EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 5, 2012

Column: Thought police attack Chick-fil-A's family values

Taylor Armerding
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Welcome to America – land of bans on free thinking and home of the thought crime.

Not that we should be at all surprised that a business leader’s spoken opinion on a moral issue brings threats not just from the marketplace – which is legitimate as long as those threats are limited to things like peaceful protests or boycotts – but from liberal politicians who are forever complimenting themselves on how tolerant they are.

The thought police in America have been gaining strength for decades now, to the point where they are willing to be open about it. There are already speech codes throughout the land – a growing list of “offensive” words is banned. And thought codes are on the way.

Yeah, I know. The standard refrain from mayors like Tom Menino of Boston, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Edwin Lee of San Francisco is that they are only intolerant of intolerance. Hence their threats against the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A because the company CEO said he believes in the biblical definition of the family.

This, they say, is an obvious attack on gay marriage. And it will not be tolerated in their cities. “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston,” Menino told the Boston Herald. “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.”

And how, specifically, is Chick-fil-A discriminating against a population? Menino offered not a shred of evidence that the company refuses to serve or hire those of any population. All he knows is that the leader of the company expressed an opinion.

So, in a city that he says is “at the forefront of inclusion,” he is all about exclusion of any businesses whose leaders don’t think the way he does.

Lee tweeted that the closest Chick-fil-A to San Francisco was 40 miles away, “and I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.” Emanuel is supporting a move by Alderman Proco Moreno to keep a Chick-fil-A out of his district. The reason? The restaurant’

s values “are not Chicago values,” said the mayor.

Given Chicago’s history of corruption, perhaps not having Chicago values is a good thing.

The mayors and alderman can’t make good on those threats yet – at least not in the open. Menino “clarified” his comments a day later, saying he just meant he would use his bully pulpit to discourage the chain from opening any franchises in Boston.

He’s got the “bully” part right. The pulpit – not so much. Menino knows, and surely Chick-fil-A knows, that there are all kinds of subtle ways for political bullies to block and harass businesses. The permitting process will go slowly – oh, so slowly. There might be some kind of environmental problem with the site. Who knows what other problems might arise?

If that doesn’t discourage them, the building inspectors will take a long time showing up during construction, but when they do, their inspection will find all kinds of things wrong. When they come back, they will find more, different things wrong.

If the restaurant ever gets built, the inspectional services divisions of the city will take a microscopic interest in its operations. Any violations will bring severe sanctions. You know, just to protect the citizens of the city. And it will all be legal.

All because the CEO expressed his embrace of traditional family values.

This would almost be amusing if it weren’t so close to George Orwell’s dystopian vision of thought control as public policy.

The contradictions are everywhere.

How ironic is it that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden loudly proclaimed their opposition to gay marriage during the 2008 campaign. How ironic that Emanuel not only didn’t call for then Sen. Obama to be kicked out of Chicago, but also joined his presidential administration. How could he do such a thing, when the president obviously did not share “Chicago” values? After all, Obama didn’t “evolve” into public support for gay marriage until just a couple of months ago.

Or maybe this is all insider, “wink-wink” stuff. Biden and Obama have favored gay marriage all along, but believed more in “saying anything to get elected.”

How ironic that gays and lesbians, who have rightly complained for decades that they should not be forced to stay “in the closet” – that they should be allowed to be who they are, to be “out and proud” – now support doing the same thing to those who oppose their values.

The only way for Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy to avoid being smeared as a bigot and be threatened with government sanctions is to stay in the closet. Don’t dare speak your mind. Don’t dare be yourself. The thought police are watching and listening, and you don’t belong in Menino’s, Emanuel’s, Lee’s or Moreno’s America.

The totalitarian sentiments expressed by these elected officials don’t allow them to legally bring government penalties against thought, but the reality is they would if they could.

This is only incidentally about gay marriage. The much larger, much more crucial issue, is whether a few years from now there will be anything left of free speech and free thought.

Don’t take it for granted. The politicians hope you do. It makes it that much easier for them to “transform” America.


Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at t.armerding@verizon.net