Politics & Policy

Why We Lined Up at Chick-fil-A

Yesterday’s protesters were standing up for American values of free expression.

We lined up all over America yesterday. We Americans, who normally don’t like lines, went out of our way to stand in one — some of us for over an hour — yesterday on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. Why? 

For one, we stood in line for the chicken sandwiches. Is there a better sandwich in the country than their classic fried-chicken sandwich with those perfectly placed pickles? Or a better milkshake? I know I’d weigh ten pounds less if the local Chick-fil-A went away.

We stood in line to show support of one of America’s great businesses, and to support that pesky little document called the Constitution — and the pesky little part of that document called the First Amendment. And the free-exercise clause. And the free-association clause, too. 

We stood in line because we think it is wrong — no, unconstitutional — for government officials to use their coercive power to regulate free speech, and in support of the right for all of us to practice our faith — or have no faith — openly. Or even to think a thought the government doesn’t like.

We stood in line because we hate bullies, and we hate them whoever the victim is.

We stood in line because we didn’t think Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s comments represent American values. They don’t even represent Chicago’s values. 

Mayor Emanuel and those other Chicago-machine hacks represent Al Capone’s values. 

And I wondered, as all of this transpired: Does Emanuel not know that Chicago is a big Catholic town? That the Chicago archdiocese represents 2.3 million citizens and that the Catholic Church has a pretty clear position on this issue?

Would Rahm Emanuel and his cast of goons in Chicago ban the Pope from a visit because he doesn’t have Emmanuel’s so-called “Chicago values?”

And where was President Obama on all of this, himself a Christian and a guy who only months ago believed that marriage was between a man and a woman? (That’s what he told Pastor Rick Warren in 2008 at Saddleback.) Did our President not have “Chicago values” only six months ago, but now suddenly does?

Where was President Obama on the patently unconstitutional nature of punishing a citizen for a privately held religious belief? He is a Harvard Law graduate, and a constitutional-law professor, and yet he has had nothing to say about Chick-fil-A?

Sure, there is legal precedent for banning certain kinds of businesses from certain neighborhoods. In towns across America, zoning has been used to clean out strip bars and porn palaces for quality-of-life purposes. Religious leaders have often led the charge, hand in hand with families in the affected neighborhoods.

Will the Left use those same arguments to ban Chick-fil-A? Will they equate an owner’s being against gay marriage with porn and strip bars? Only time will tell.

Here is another big reason many of us stood in line for over an hour. We stood in line for the values of the company. Have you ever gone into a Chick-fil-A and been treated rudely by a cashier of server? Not me. Never. Indeed, I am always — always — astounded at the level of service at Chick-fil-A, and it is a model for all companies. It is the real reason they’ve been so successful. It’s not just the food. It’s the employees and the managers and the owners and the remarkable culture of service they’ve built.

So much for corporations not being people, huh?

And why are their people so good at serving? Why do they care about serving? Because they are driven by the values of their owners, who love to serve. Who live to serve. 

Serve their customers. And serve their God. 

What an outrage! Americans serving their God, and having the values of their faith inform and drive their daily lives. 

That Chick-fil-A closes on Sundays isn’t the only way they serve. They serve communities and families and at-risk kids, and, all in all, they are the kind of corporate citizens the Left always insists those mean old for-profit companies with all of that money should be. Chick-fil-A is a model corporate citizen.

But here is the biggest reason I stood in line. If political hacks in Chicago can ban Christians from getting zoning permits for what they believe, they can ban a gay person next. And an atheist. And a Muslim.

And that is quintessentially un-American.

That is what is so troubling about Mayor Emanuel’s statements, and the statements of others in Chicago . . . and Boston . . . and San Francisco. That kind of intolerance of opposing opinions is un-American.

Only days ago, the Wall Street Journal told the story of Beth Brook, an Ernst and Young executive. For nearly two decades, the article disclosed, she “navigated the office like it was a minefield, dodging water-cooler chatter for fear that someone might corner her with a personal question.” Her colleagues, it went on, “whispered that she was a loner, scarred from her divorce or perhaps just reclusive by nature.”

What was the real story? Beth Brook was gay. She came out of the closet, and confessed that her “life really did become better.”

Why was she afraid to tell the truth about herself? She was afraid of reprisals. From her bosses, perhaps. From her coworkers, maybe. Whatever the fears, she soon learned that they were unfounded.

Other executives live in fear, too. There is not an openly gay CEO of one Fortune 100 company. Not one. And openly gay people are rare in professional sports such as football and hockey, and other walks of American life.

Many gays choose to hide who they are out of fear. And that’s just plain wrong.

Gay marriage is an issue that divides America in odd and profound ways. Dick Cheney is for it, and African-American ministers — and many African Americans — are against it. The issue divides family members, even spouses.

But these Chick-fil-A attacks don’t help.

They don’t help any more than the attacks and boycotts Home Depot faced when they took a stand in favor of health benefits for their gay employees. 

I am a Christian, and I told my friends that there were better ways to show our love and mercy for all human beings than a boycott. I took the extra step of going to my local Home Depot and purchasing some home supplies that I didn’t need.

Because I admired Bernie Marcus and the great company he built. And I knew the people at my local Home Depot. I knew the families and their managers and they all helped me and my wife complete the building of our first home. They were good people, and their business just happened to make a private personal decision that didn’t square with my faith. 

It happens every day in America, and we somehow get past it.

Why I really stood in line, and I think why so many of us did was this: It is simply un-American to put a guy out of business for not agreeing with you.

— Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford, Miss.

Lee HabeebLee Habeeb is an American talk-radio executive and producer. He has written columns for USA Today and the Washington Examiner, and is a columnist for Townhall.com and National Review.


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