Tough to swallow litmus test

Would you like some politics to go with your sandwich and fries?

Most people don't have the appetite for mixing lunch with ideological infighting, but don't include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the picture.

Emanuel recently joined a national controversy involving a fast-food chain, announcing that he supports blocking the opening of a new Chick-fil-A restaurant in Chicago because the chain's owners do not subscribe to Emanuel's position on same-sex marriage.

Emanuel supports it and thinks everyone else should too — or else. Those who do not, he said, are not welcome in Chicago because they do not subscribe to what he called "Chicago values."

Emanuel took his stance after a city alderman blocked a requested zoning change that would allow the opening of another of the highly popular restaurants in Chicago, because the alderman supports same-sex marriage.

It followed a similar declaration by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who announced that he also would prevent Chik-fil-A from opening in his city because the chain's owners favor traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

It turned out that Mayor Menino does not have the authority to do what he would like to do. Nonetheless, it is chilling to hear elected officials announce that they will use their authority to block employment and business opportunities for those who do not share their political views. Apparently, these oh-so-tolerant politicians can tolerate anything except others who do not share their views on the issues of the day.

Individual consumers are free to patronize any business they please for whatever reasons they please. But it's anathema for public officials to declare that they will use their official power to force ideological litmus tests on the public.

This is nothing but political thuggery, a clear-cut example of illegal viewpoint discrimination by government officials who ought to know better.

Unfortunately, the fact that they not only do not know better but are militantly ignorant of their public obligations is a sign of our polarized times.

The founder of the Chik-fil-A chain, S. Truett Cathy, is not only a hugely successful businessman but a man who takes his religion seriously. He's so committed to his faith that Chik-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays, a decision that costs his company many millions of dollars per year in lost profits.

He supports, as is his right, traditional marriage. Holding that common view ought not open up him or anyone else to government-sanctioned retaliation.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, also is a very successful businessman. Unlike Cathy, he supports the right of men to marry men and women to marry women. He recently and very publicly donated $2.5 million to support the same-sex marriage movement, and that is his right.

This is, after all, America, even if some ideological zealots like to pretend otherwise. It's their hope that Emanuel's intimidation tactics will silence dissenters. But it is a cancerous approach.

If Chicago is not a suitable site for a new restaurant that Emanuel opposes for political reasons, isn't it equally unsuitable for the operators of existing businesses that do not share his views on gay marriage? Should they also be targeted by the government for punishment?

And if it's appropriate for Emanuel, a supporter of same-sex marriage, to try to block business and employment opportunities to his ideological foes, wouldn't it be equally appropriate for a mayor in another city or a governor in another state who opposes homosexual marriage to block business and employment opportunities for those who do not share his views? Where does it end?

A flood of criticism has rained down on Emanuel, Menino and others who support the use of governmental power to enforce ideological uniformity, and with good reason. Their noxious views are so wrong-headed that they cannot survive public scrutiny, but it's still disturbing that Emanuel and his ilk would so publicly and unapologetically embrace these kinds of goon-squad tactics.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions

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Sid Saltfork wrote on July 31, 2012 at 2:07 pm

The opinion makes a good point.  There is nothing wrong with freedom of speech on same sex marriage by the business owner.  Therefore, it is okay for political views by business owners to not be limited.  Yes, the company may face a loss of profits; but the business in question may benefit from profits due to people holding the same view, and patronizing the business.  What would happen if a business owner proclaimed Nazi values?  Would a gun store owner's profits increase by proclaiming that political view protected by freedom of speech?  I think that most citizens, and politicians would be outraged; and try to close the business.  However, I may be wrong; and the owner's profits would increase based on the customers shared opinion.  What if a media business owner expressed political values?  Would their profits increase, or decrease?