It's hard to find a clearer infringement on free speech than what happened last week in Chicago.
The massive power of government poses a constant threat to liberty, and here is why — intimidation works.
Just ask Chicago Alderman Proco Moreno, who used his authority as a city official to prevent a Chick-fil-A restaurant from opening in his ward because company founders support marriage between a man and a woman, not marriage between two women or two men.
The news of Moreno's action, which was enthusiastically supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, went national about six weeks ago and drew considerable criticism as an abuse of governmental authority. But Moreno was resolute, holding Chick-fil-A's expansion plans hostage until company officials were broken to the saddle of government power.
Last week, Moreno claimed victory, announcing that he now will allow a Chick-fil-A restaurant in his ward because company founders have agreed they no longer will oppose same-sex marriage.
In other words, after a Moreno-sponsored trip to re-education camp, Chick-fil-A officials finally have their minds right.
This is an outrage, and the reason has nothing to do with the merits of the same-sex marriage issue, although zealots on that issue will not be able to understand why.
Since when is it within the authority of the government to decide what individuals can think or do with respect to the issues of the day? It's no more correct for Moreno to insist that Chick-fil-A support or be neutral on gay marriage than it would be for him to insist that Chick-fil-A oppose it.
It is neither legal nor any of government's business to compel individuals or businesses to act or not act in a certain way with respect to public issues, and the minute people decide it is, this country will be considerably less free.
But here's the problem. Most people care deeply about their own rights, and not at all about other people's rights. That's why gay marriage supporters, as well as crusaders on other hot-button issues, will back virtually any means of achieving their goal, even if it means trampling over the rights of those who disagree. To them, Moreno is a hero. They believe the ends, if they like them, justify the means.
In acquiescing — as it appears it did — Chick-fil-A reiterated the company's stance of non-discrimination. But that never really has been in question. Chick-fil-A has long insisted that it does not discriminate against either employees or customers. It's in the business of selling chicken sandwiches to people who want to buy them — hence its only interest is in hiring good employees and attracting many customers.
More ominously, Moreno claimed he also extracted a pledge that the company's charitable foundation will no longer make contributions to organizations like Focus on the Family, a public interest group that takes many positions on social issues and supports traditional marriage. For that outrage, Focus on the Family has been falsely labeled by some as a "hate group." Is the Catholic Church, which also opposes same-sex marriage, also a hate group?
Finally, Moreno indicated the company will issue a statement in which it pledges "not to engage in political or social debates." If so, that means Chick-fil-A is being effectively silenced in the face of a government threat to undermine its business.
Chick-fil-A, of course, is a corporate entity, but it's the individuals who make up Chick-fil-A who are being assaulted. Company officials, led by founding family member Dan Cathy, take their religion seriously and operate it on biblical principles. They don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk — closing on Sundays, a potentially huge revenue day, out of respect for the Sabbath.
These sincere people have established a charitable foundation to support the causes of many organizations whose views they share — at least they did until the speech police showed up. Millions of Americans do the same thing on a smaller scale. Now their right to do so is less secure than it was before the goons beat Chick-fil-A into submission.