April 16, 2019
Chick-fil-A may cater, but not to the demands San Antonio liberals care about. Now, three weeks into the city council's decision to ban the restaurant from the local airport, Texas conservatives know: this case for their religious liberty bill was made to order.
"Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport," City Councilman Roberto Treviño told the media after the council's 6-4 vote to boot the chicken chain from opening a shop in the terminal. Why? Because the owners dare to donate to charities like the Salvation Army. "Ridiculous!" Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) responded on Twitter. "That's not Texas," he argued.
Unfortunately, the state's conservatives worry, that will be Texas if something isn't done to protect religious freedom. "With this decision," Treviño insisted, the council "reaffirmed the work [San Antonio] has done to become a champion of inclusion." Until, of course, that "inclusion" applies to people who support natural marriage and sexuality. Where's the equality for them? That's a question the Lone Star State is trying to answer with the introduction of HB 1035, the Free to Believe Act and the First Amendment Defense Act.
Chick-fil-A may be a private company, but that doesn't mean it has to surrender its beliefs at the dining room door. And the same goes for any American trying to live out their faith in the public square. The San Antonio City Council thinks it can't, "in good conscience," sign an airport agreement with a business owned by Christians. But isn't that exactly what this debate is about -- conscience? Just because the Cathy family owns a national restaurant chain doesn't mean they're excluded from the First Amendment. Regardless of what liberals say, religious freedom isn't just for churches. It's for every business, wedding vendor, adoption agency, charity, doctor -- every citizen. And that's what HB 1035 is hoping to remind Texans.
"We're waking up in an era where Christian faith, specifically, seems to be under attack," said state Sen. Charles Perry (R). In the current political climate, he's worried Christians can't practice their faith openly without facing consequences -- including the loss of their jobs and livelihood. Under the Free to Believe Act, government officials can't punish Texans for thinking differently than the radical Left. That's just "a license to discriminate," LGBT activists argue.
Not true, Republicans like Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (Texas) fired back. No one is trying to create a religious excuse for businesses to turn people away. No believer I know would want that -- let alone lobby for it. As even Chick-fil-A has said, everyone should feel welcome at its restaurant. This debate has never been about Christians discriminating against anyone -- it's about stopping the government from discriminating against them!
Even in some of the more high-profile wedding vendor cases, where the Left is trying to paint Christians as intolerant monsters who want to slam the door shut on same-sex couples, you'll find that -- to a person -- each shop owner was more than happy to sell the activists something off their shelves. In fact, Barronnelle Stutzman of Arlene's Flowers considered the man who sued her to be one of her best customers. "I knew he was in a relationship with a man and he knew I was a Christian. But that never clouded the friendship for either of us or threatened our shared creativity -- until he asked me to design something special to celebrate his upcoming wedding. If all he'd asked for were prearranged flowers, I'd gladly have provided them. If the celebration were for his partner's birthday, I'd have been delighted to pour my best into the challenge. But as a Christian, weddings have a particular significance."
In Chick-fil-A's case, the Left's overreaction is almost comical. The Cathy family hasn't done any overt lobbying on natural marriage for years. In fact, they've intentionally backed away from taking a stand on issues of biblical morality -- yet still, they're a target. That ought to show everyone that there's just no appeasing the Left. Simply being a Christian in the workforce -- even a polite and politically silent one -- is enough to draw the liberals' wrath.
But the Democrats' new terrain, where your personal views disqualify you from participating in society, is a dangerous precedent. If liberals choose not to eat Chick-fil-A, that's their right. Just like it's our right not to shop at Target until they stop putting women and children in danger with their bathroom policies. What isn't our decision -- or theirs -- is to exclude these businesses from the market altogether. If you agree, join our friends from Texas Values in Wednesday's Save Chick-fil-A Day! Come to the state capitol for the House hearing on the Free to Believe Act, and then drive-through your local chain on the way home. Help Texas leaders show the country that there's always an appetite for real religious freedom!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.