Why Chick-fil-A Is Not A Zoning Issue

There’s an intersection between politics and religion in America and now visibly moving into the neighborhood with a nice corner location is Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A is a privately-owned company with some 1,600 outlets nationwide. It’s known for excellent chicken sandwiches and the best per-store sales in the fast food industry: the Atlanta Journal Constitution says that a typical Chick-fil-A outlet generates annual sales of $2.7 million per year. That’s more, even, then the $2.4 million per store earned by the typical McDonald’s.

But if Chick-fil-A stores were open on Sundays their sales would be even greater. Instead,  the company elects to turn off the grills one day a week. Why? Because the company openly mixes both faith and commerce.

“Chick-fil-A,” said the company, “is a family-owned and family-led company serving the communities in which it operates. From the day Truett Cathy started the company, he began applying biblically-based principles to managing his business. For example, we believe that closing on Sundays, operating debt-free and devoting a percentage of our profits back to our communities are what make us a stronger company and Chick-fil-A family.

“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our Restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect –regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

But before going forward company president Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that “we are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

“We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that.”

Translation: Mr. Cathy opposes the legalization of gay marriage.

In a politically-open society Mr. Cathy’s views should not be a big deal. Everyone has various political opinions, including business leaders. The catch is that Mr. Cathy has come to symbolize the money behind efforts to stall the legalization of gay marriage.

This has led to threats in several cities by elected officials to block the opening of new Chick-fil-A outlets. It is implied or inferred that the permitting and zoning process would be used to stop company expansion not because of store layouts, ventilation requirements or the sufficiency of fire exits but because of Mr. Cathy’s views.

Alternatively, such diverse thinkers as the New York’s Mayor Bloomberg, the ACLU and Sarah Palin have joined in to support the right of Mr. Cathy to express his views.  There is even a widely distributed photo of Ms. Palin and her husband proudly holding Chick-fil-A bags.

Same Rules

We’ve seen this before: In Murfreesboro, TN there has been an effort to stop the opening of a mosque with the alleged use of an “heightened notice requirement” according to the Justice Department.

“When a faith community follows the rules, as the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has done in seeking to construct its place of worship, it is impermissible to change the rules in a discriminatory way that prevents people of faith from exercising their fundamental right to worship,” said  Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

So here’s the deal: Neither Mr. Cathy nor the officials of the Tennessee Mosque should be required to do more or less than any other like applicant when seeking zoning or permits. The government should not be considering anyone’s political or religious views when looking at permits and such. And politicians who suggest such options ought to read the Constitution. The First Amendment means what it says.

And for those who disagree with Mr. Cathy’s views, no problem. Don’t buy his sandwiches, feel free to picket his stores and use social media to express your views. The First Amendment means what it says for everyone.


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