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