home
RSS
My Take: Chick-fil-A controversy reveals religious liberty under threat
July 31st, 2012
10:36 AM ET

My Take: Chick-fil-A controversy reveals religious liberty under threat

Editor's Note: R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.

By R. Albert Mohler Jr., Special to CNN

(CNN)–Cultural upheavals often occur in the most surprising contexts. Who expected that a clash between sexuality and religious liberty would be focused on a restaurant company mainly known for its chicken sandwiches?

And yet the controversy over Chick-fil-A is a clear sign that religious liberty is at risk and that this nation has reached the brink of tyrannical intolerance from at least some of our elected leaders.

The controversy ignited when Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, son of the company’s legendary founder, Truett Cathy, told a Baptist newspaper that he and his company “operate on biblical principles” and “are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”

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

Defining Chick-fil-A as “a family business,” Cathy went on to say that “We intend to stay the course. … 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.”

Media attention to Cathy’s comments revealed a radio interview he had given a few weeks earlier in which he commented that “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at (God) and say, ‘We know better than You what constitutes a marriage.'

“I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think we would have the audacity to redefine what marriage is all about,” he said.

Within days, elected officials in Chicago, Boston and New York were pledging to deny the company access to their cities.

“Because of (Dan Cathy’s) ignorance, I will deny Chick-fil-A a permit to open a restaurant in my ward,” Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno said, in a threat echoed by
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was just as blunt: “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston,” he said. “We’re an open city. We’re a city at the forefront of inclusion.”

But the kind of inclusion he had in mind would evidently exclude Chick-fil-A.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who just recently married her lesbian partner, called upon New York University to kick Chick-fil-A off its campus.

9 religious companies (besides Chick-fil-A)

Echoing the Boston mayor’s lack of irony, she also called for exclusion in the name of inclusion: “We are a city that believes our diversity is our greatest strength, and we will fight anything and anyone that runs counter to that.”

Within days, Moreno, Emanuel and Menino had qualified their statements somewhat, promising to operate within the law and constitutional limits. Those clarifications became necessary when legal authorities quickly recognized threatened violations of First Amendment rights.

To his credit, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ardent supporter of same-sex marriage, warned, “You can’t have a test for what the owner’s personal views are before you decide to give a permit to do something in the city.”

Note carefully that Chick-fil-A was not charged with discrimination in hiring or service but simply with the fact that its president and chief operating officer supports traditional marriage.

Note something else: Dan Cathy’s statements were explicitly religious. He made his comments to the religious press, including a Baptist newspaper. His comments were infused with his Christian convictions, the same convictions that have led the company to close for business every Sunday.

The threats made against Chick-fil-A betray the principle of religious liberty that is enshrined within the U.S. Constitution. Civic officials in some of the nation’s largest and most powerful cities have openly threatened to oppose Chick-fil-A for the singular reason that its president openly spoke of his Christian convictions concerning marriage.

When Quinn, one of the most powerful officials in New York, announces, “I do not want establishments in my city that hold such discriminatory views,” is she also threatening the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques?

They, along with evangelical Christian denominations, openly oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage. Cathy’s statements are completely consistent with his own denomination’s statement of faith and official declarations. He was speaking as a Christian and as a Southern Baptist, and he was speaking as a man who does his best to live and speak as he believes.

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

When Emanuel and Moreno tell Chick-fil-A to stay out of Chicago, are they audacious enough to deliver that same message to the churches, mosques and synagogues of their city that also oppose same-sex marriage? What do they do with the fact that their own state does not allow same-sex marriages?

This country is deeply divided over the issue of same-sex marriage, and the controversy over Chick-fil-A is an ominous sign that many of the proponents of same-sex marriage are quite willing to violate religious liberty and to use any and all means to silence and punish any individual or organization that holds the contrary view – a view sustained by the voters in 29 states by constitutional amendments.

Addressing the intersection of same-sex marriage and religious liberty, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley has warned that the government must not be “viewed as unfairly trying to pre-determine the debate or harass one side.”

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

That is exactly what some elected officials have just shown themselves ready to do. It will not stop with Chick-fil-A. Who will be next to be told to get out of town?

Disclosures:

I know Dan and Truett Cathy and other members of the Cathy family. Truett has spoken on our campus. I have prayed at the opening of multiple Chick-fil-A locations. I serve on the board of directors of Focus on the Family, which has been supported by Chick-fil-A. My son, Christopher, is a part-time service employee of a local Chick-fil-A restaurant in Louisville. I have not communicated with Chick-fil-A about this column.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of R. Albert Mohler Jr.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church and state • Homosexuality • My Take • Opinion • Religious liberty

soundoff (3,216 Responses)
  1. Doug

    It is my religious belief that all left handed people should not be allowed to marry. In fact, I think they all should be placed on an island until left-handness dies off. I will give 60% of my profits from my corporation to form anti-left handness organizations and make sure these diviants aren't allowed to marry.

    Any bigotry no matter if it's based on religion or not is plain wrong and business that support that silliness should be forced to go out of business. I will not stay at a Marriott Hotel or eat at a Chick-fil-A as I know my $$ will go to discriminate. Governments that allow companies to operate with such leanings and support for these hate groups have just as much blood on their hands as Dan Cathy does.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  2. Arthur

    Nobody is suppressing his religious freedom, people have just decided they don't want to pay and support his habit. Everytime you buy something at Chic-fil-a you are paying his salary!

    July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Ethan

      I will NEVER eat there again. So people can "rally" and support them all they want, but there will be just as many people who never eat there again. So people who think this is a good thing for Chick-fil-A are kidding themselves.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • jjw903

      i ate lunch there today, just as busy as they were last week and the week before that and the week before that

      July 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  3. RCC

    All liberties are at risk under our current government. Put political and religious views aside for a moment and think about the elected that are running this country. Do you really think any of them are concerned about freedom and equaliy for all?

    July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  4. John in Oakland

    No better way to rally the troops than cry "persecution!" Religious liberty under threat? Bunk. We've heard conservative evangelical politicians spout idle threats for far longer. I support and will defend your right to religious conscience, Mr. Mohler, but I don't have to agree with your views nor need I associate with you or like-minded persons and their businesses.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  5. GAW

    The media (liberal and conservative) looks for drama and it just found it in the Chick-Fil-A fiasco.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  6. Ethan

    Gay marriage will be legal in the United States within 50 years. All you right-wing nut job republicans can cry all you want, but it will happen. Just get over it and move on with your life. If it fills you with hate and disgust, I feel sorry for you. Sounds like a sad life to me.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • RCC

      so left wing nut job democrats have it all figured out? You'll have plenty of people feeling sorry for you too so I'd just save your pity for humna kind rather than certain groups.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • jjw903

      hate and disgust, yep that pretty much describes your feelings for conservatives. That is what gets me, you don't see the hypocrisy. What makes my hate for you different than your hate for me. Oh I get it, because it's yours lol

      July 31, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • Dave

      So, you see gay people as somehow not human?

      July 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • kenny

      just like racism, gay bigotry is dying off with the old ppl... it will be much much sooner and the holdouts of today will be treated like the clan is now... ie the deeathknelll for the churches that support this anti-gay bs...

      July 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Ethan

      jjw903 – Never said I hated you. I don't know where you got that from. Stop turning the argument on me because you have nothing else to come back with. The point is, I'm right and you know it. You can't stop what's coming and it scares you, that is why you get so defensive. History will look down upon you.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  7. indogwetrust

    I am finally beginning to understand why the church is fighting this so much. They are scared. Scared that we wont follow Sodom and Gomorrah. And that will cause people to think. And once they think they will question their beliefs. And once they question those beliefs they will see the how strange it is to blindly follow a storybook written long ago.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Dave

      They're also scared that once they lose control of people's minds, people won't waste as much of their money by giving it to the "church", and all those "priests" and "preachers" will have to get off their behinds and find real work.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Brett

      Christianity is slowly dying in the West as more and more people realize it's obsolete and unnecessary to live a healthy and fulfilling life. The dialed up craziness we're seeing from the remaining adherents translates to the violent death throes of the religion as a whole. It'll take generations to fully overcome this outdated relic of humanity's past, but it's an inevitability.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  8. Doc

    The author of this article is exactly right – those hollering about what Cathy said say they are all about inclusion while they try to exclude ANYONE that has a different viewpoint. Talk about irony. Scary, scary irony.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • John

      You sound like what the Klan probably was saying sixty years ago. Defend the bigots however you can spin it.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  9. phred

    Not that the author is biased or anything, but "legendary founder"? Please.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  10. Hyaena

    ::shrug:: I won't eat there. I won't lobby to make them illegal or get kicked out of someplace, but I won't give them money to spend on things I don'ty agree with.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  11. One one

    Don't blame this sh.t on atheists. It's 100% about politics.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  12. Edwin

    What I wonder is this: when did it become okay to only say and promote laws that liberals approve of? This owner clearly falls onto the conservative side of the political spectrum. His opinions are definitely offensive to liberals. As a liberal, I can attest to this. But when did so-called crusaders of tolerance (i.e., liberals) get confused and decide that they could use the government to punish this guy and his company for having an undesirable opinion? Forcing people to agree with you or face government sanctions (i.e., denied permits) is not only a stupid idea and immoral, it is also against the heart of the First Amendment.

    When I first heard about Chik-Fil-A's stance, I was all set to boycott (which, as a private citizen, I am within my rights to do). But given this insane whiplash, I am strongly thinking of actively supporting them. I hate intolerance - from Chik-Fil-A, but even more from froth-at-the-mouth liberals who SHOULD know better.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Dave

      It's less his opinions, and more his millions of dollars donated to organizations pushing for discriminatory laws.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Izoto

      Glad to see a level-headed liberal opinion on the matter.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm not a liberal or a conservative.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Doc

      Well said, Edwin.

      Dave – And as the Supreme Court so clearly delineated in the Citizens United case, using money to promote your viewpoints is protected under free speech. Just like words, if you find how a company spends it's money offensive, don't patronize the company.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Dave

      Did I ever say it wasn't protected? Look again. I said the opposition is more to Cathy's efforts, than to his stance. And I'll remind you, the people's right to speak out against Cathy's efforts is also protected.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  13. shawbrooke

    Excellent article. Also good that those who crossed lines at first retracted their statements. What intolerance from government officials and what a threat to the whole US system. People cannot include by excluding.

    It does appear that a small group in government is threatening others to get their way. Not good.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Edwin

      Not all retracted their statements, last I saw. But no matter - the law is the law, despite what any pompous mayor says. It protects the builders of Mosques, and it protects the owners of Chik-Fil-A. Americans are allowed to have free speech and free religion - even speech/religion that others find utterly offensive.

      Maybe ESPECIALLY speech/religion that others find offensive.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
  14. Tyler

    Freedom of speech cuts both ways you religious nut-job!!! If certain people or groups in this country want to boycott that stupid restaurant, it is well within their rights to do so. If you don't like it, too bad. This is the land of the free, defined by a separation of church and state. BOYCOTT CHICK-FIL-A!!!!

    July 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Doc

      Absolutely they can boycott and they can say the company is a bunch of dunderheads and the government can't do anything about that. But opponents of the company cannot use anything under government control (like zoning, permitting, etc.) to exclude the company from any city/county/state. THAT is a violation of the First Amendment.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  15. Christina

    “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.'" John 15:18-25

    To be expected - notice nothing of this magnitude has been announced against any other organization touting any other religious beliefs aside from that which specifically states Jesus is our Savior. Jesus was right again... so far so good... He's beenr ight about everything in the word and this attack only further increases my faith! The good word fulfilled! Amen!!

    July 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Dave

      Why is it "jesus" never condemned gay people?

      July 31, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Edwin

      Are you kidding? Muslims in America face this every day. Remember the hurdles the builders of the Mosque in New York faced? They were granted permits and started building, until good christians mobilized to block them. Remember the one in Tennessee - the one christian arsonists burned down twice? They got new permits, but a week before construction they were blocked yet again by a judge and lots of complaints by christians - because they had complied with the laws but somehow not with a twisted meaning of the laws. Eventually they were allowed to build, even against the wishes and DEATH THREATS by the good christians of the community. And as for Judaism... my town no longer has a Temple, because of repeated death threats, arson, and vandalism. It simply became too costly to maintain security against the devout fanatic christians who actually hate jews that much.

      These threats against Chik-Fil-A are discrimination - no doubt - but don't ignorantly pretend Christianity is facing discrimination alone. Jews and muslims face far more discrimination on a daily basis than this.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  16. cc

    Forget politics and religion, a 6th grade anatomy lesson makes it obvious that lifestyle is unnatural.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Larry89

      Lifestyle? Whats your opinion on a man and a woman having a n a l s e x? They do do that, you know.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • Edwin

      I don't follow. Are you saying that mouths should only be used for making noise and eating, not kissing body parts (like another person's lips)?

      July 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Dave

      If it's unnatural, then why does it take place in nature?

      July 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  17. Dave

    Trying to enact discriminatory legislation is NOT a "religious liberty".

    July 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  18. Jon

    Your religious rights end where the next person's body begins. PERIOD. These so-called Christians are confusing their freedom of religion as the freedom to inflict their religion on others... which is something Al Qaeda and the Taliban is known for.

    If these so-called Christians in the American Taliban want to live under religious rule, then Iran and Saudi Arabia await them because Freedom of Religion is also Freedom FROM Religion.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  19. faye

    Religious liberty under threat just as the Bible predicted it would be in the last days.....Gays have freedom of speech; Christian have NONE. Shhhh, can't say the JESUS word.... It's so evident that Satan is behind all of this.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • jungleboo

      Can you see him from where you are?

      July 31, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Dave

      This has nothing to do with any of your three impotent, powerless "gods".

      July 31, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Christina

      Amen :) What the enemy meant for evil made good by our Lord.

      May you be blessed Faye (Matthew 5:10)

      July 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Academic Socialite

      @Jungleboo, Faye can't see Jesus from there, but she should be able to see Satan – "he's" at Chick-Fil-A eating another chicken sandwich

      July 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Lightsinger

      You are absolutely free to say anything you wish, even spiteful, hurtful things. Yes, the government officials - who have since retracted their statements - were in the wrong to use government to enforce their own vision of tolerance and deny Christians the right to express their beliefs both publicly and privately. Now, having said that, I believe that Mr. Cathy's donations to a group that has the sole purpose of denying a certain segment of our society rights and privileges that any American, regardless of their faith, should enjoy is also wrong. I'm sorry...your belief should not be forced on others.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
  20. Sri

    Completely unnecessary controversy. People in North Carolina stopped buying from a company whose owner supported Gay Marriage (I dont know the specifics, just read it in news). Now people want to stop buying from a company who doesnt support Gay marriage. Likes of Sarah Palin does not want an Islamic Society building near the WTC site, not Emanuel does want Chick-Fil in Chicago.
    Seriousely, this is getting out of control.

    July 31, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.