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Fighting Tyranny through Chicken

A few days ago, I put up an entry about the (frankly) crazed prosecution of a marine biologist, a case begun, and now in its seventh year, because a member of her crew whistled at a whale.  The point I was making was that the sprawl of criminal law, while justifiably viewed with growing concern by many conservatives and others ordinarily sympathetic to the prosecution point of view, masks an even more pernicious problem  --  replacing law with ideology.  The particular ideology now elbowing law out of the way is Political Correctness.  I thought this was wonderfully illustrated by the unhinged version of environmentalism on display in the whale whistling case, and by the even more unhinged version of seething feminism and race-based bullying on display in the Duke lacrosse scandal of a few years ago.

No sooner was the ink dry on my post than Political Correctness took another step toward tyranny, this time in the Chick-fil-A controversy.  It seems that the owner of Chick-fil-A opposes gay marriage (a position held by President Obama until quite recently).  It's not that Chick-fil-A refuses service to gays, married or otherwise; it's simply that the owner believes, apparently for religious reasons, that same-sex marriage is  wrong.  This is very Politically Incorrect.  

It did not take the PC storm troopers long to launch.  
In Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere, government officials declared that Chick-fil-A would not be welcome to do business in their cities.  Any suggestion that a business owner could express an opinion on a public issue and, under the First Amendment, be free from government retaliation was trampled in the rush to Be Politically Correct About Gay Marriage.

And then something happened.  There arose a spontaneous movement among those who still think the First Amendment means something:  It seems they want to have their say (while we still can, that is).  I am thus happy to report that my family had dinner tonight at the local Chick-fil-A, which was much more crowded than I have ever seen it.  People were standing in line around the wall when the place closed at 10 pm.  This is on a Wednesday night, not the biggest restaurant night of the week.

Evidently, we were not the only ones in the movement for Freedom through Chicken. Around the country, it seems, Chick-fil-A was doing a land office business.  I am told that my friend Ted Cruz served Chick-fil-A at his victory party.

For the government to deny a business permit because of the business owner's unpopular (in some quarters) opinion is the first step down a road that is alien in America.  It is, however, a road familiar in countries that have known fascism.  Fascism does not become more attractive because it parades in the garb of Political Correctness; if anything, it becomes even uglier.  And unless checked, it won't stop in the mere denial of business permits.  Soon enough, it will take over the criminal code.  You Will Believe As The Commissar Says Or Else.

It doesn't matter if you favor or oppose gay marriage.  It only matters if you care about making sure that law remains an ally of freedom, or instead becomes its enemy.

The Chick-fil-A sandwich I had tonight was, incidentally, right good.  I think I'll have another tomorrow.



I agree that a government entity denying an otherwise qualified business from obtaining a business license under these circumstances is a violation of free speech.

That said, I will never darken the door of a Chick-fil-A because I find the owner's views completely repugnant, and I would never support such a person or such views by giving my hard-earned money to that business. I would also venture to guess that the majority of the people lining up to buy Chick-fil-A with Bill were NOT doing so in support of the First Amendment, but in support of the owner's views on marriage equality. This seems to be borne out by at least some of the comments posted after the story linked in this post (referring to gays and lesbians as "defective," etc.).

In my opinion, the views at issue here are not merely "politically incorrect," because this is not just an issue of political correctness. It is an issue of basic human rights.

For the record, CJLF takes no position on the issue.

Notablogger, that, of course, is your right.

Not to get into a gay marriage debate, but "completely repugnant" seems a bit overblown. I agree that bigotry against the LGBT community is ugly, and that there is zero room among civilized people to call gays "defective." But hewing to traditional views of marriage is not doing that.

The real issue, it seems to me, is that in a free society there are going to be disagreements on many issues, and on issues where people feel strongly. Not that I am at all muted in my comments, but in life we have to get along with people who have ideas that we find just plain wrong. Family members, friends and coworkers etc. can disagree on abortion, politics etc., but still get along.

Also for the record, please note that my post took no position on the underlying question of gay marriage. That is not the subject of this blog. The government's penalizing the mere expression of opinion, no matter how odious, is the path to tyranny, whether the penalty involved is refusal to allow business licensing or, as will certainly be coming if this is not stopped, criminal punishment.

I am used by now to officials of the government scolding private citizens and businesses for engaging in perfectly legal activities (e.g., making a lot of money). I think it's wrong and dangerous, but that's life as it exists now. Taking the further step of threatening businesses because of the perfectly legal views of their owners is a step too far. One McCarthy era per lifetime is enough for me.

I understand the feeling of urgency among those who have suffered under unjust stigma for things about themselves they did not create and cannot change. And I have severe doubts about the propriety or wisdom of government regulation of the consensual arrangements adults make between and among themselves. To me, a government of limited powers avoids entanglements in such areas, lest privacy, already under threat, simply disappear from civic life.

None of that, however, justifies government attempts to chill private beliefs, provided those beliefs do not manifest themselves in discrimination in the providing of public services.

Substantive issues like gay marriage appear regularly in public debate. They arouse considerable passion. To my way of thinking, more important than any single such issue is the preservation of citizens' freedom to take and announce views unpopular or even vile to some (and popular to others).

Going to Chick-fil-A was the best way to show the nascent speech police that their way is going to meet resistance. I understand the opposition to that form of protest, and it is not without force, but in this instance, I respectfully disagree.

And please note that the first sentence in my comment is: "I agree that a government entity denying an otherwise qualified business from obtaining a business license under these circumstances is a violation of free speech."

My point is that going to Chick-fil-A under these circumstances will be viewed by the vast majority of people as support for the owner's views, not support of the First Amendment. And yes, federalist, I feel strongly enough about this particular issue that "completely repugnant" is an accurate description of my opinion of the owner's views (which you are certainly free to disagree with). Accordingly, while the First Amendment is something I cherish, I will not be going to a Chick-fil-A to give that company my money. Period.

Hats off to all here for keeping things civil, not personal and well argued--unlike on so many other websites:

Just so. That, among other things, puts this blog a step, or maybe ten steps, ahead.

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