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.

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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."

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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. MeeMee

    They are right that it is discrimination. It would also be discrimination to say that Nazi groups, the KKK or other hate groups are not welcome in the city.

    Discriminating against hate is not necessarily a bad thing.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • julie

      Saying you believe in the biblical definition of marriage is not hate. The CEO says everyone is welcome in their restaurants and everyone is treated with respect. He simply was expressing his belief in traditional marriage.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Ah yes. Biblical marriage.
      Man + woman, man + woman + woman's slave, man + slave + woman + woman's slave, man + dead brother's wife, rapist + victim, soldier + conquered women, including female children, etc, etc, etc. Yup. Biblical marriage is a great idea.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  2. jonathan

    everyone is discriminated against, to some degree...but christians in this country are far from top of the list (last time i checked there were plenty of churches and plenty of opportunities to attend one)

    July 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
  3. KC

    Now they know what it feels like when they demand that others hew to THEIR religious beliefs.

    If they are discriminating and not hiring gay people, then it's perfectly acceptable for mayors to say "we won't tolerate that illegal behavior in our city". But if the only reason for the ban is that the owners exercised their right to free speech, then it's not a legal reason to ban them.

    The owners are welcome to express their religious/political beliefs. Now that we know what those beliefs are, we have the right to refuse to spend our money there. I've been part of a politically-motivated boycott of Domino's for 25 years; not only won't pay for it myself, but won't eat it if someone else pays for it.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  4. Atheist

    Christians crying discrimination? That's like a bratty child crying discrimination when his mommy tells him to stop hitting his little brother.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  5. Skilly

    Oh yea, it's so easy to oppress the majority. There are more Christians in this country than all other religious views combined. Suck it up. And just because other people want rights, doesn't mean Christian rights are being taken away.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Answer


      "Newsflash: Religious freedom does not mean you are free to force other people into conforming to your belief system. Your bigotry and ego are not more important than the rights of man."

      –end quote–

      The religious freaks spin this as "speaking the truth". So it is our duty to slap em back in line and make them pay for their stupidity.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  6. John

    I actually FULLY agree that Chick-fil-A's culture is the exact opposite of Chicago's culture.

    Why, just the other day, I walked into a Chick-fil-A, and I didn't feel like I was going to get robbed.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  7. Bill

    LOL, more cries of discrimination from the one group of people that discriminates the most? Give me a break.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  8. Terry

    Ever wonder why the ACLU is not getting involved...interesting

    July 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • giblets

      They would eventually, depends how far it goes.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
  9. Bryan

    Really? Christians are crying discrimination? Ha...that's hilarious!

    July 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  10. Phyllis

    Please stop acting like your the victims. You are not. You religious freedom is not at risk. We just aren't standing for your bs anymore.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • Phyllis


      July 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  11. Keith

    Ho.mofacism sucks.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  12. Gerry Daley

    I love it that when the tables are turned on these so-called "Christian" groups – who seem to be defined more by what and who they hate than who they love – they scream "persecution." As if, denying marriage rights, protection from being fired, or even employed, and a host of other goodies they support – were all just innocent actions. Your actions have consequences. and I will fight tokeep hate at bay...and sadly these days, that means a lot of what passes for Christianity.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  13. Siara Delyn

    Why don't I see Christian groups protesting hate speech?

    July 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • Keith

      The phrase "hate speech" was invented by the ho.m.o.facists.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • LittleHero

      In a recent study, a sampling of men were shown gay images and their physiological responses were measured. The only ones that elicited a response were self-identified gay men and ho.mophobes. You can draw your own conclusion.

      July 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  14. jamesearlywine

    Freedom of speech does not insulate a company from the natural and probably consequent that follows from the content of their speech or their behaviors. While I agree that Chick-fil-A should not be blocked by politicians from buying property and opening a business in any part particular part of the country, I think it\'s good that the local political leaders have spoken up to Chick-fil-A on behalf of their local citizenry. So far as I know, mayors have urged Chick-fil-A not to set up shop, since it\'s obviously bad business sense to do so – but I have not seen any incident of a politician actually blocking Chick-fil-A from opening a location in their town.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  15. AL

    Boy thats about it, stick up for a chicken but kill the gays.......Cant believe it, the christians are really loosing their minds..............

    July 30, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • Dale Worth

      The Christians and their big Chicken day may give them the delusion of feeling good about themselves. But in the long run, this one day demonstration by them is going to hurt Chick-fil-a more than it will help them. Take it to the bank. Less and less people in this country subscribe to their phony bible based belief of hate and discrimination.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
    • giblets

      kill the gays? Where did that come from, not your normal run of the mill church.

      July 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  16. Just a guy

    Boy.... Colonel Sanders would have never started this much trouble!

    July 30, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  17. Henry

    Your company has the right to be a dick but there are consequences.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Bill


      July 30, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  18. n8r0n

    It's not a 1st amendment violation if mayors simply say that the business is not welcome. There's absolutely nothing in the first amendment about limiting the advice government officials can give, or the opinions they can express. It's only about what they can PROHIBIT. There's no law on the books against this silly restaurant, so there's no first amendment issue.

    In terms of whether this is "fair", or "deserved" (as opposed to merely legal), I'd say that the bigoted Christian right in this country absolutely deserves this. They constantly lobby for our government to discriminate against gays or Muslims. They freely express their bigotry towards non-believers.

    The shoe doesn't feel so good on the other foot, does it?

    July 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Excellent !


      July 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm |
  19. Nietodarwin

    Atheism may be growing, religion may be fading but let's FOCUS on what's TRUE

    "Hey hey, my my, Rock and Roll will never die
    There's more to the picture,than meets the eye
    Hey hey, my my (Neil Young)

    July 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  20. Gone

    cluck cluck oink oink mooo, mooo Who is going to Iran?

    July 30, 2012 at 9:20 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.