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.”

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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.”

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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?


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 • Opinion • Religious liberty

soundoff (3,216 Responses)
  1. Tim


    August 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
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    August 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
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    August 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  4. hawaiiguest

    Yes, yes the elected officials went to far in denouncing the announcment from the chick-fil-a president, but what Mohler does not acknowledge in this article (purely by accident I'm sure /sarcasm) is that chick-fil-a has set up a seperate charity organization, and funnels their profits to that company to make donations to groups like Family Research Couuncil, which want to make laws that are also counter to the First Amendment.
    Yes, what the mayors said was not right, but what the administrators at the company are doing is just plain sick.

    August 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • Eric

      And yes it is very legal. Just do not eat there if you do not like them,

      I have noticed that they are even busier after the boycott. looks like the boycott backfired.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
  5. Lindsey

    Some forget (read: BOB) that the freedom to worship somehow wins out over the freedom FROM worship. Clue: IT DOESN'T.

    Not everyone wants to swallow anyone else's version of God, or any version of any God, period. But these same Jesus-fearin' people would condemn gays and/or non-Christians to lives of wanton discrimination at best, and execution at worst.

    Count me out, dudes.

    August 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  6. danielwalldammit




    ..No WOLF!

    August 18, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  7. Gme

    I'm proud of Robert, he has backbone for good to all. Those with a wishbone only cracks alot first before they break away to an eternal death from God. So make your cracks preacher of Death that are like monsters to your puny head.

    August 14, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  8. Jay Chong

    The Mayors might not like Chick-fil-A's stance, but they should respect their right to say it. http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2012/08/10/chick-fil-a-equal-protection-ends-free-speech-begins/

    August 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  9. Rob S

    Religious liberty is not under threat. Neither the government nor its agencies were involved in the outcry against the fast food restaurant. Only people's personal views weighed in on this issue. That is not what I would call putting religious liberty 'under threat'. Liberty IS the freedom for people to support what they believe in. Even if this private fast food venture doesn't like it.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Eric

      Actually it was. You had government officials making negative decisions. That is not ok for anyone. That is not my America.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  10. Peacemonger

    We are free to follow the faith of our choice. We are not free to force our religion no matter how strongly we support it, on others.

    Answer this question – assuming you are a Christian, who do you believe created those who follow a different religion? Are there other gods who created them? Or do you think the god you worship created everyone? Is there a Christian god, a Jewish god, a Muslim god, etc. It's a safe bet that those who follow a different faith believe their god loves them just as the Christians do.

    August 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Mike from CT

      So I am not allowed to "force"/share my belief which I believe to be true, but you can "force" your belief that beliefs shouldn't be forced?

      August 13, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Mike from CT

      assuming you are a Christian, who do you believe created those who follow a different religion?
      The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who revealed himself in the flesh as Jesus the Christ our Lord and Savior

      "Are there other gods who created them?"
      No,if so then what is your definition for the word God.

      "Or do you think the god you worship created everyone?"
      For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. Col 1:16

      Isa 45:12 I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.

      "Is there a Christian god, a Jewish god, a Muslim god, etc."
      No, if so then what is your definition for the word God.

      It's a safe bet that those who follow a different faith believe their god loves them just as the Christians do.
      It is safe that people believe in many things, especially when they are the central focus and not God.

      August 13, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  11. Bob

    Tim Gill, a multi-millionaire from Colorado who has funded h0m0 activism throughout the United States, spoke at the Gay, Though Trans-=gendered (LGBT) Delegates Caucus at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, outlining how he has worked to advance h0m0 causes in U.S. politics. Gill endorsed undermining rising politicians critical of h0m0 advocacy by targeting donations to benefit their opponents on the state level.rat which he claimed was controlled by “a bunch of bigots“The only way bigots are going to learn is if we take their power away from them,” he asserted.he counseled the delegates to find the next Rick Santorum, the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, and “end his career.”Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican, who opposed h0m0 causes, lost to the Democratic Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. in 2006. Gill took credit for helping bring about Santorum’s loss.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Bob

      Yup we found the real hate right here we need to stop this kind of stuff

      August 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • tallulah13

      The civilized world is slowly but surely deciding that discrimination against gays and lesbians is unfair and wrong. Poor Bob. His brand of hatred is unwelcome anymore.

      August 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  12. Bob

    Now here is part of the the hate groups for sure
    Pro-family activist Peter LaBarbera warns that a $65 million endowment given to several groups that promote the h0m0 lifestyle will be used in their efforts to "crimin-0,alize" Christian opposition to their agenda.The Pride Foundation of Seattle Lambda Legal Defense and Education Network, the National Gay and Les Task Force, and Parents and Friends of Les and Gays (PFLAG).
    Weiland, who retired, terminated himself at age 53 after a long struggle with depression and being gay

    August 7, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Do you have any plans to grow a brain?

      August 7, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Bob

      Tom yes when 2 things happen you also do and you give your husband back his balls

      August 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  13. Bob

    I would like to know what hate groups Chick is accused of supporting anyone????????????

    August 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Manda

      Focus on the Family. Also Family Research Council. Both actively pursue agendas that dehumanize select groups of people.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      I'm wondering if you are actually asking the question, or just waiting for someone to answer then you can attack them for naming someone.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • midwest rail

      You nailed it hawaii – the next time Bob engages in honest discourse will be the first time.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Manda

      Below are profiles of a dozen of today's most influential anti-gay groups. Groups designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center are marked with an asterisk.

      Alliance Defense Fund
      American Family As.sociation
      American Vision*
      Chalcedon Foundation*
      Christian Action Network
      Concerned Women for America
      Coral Ridge Ministries/Center for Reclaiming America
      Family Research Council
      Family Research Inst.itute*
      Focus on the Family*
      Summit Ministries
      Traditional Values Coalition

      August 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Bob

      Do you know for a fact that Chick is giving money to these groups or are you just pulling names out of a hat? I thought you said they were giving money to hate groups? I haven't seen one in any of the names you mentioned so far. Are these the only ones you have??

      August 7, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
    • Bob

      Did the research thanks for pointing me in that direction looks like I'm going to be eating chicken sandwiches for awhile.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Manda

      Oh, I didn't realize you were looking for such opportunities. I'm sure there are some other hate groups you would find appealing as well. But if it's not being a big enough asswipe that you're worried about – don't worry, you're doing great.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Eric

      To everyone who replied to Bob.

      It is legal for Chic Filet to to this. It is obvious that you all want your cake and to eat it too. It is only bad if the other guy does this.

      FIGHT THE REAL ENEMY !!!!: "I R A N" they hang gays there.

      Chic Fillet has never hanged a gay person.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
  14. John

    To pretend this is about free speech is typical of today's Christians running around looking for ways to play the victim. Just like claiming wishing someone happy holidays during the season of many hollidays was seen as a trumped up "war against Christians." Chick FIll A activly supports hate groups. That was the accusation and that was the confession Cathy gave that created this outcry. To claim that financially donating to known hate groups is promoting traditional marriage is as rediculous at throwing rocks at the handicap and claiming you are promoting jodgging.

    August 7, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • correctlycenter

      Mr. Cathy spoke his opinion which by the way is according to God's word in the holy bible. Many people however, have a problem with God! Most people today have been indoctrinated by political correctness, and the prophet Isaiah stated that good will be considered evil and evil considered good... How true is that today!

      August 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Manda

      Why does it always seem that someone with a self-congratulating name (such as correctlycenter, or levelheaded) is always the farthest from it? Your opinion is about as correct and centrist as FOX News is "fair and balanced."

      August 7, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Bob


      August 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Manda

      "If you can't name them they can't be hate groups?" I most certainly can, but whether I can or can't has no affect on them. What kind of logic is that?

      August 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Eric

      Picking on Christians is bullying. It is easy to pick on a group that does not fight back. You know that turn the other cheek thing, hate is a sins, anger is a sin, love and pray for people who do not like you, They do not hate gays.

      If you really want impress us with you bravery start challenging the Islamic faith ( they are very anti gay) Then you will lose the bully label. These people fight back. Are you brave ????

      October 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Does it make you feel good to reply to posts over a month old like they still pay attention?

      October 2, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Eric

      to hawaiiguest

      I posted because I saw your name and knew you would see it. .

      October 2, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • Eric

      Why are you paying attention ? Just asking.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      I refresh the home page and keep other tabs open to check on current articles I'm responding to. I ignored the first 3 or 4 posts you put on this article today, and decided to say something.

      October 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  15. BJust

    The Chick-Fil-A guy expressed his beliefs & they happen to be traditionally Christian. Not his business practice of discriminating b/c they don't discriminate against GL. But no some people deny him his right of speech – or call it a hate speech. Why the libs are so hateful, being liberal used to be a good word but now, like nazis damaged the word comrade, the libs made this a bad word. And how come the elected officials try to punish the company for it's President exercising his right of RELIGIOUS speech? I hope they will not be reflected.

    August 7, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Manda

      No one is denying his right to an opinion. Why is this so hard for people to comprehend? The company is donating money to groups that are so at odds with civil rights that they are listed as hate groups. Still, no one is saying the company should not be allowed to, they are saying they have the right to know and to patronize the business accordingly. Cathy has denied it in the past, which is dishonest, and which is why he said "guilty as charged" when ultimately confronted with it.

      He was donating to groups identified as hate groups, while all the while claiming he wasn't. Get it?

      August 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
    • Eric

      to Manda:

      Your telling someone to give up their religious beliefs. Isn't that a form of discrimination.

      October 2, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  16. Bob

    No actually intolerance is letting corporations at the request of atheists and gays amd socialsits tell us what is acceptable to say and to express even to the point of telling the President of the US what is acceptable but the only problem is he is supposed to work for us

    August 7, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Dan

      How many Christians are going to fight against intolerance in the mosque in Joplin MO.?
      What about their religious freedom?

      August 7, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • myweightinwords

      In a nation where the constitution guarantees ALL citizens equal rights, it is not intolerance to demand those rights.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  17. Tom

    "this nation has reached the brink of tyrannical intolerance"

    A Baptist zealot making this statement has to be the funniest thing I've read in months.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Adam

      Ha, no kidding. Now tell me how many politicians have said they are not going to support gay rights bills (such as marriage) because of their religious beliefs. I wonder if these politicians ever heard of separation of church and state, and equal rights under the law (not god). The last thing threatened here is religious liberty, quite the opposite. The issue with the mayors wasn't even really a religious issue as much as a freedom of speech issue. And its good to know their god (I'm a christian, but I don't think we are talking about the same god here) is going to bring down his wrath not for greed, envy, divorce, adultery, gluttony (we are like the fattest country on the planet) but because people are pushing for equal rights under the law for the gay community.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • PaulC

      Amen. Thank God they don't burn agnostics anymore, or do they?

      August 7, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • PaulC

      What is the Baptist equivalency of sharia law? The Baptist had their sharia law in the South for many, many years with control of the local and state governments. It is extremely difficult for them to accept that God rules in their church but not the schools or government.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  18. Bob

    MERRY CHRISTMAS wasn't that nice!!! I can remember before retailers wouldn't do MERRY CHRISTMAS the great joy in this time of year. Before it wasn't politically incorrect to say this and makes you feel like a villain just to wish everyone good cheer.Do you know who took this away??? Some of the very same people we see here! How about having to think before wishing someone just happiness maybe in a slightly Christian way now you cant do that. If you think that these people haven't been subversive why did the big O change his mind on gay marriage??? Yet they didnt do anything wrong did they??? they are not victims but the motivating force. when they got the Pres of the US to come out and endorse their policies yet a small company like Chick endorses the Boy Scouts its subversive. When are we going to wake up and see the damage that this supposed innocent pursuit is really costing us.

    August 7, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • Robert

      Merry Christmas Bob

      August 7, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • PaulC

      Merry Christmas, Happy Hanuka and Blessed Ramadan to everyone.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • myweightinwords

      Actually, I prefer to wish someone well for the holiday that they actually celebrate. For Christians and many secular folks, that's Christmas, since Christmas has become a secular, family oriented holiday. For Jewish folks, I tend to wish them a Happy Hanukkah. Muslims I will offer Ramadan blessings. Pagans I wish a Blessed Solstice or Happy Yule.

      See...it isn't about an "attack on Christmas" or a drive toward eliminating Christian values, it's about seeing past the end of our own nose. It's about thinking about others just a little bit.

      It's about not being selfish.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  19. Editor

    Thanks for the article. The religious liberty to destroy the rights of others is no liberty at all.

    For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization @ http://​www.Libertarian-Internation​al.org ....

    August 7, 2012 at 5:38 am |
  20. steven harnack

    Wrong! What threatens liberty is bigots spending gobs of money to make their religion intrude on government and to try and make dicrimination the law of the land. Worship in any way that you want but keep it to yourself and out of my government. Doesn't your holy manual have any restrictions against bribing elected officials?

    August 7, 2012 at 2:01 am |
    • Bob

      Steve another wantingly oblivious left winger. Oblivious to the fact that the gay agenda a violent and subversive lying force here in America. Nothing got done without the help of the Atheists and socialists. This was all done with violence because even in 73 it took violence not scientific study to get gays off the APA's perversion list. Today we see the atheists and socialists using the gay agenda to push forward their own desires,an effort that feeds off the need of the other. How is this done. Getting themselves elected to public office and making laws contrary to the public's desire and there oath of office. No one has said what bad organizations Chick has supported NO ONE. NOT ONE HAS NAMED THESE ORGANIZATIONS so lying as usual and using the false underdog status, in teaming up with atheists they are here to change the US to take God out of the US that is about as subversive as it gets. They have known fund raisers that give money to support the push to achieve a complete change in society a ugly and perverted change. Bigots, that is really laughable,, that the ones who use every dirty tactic in the book team up with every militant left wing organization has the guts to call one companies declaration of free speech bigoted. The Socialist Party changed its name in 1972, to Social Democrats, this is still the communists. In USA at the same time the gays made their push for violent liberation and to be taken off the perversion list. Is this just a coincidence, I think not. Atheists are not just the ones with no religious belief but they are a religious group that actively promotes the belief that there is no God it is not passive but an aggressive group. Many of their achievements like tearing down of a cross in the desert, taking prayer out of schools and public events, taking prayer out of the military and making the mention of God in the military a court martial offense has been taking money from some of the most fowl and bigoted left wing millionaires and corporations.so when they say Chick supports these terrible organizations ask them which ones how much and when did they do this. Then say well how much did it cost to mount these assaults on religious freedom and where did the money come from for that?? Then we will start to see the cancer that has spread here in the US from the 70's to change the very fabric of society. If you still dont believe it then ask yourself since the gay issue is at the tip of the spear now who in the public has voted in favor of gay marriage?? The correct answer would be NO ONE. every act has been done by the courts or elected officials violating their oath of office. HOW MUCH MORE MANIPULATING AND DEVIANT CAN YOU GET in squashing and subverting the public's right to free speech and the way we voted. They have taken away even fair voting in the courts and where did the money come for that???

      August 7, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • sam stone

      bob is obviously another inbred fvck who makes everything political

      August 7, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Robert

      I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.......so you want to change that?

      August 7, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • exlonghorn


      Uh yeah, I DO want to change that. Especially since the phrase "under god" was not included in the original pledge, and was added during the religious revival of the 50's.

      In 1951, the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization, began including the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance at their meetings.

      In 1952, Holger Christian Langmack wrote a letter to President Truman suggesting the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. He was one of the originators of the Prayer Breakfast and a religious leader in Washington, D.C. President Truman met with him along with several others to discuss the inclusion of "under God" and also "love" just before "liberty and justice".

      The phrase "under God" was incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance June 14, 1954. Interestingly enough, the phrase "In God We Trust" was also added to our paper money in that same time period.

      So, basically you've brought up EXACTLY the kind of thing that Atheists are so p!ssed about. Your bullsh!t religions imposing their beliefs on the rest of the population. Thanks for the softball. 🙂

      August 7, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
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