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Friday, July 20, 2012

How not to protest Chick-fil-A

Yes, I strongly support boycotting Chick-fil-A because of the large amounts of cash they've donated to anti-gay causes. But Boston's mayor Thomas Menino has gone way, way beyond that by declaring that he intends to block Chick-fil-A from opening any branches in his city because of their political leanings:
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino told the Herald yesterday. 
“That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”
Dear Mayor Menino,

Chick-fil-A does not discriminate, to my knowledge. They do not forbid gays from working for them or mistreat gay employees, and they do not forbid gay patrons or treat them any differently than they treat any other patrons. You are both mistaken in that regard and rather hilariously unaware of the irony of declaring that you're an "open city" in the same breath as you proclaim your opposition to a restaurant conducting business there because you disagree with the ideology of its owners.

Ken at Popehat lays it out:
I haven't seen any evidence that Chick-Fil-A discriminates in hiring or service. Rather, they give money to a cause I despise, one that promotes social discrimination. But the government doesn't get to pick and choose what social causes are permissible, and any government actor who aspires to that power is a lowlife thug. What's particularly alarming about Menino's thuggery is how openly his referencing to licensing "difficulties" reveals how things really work in government: whatever rights you think that you have, practically speaking some bureaucrat can punish you for exercising them on a whim, and there's very little you can do about it. Menino represents the ethos of government actors who think quite frankly that this is right and just and how it should be — that they, our masters, should be able to dictate what we think and do and say if we want to do business in their fiefdom. 
Menino could use his bully pulpit to call on Bostonians to reject Chick-Fil-A if they come to town. He could call for social opprobrium on Chick-Fil-A and its affiliates and even on its patrons. He could organize protests and marches and letter-writing campaigns. He could carry a sign in front of Chick-Fil-A saying "BE LES BIGOT" if it opens. But if he says he'll use the coercive power of government to retaliate against Chick-Fil-A for views he doesn't like, he's totalitarian. If you support him because you agree with him (and with me) that Chick-Fil-A's stance on gays is worthy of condemnation, then you're a damned fool, and don't let me catch you whining if some other government actor retaliates against an individual or business because of a political stance you like.

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