Chicago's Cardinal Becomes Embroiled in Chick-Fil-A Controversy


The controversy over Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy’s public remarks against marriage equality have spilled over into the Catholic Church.  When Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel commented that the fast food chain’s values are not Chicago values, the city’s Cardinal Francis George, responded with criticism of these comments.

The Chicago Tribune reports on George’s words:

“ ‘Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago,’ George wrote on the Archdiocese of Chicago’sblog Sunday. ‘I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?’

George went on to write: ‘Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry. … Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.’ “

Clearly, George has twisted the mayor’s words.  It is certainly within a mayor’s prerogative to identify a city’s values.  Nothing in Emanuel’s statement indicated that he was requiring all citizens to adopt those values, as George suggests.

Coming to Emanuel’s defense in this argument was Catholic Chicago Alderman Nick Moreno, who plans to prevent the fast food chain from opening a second store in Chicago.  He was sharply critical of George’s comments:

“ ‘It’s unfortunate that the cardinal, as often happens, picks parts of the Bible and not other parts,’ said Moreno, who added that he was raised Catholic in western Illinois, attended a Catholic grade school and was an altar boy. Moreno said he now occasionally attends church.

“ ‘The Bible says many things,’ Moreno said. ‘For the cardinal to say that Jesus believes in this, and therefore we all must believe in this, I think is just disingenuous and irresponsible. The God I believe in is one about equal rights, and to not give equal rights to those that want to marry, is in my opinion un-Christian.’ ”

“Moreno also called the cardinal’s reference in the blog to a fictional Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities ‘hyperbole and rhetoric.’

“Moreno noted the church scandal surrounding pedophilia among priests, questioning George’s right to the ‘moral high ground on equal rights.’ ”

“Moreno, who has called gay marriage the civil rights issue of our time, also said the mayor and he are not trying to force their values on anyone, but rather to ensure equal rights.”

While Moreno’s remarks about George’s comments are spot on,and while his support of marriage equality is admirable, unfortunately, he is pursuing a misguided direction by trying to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening a second store in Chicago. Free speech and free enterprise are dearly held American values, and no one should be punished by the government because of expressing an opinion, regardless how odious such an opinion may be.  Such punitive behavior is as wrong as when Church officials fire employees for expressing opinions that disagree with the church’s hierarchy.

Instead of regulating the company punitively, people who disagree with Chick-Fil-A’s president’s remarks on marriage equality would do better to express their dissatisfaction by boycotting the franchise.

The same punitive theme was expressed by Washington, DC’s Mayor Vincent Gray.  The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper reports:

“Not to be outdone, Washington DC’s mayor Vincent Gray said Chick-fil-A was hawking ‘hate chicken.’

“Mr. Gray, under investigation for election irregularities, said he would try and block further Chick-fil-A outlets in the nation’s capital. “

Interestingly, the only Chick-Fil-A restaurant currently in DC is on the campus of Catholic University of America.  When students return it to campus at the end of the summer, it will be interesting to see if they choose to boycott this restaurant or not.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



11 replies
  1. Conde J.Peoples
    Conde J.Peoples says:

    “I May Not Agree With What You Say, But I Defend To The Death Your Right To Say It”! That, I think is the best way to handle this whole bruhaha! And I also have the right to express my opinion wether you agree with it or not & to live my life in a manner that’s right for me.

  2. Ned Flaherty
    Ned Flaherty says:

    Politicians object to Chick-fil-A not because of the owner’s mere opinion, but because for nearly a decade, he has spent 5 million corporate profit dollars hurting LGBT parents and children, promoting hatred and bigotry, and endangering the health and safety of LGBT families.

    Believing in a religious sect’s superstitions is one thing, but spending millions of dollars to deny equal civil rights to all other citizens is something else entirely.

    The harm wrought by Chick-fil-A’s owners far exceeds mere opinion, so it’s perfectly reasonable to block new franchises in any location.

    • auntscilly
      auntscilly says:

      Thank you so much, Ned. Beginning the column with “The controversy over Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy’s public remarks against marriage equality…” soft-pedals what is at the heart of the issue. Cathy can say anything he likes, and it wouldn’t affect where I bought my lunch. What he does, however, is to give money from Chick-Fil-A profits to groups which are actively seeking to do harm to GLBT persons. This is NOT about free speech. It is about saying that if Cathy wants to give money to these causes, then many of us will do what we can to ensure that it’s not OUR money going to groups that want to harm us.

      I live in Boston, and I think it’s unfortunate that Mayor Menino (who annually marches near the head of the GLBT Pride parade) said what he said since he can’t back it up legally. However, I would be surprised if a Chick-Fil-A franchise were able to get through all the licensing and zoning issues that would mysteriously rise up and delay its opening were it to try to get established here. Grandstanding as he did will reinforce Menino’s already solid footing here with the GLBT community, but it’s not ultimately as useful as people lower on the ladder getting together and deciding what the community standards are. It’s how segregation and bigotry were enforced in the bad old days, and it’s where progress is made to integrate and diversify communities and make a city safe for all kinds of people and relationships.

  3. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    I rarely take issue with points made in Bondings 2.0 posts, but I think I disagree that Alderman Moreno “is pursuing a misguided direction by trying to prevent Chick-Fil-A from opening a second store in Chicago.” Speech is one thing; business another. Should Dan Cathy and his franchisees be able to do and say anything they choose? Absolutely.

    But does that same “freedom of speech” apply to government’s regulation of such things as licenses and permits? In our system, what’s wrong with regulation following policy, with decisions about permits and licenses for businesses being based on the public policy of the municipality, state, or federal government? Don’t governments make decisions all the time to grant or not grant business licenses based on a variety of factors?

    I’m not saying I fully disagree with your statement, Frank; and it’s something I’m reflecting on; but I do think there’s a difference between America’s commitment to free speech and the regulations that can and do govern free enterprise.

    • newwaysministryblog
      newwaysministryblog says:

      I appreciate your disagreement with my comments, Tim. In fact, I agree with you that government has a right to regulate licenses and permits, and that they are well within their rights to deny permits to companies whose policies discriminate.

      From what I have heard in various news reports which I did not quote on the blog is that Chick-Fil-A, in fact, has an anti-discrimination policy for LGBT people. Were the business itself actively discriminating against LGBT people, I would support the government’s right to deny licenses and permits. I don’t think that the government should have the right to deny such a permit based on the personal beliefs and statements of the company’s leader, even if they are odious. Were that so, LGBT people and their opinions could be jeopardized if the government were run by anti-LGBT bigots. Regulation of businesses should be done based on company policy and practice, not by the personal beliefs of the company’s leaders.

  4. Brother Benilde Montgomery, O.S.F.
    Brother Benilde Montgomery, O.S.F. says:

    I’M THINKING OF BECOMING JEWISH. Or maybe I can ask the Pope to make Rahm Emanuel bishop of Chicago? This George guy seems to stamp his feet at everything! Old Age.

  5. Mary Colgan McNamara
    Mary Colgan McNamara says:

    Of Cardinal George I would ask: Where must gays move to be safe from submitting their lives to the value systems of the Catholic Church for approval?

  6. BCgrad
    BCgrad says:

    “Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.”

    Well, not comparing parade organizers to the Ku Klux Klan would be a start…(He did that last summer).


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] law, citing incidents like the firing of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich or the controversies around the Chick-Fil-A fast food chain, […]

  2. […] Yesterday, we posted about Chicago Cardinal Francis George’s foray into the Chick-Fil-A controversy.  In his blog post about the Chicago mayor’s comments about the fast-food chain, George made the following statement: “Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.” […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *