Free speech cock up

The left must learn to tolerate free speech and not use government to silence it

Hungry for free speech
The Commentator
On 9 August 2012 08:37

The recent controversy over the comments made by the President of the American fast food chain Chick-fil-A has delivered a new disturbing atmosphere to America’s political and cultural discourse.

Dan Cathy expressed his view that God deems marriage to be between a man and a woman and that same sex couples should not be legally allowed to marry.

Whether or not one agrees with this view, his right to express it is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Neither he, nor his business, should be threatened by government for expressing his view.  

However many Democratic mayors and city officials have developed a convenient amnesia with regard to their nation’s founding documents. This is seemingly a common trend where the Left is concerned. Ideas to rebrand, reword or even revoke the First Amendment are coming thicker and faster. America has a fight on its hands.

The mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, said Chick-fil-Adoes not belong in Boston’ and that ‘If they need licenses in the city of Boston, it will be very difficult-unless they open up their policy’. This clear threat of using the apparatus of government to prevent the expansion of a business because of the beliefs of its owner runs contrary to free speech laws and a free market. Owning a business should not preclude one from making political statements on hotly debated subjects.

But the very problem is that the Left does not regard this as a debate anymore. They’ve made their mind up about gay marriage, and as far as they are concerned, the law is simply an inconvenience to be dealt with. We see this narrative perpetuated elsewhere in the Liberal Left agenda, such as in its approach to climate change and the science behind it.

In Chicago, Joe Moreno, an alderman with responsibility over zoning laws killed a possible future Chick-fil-A outlet on similar grounds to what Menino wishes. The Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanuel said of the fast food chain ‘they disrespect our neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty’.

Chick-fil-A has not refused to serve one homosexual customer, nor would they dream of doing so. but left wing public officials seem to have confused the opinions on a controversial issue with a replication of segregation laws.

A business is not a Congressman or a Senator. It is not empowered to represent, nor can it vote whether or not gay marriage is to be afforded the same stature as current marriages between a man and a woman.

The double standards in the debate between socially liberal and socially conservative views have now come to the verge of one side being able to use the government to financially hurt the other. If Rahm Emmanuel is so certain that any Chick-fil-A would be deserted, then why would he not encourage the organization to waste its capital and tax dollars in his city? After all, if he dislikes them so, surely its failure would be both a political and financial win for his cause?

If there was a case of the Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama threatening to deny the ice cream makers Ben and Jerry’s licenses or zoning permits due to their support for gay marriage, there would undoubtedly be a crusade by the liberal media vilifying the Mayor and raging at the dangerous and arbitrary nature of reactionary government officials. No doubt this is a forthcoming scene on Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom.

Individuals and corporations should remain free to voice their opinions and, if they wish, contribute money to campaigns to have those opinions heard.

Boycotts and individual action against Chick-fil-A are perfectly legitimate forms of protest, should the Left feel the need. Government action is inexcusable.

That being said, there have been signs of hope from the Left which require stating. The New York Times accepted that this was fundamentally an issue of freedom of speech, not gay marriage and even the ACLU have somewhat sided with Dan Cathy’s right to express himself.

The controversy over Chick-fil-A may still have a positive outcome if people on all sides realize that that government does not and should not exist to enforce views and penalise those of their opponents. If this is the case, America will be all the better for it.

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