Last week, the San Antonio City Council voted to ban the popular restaurant chain Chick-fil-A from the San Antonio International Airport. Six members of the council voted to approve a new concession space contract on the express condition Chick-fil-A be excluded.
In response, First Liberty Institute has asked United States Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, to investigate the Texas city’s council for religious discrimination. The religious liberty law firm asked Secretary Chao to determine whether city officials failed to comply with the assurances of nondiscrimination required as a federal grant recipient. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also called for an investigation.
The hostile message sent by San Antonio is clear: any business that does not agree with a local government’s – or any government’s, for that matter – preferred opinions is not welcome to do business in that city. The problem is, of course, that the council’s action is blatantly illegal. Indeed, San Antonio’s unconstitutional and discriminatory position should alarm everyone, no matter their religious beliefs.
Councilman Roberto Treviño, who made the motion to exclude Chick-fil-A, said of the vote, “San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior . . . Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport."
Neither Texans nor Chick-fil-A should stand for such intolerance and bigotry by the government.
Everyone, it would seem, except those who hold views contrary to his and who donate to religious nonprofits. The City Council’s allegations stemmed from a report attacking the charitable giving of the privately-owned restaurant. Yet the officials certainly cannot criticize the restaurant’s customer service or business practices. Chick-fil-A’s renowned service and hospitality (which it extends to everyone with a smile) have paid off—Chick-fil-A is currently more profitable per restaurant than McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway combined. And they have reached the top despite being closed on Sundays.
Ironically, the City Council members are brazenly breaking the very principle of nondiscrimination they claim to value. While Chick-fil-A happily serves anyone its delectable chicken sandwiches, the San Antonio City Council has discriminated against the restaurant because of religion.
Sadly, this is not the first time government officials have been hostile to businesses that operate according to religious views. In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case found that the state of Colorado had violated the religious liberty rights of cake designer Jack Phillips. Currently, First Liberty Institute represents Aaron and Melissa Klein, who were fined $135,000 by the state of Oregon and forced to close their businesses because they refuse to express a message regarding same-sex marriage that contradicts their religious beliefs. First Liberty has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Oregon’s unconstitutional actions.
Indeed, in San Antonio’s case, federal taxpayers should not be required to subsidize religious bigotry. The city council cannot operate in a way that brazenly violates the Constitution and federal law, but if it chooses to, then the federal government should pull its grant.
Americans agree that tolerance and inclusion are necessary in our diverse and pluralistic society. The government sends a dangerous message when it threatens businesses owned by religious people because they (or the organizations to which they donate) may not hold the opinions that the government prefers.
Neither Texans nor Chick-fil-a should stand for such intolerance and bigotry by the government. Anyone who stands for tolerance and equality should actively oppose the discriminatory action manifested by San Antonio City Council officials. Frankly, standing up for Chick-fil-A and any other religious organization subject to such outright discrimination would be my pleasure.