditto, Ditto

      July 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
  15. tony

    He 's using his business to fund interference in public policy and politics. So the reaction to the business is equally valid.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  16. Watching In NC

    What about Christians' ongoing discrimination of gays?

    July 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  17. smb

    I assume everyone sticking up for Chik-fil-a also speaks out when communities try to stop new Mosques.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • tony

      Yes of course they do. And encourage black couples to wed in "white" churches too! 🙂

      July 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Mark

      please don't assume...

      July 30, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  18. Why_Bother

    Christians would never discriminate. I mean the crusades weren't simply a march to discriminate and kill non christians, it was just a peaceful walk in the park.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      and witch burnings just a picnic,...and "picnics" just a,.. oh boy,..um a um a gathering of like mind individuals to discus current politics,..

      July 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  19. Whome

    I had never gone to Chick-fil-A before this all started now I will make it a point to go at least once a week if not more often.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      BIGOT!!

      July 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • tony

      Saves sacrificing the weekly lamb I expect.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Nietodarwin

      I have had one before, and never knew about his views and the money he's giving to groups that discriminate. I will never eat there again. Stupid way to run a business.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • janettejordan

      It's your arteries. Whatever dude.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  20. Rebel4Christ

    Dan Cathy expressed his opinion WHEN ASKED TOO! And it wasn't what liberals wanted to hear! When did America get rid of freedom of speech?

    July 30, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Dan Cathy expressed his opinion based on his belief. Anyone doing so is bigoted. Gay people are doing you no harm directly or indirectly, so it really is not the place of anyone to judge these people...all anyone should care about is that these people are happy and not out there causing harm to society.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • smb

      For me it's not what he said, I don't care what he thinks but he gives millions to hate groups. I will not contribute to that.

      And it's not just anti-gay groups, he also gives to groups that fight legislation for women's equality.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
    • janettejordan

      Dan Cathy expressed his beliefs by donating money IN THE NAME OF HIS BUSINESS. Remember that.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.