I spent much of the week irritated at Chick-Fil-A. Its president Dan Cathy makes the company staunch supporter of anti-gay causes, and I found myself idly wishing that there were a Chick-Fil-A outlet nearby so that I could refuse to patronize it and counter Cathy's speech with mine. I was already extremely irritable about the topic as a result of the Boy Scouts' bitterly disappointing decision this week, which puts me into a difficult moral parenting quandary I will write about eventually.
Then Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had to go and make me defend Chick-Fil-A.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino is vowing to block Chick-fil-A from bringing its Southern-fried fast-food empire to Boston — possibly to a popular tourist spot just steps from the Freedom Trail — after the family-owned firm’s president suggested gay marriage is “inviting God’s judgment on our nation.”
“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino told the Herald yesterday.
. . .
If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” he warned.
I think that rich people donating millions to anti-gay causes promotes evil in the world — though they have every right to do it. But I'm far more afraid of government thuggery than private evil philanthropy. Menino appears to be speaking disingenuously and ass-dampy when he talks about Chick-Fil-A "opening their policies." I haven't seen any evidence that Chick-Fil-A discriminates in hiring or service. Rather, they give money to a cause I despise, one that promotes social discrimination. But the government doesn't get to pick and choose what social causes are permissible, and any government actor who aspires to that power is a lowlife thug. What's particularly alarming about Menino's thuggery is how openly his referencing to licensing "difficulties" reveals how things really work in government: whatever rights you think that you have, practically speaking some bureaucrat can punish you for exercising them on a whim, and there's very little you can do about it. Menino represents the ethos of government actors who think quite frankly that this is right and just and how it should be — that they, our masters, should be able to dictate what we think and do and say if we want to do business in their fiefdom.
Menino could use his bully pulpit to call on Bostonians to reject Chick-Fil-A if they come to town. He could call for social opprobrium on Chick-Fil-A and its affiliates and even on its patrons. He could organize protests and marches and letter-writing campaigns. He could carry a sign in front of Chick-Fil-A saying "BE LES BIGOT" if it opens. But if he says he'll use the coercive power of government to retaliate against Chick-Fil-A for views he doesn't like, he's totalitarian. If you support him because you agree with him (and with me) that Chick-Fil-A's stance on gays is worthy of condemnation, then you're a damned fool, and don't let me catch you whining if some other government actor retaliates against an individual or business because of a political stance you like.