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Smart Bombs: Mayors ruffle First Amendment

Imagine Spokane Mayor David Condon announcing that a particular business would not be licensed in the city because the owner’s liberal beliefs did not reflect “Spokane values.” It would be a clear violation of the First Amendment. The backlash would be resounding.

And yet many liberals are cheering leaders in Boston and Chicago over announcements that the Chick-fil-A fast-food chain would be barred from their cities because of the owner’s conservative views on gay marriage. In an interview with Baptist Press, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy stated, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.”

A Chicago alderman responded by saying he would block the business from opening an outlet. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel jumped in, saying the chain didn’t reflect “Chicago values.” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he would deny the chain a business license, and then came to his senses: “I make mistakes all the time.” But he kept up the rhetoric. Emanuel eventually walked back his comments, saying he never intended to prohibit the chain from doing business.

Same-sex couples in most parts of the country have been told they can’t have equal rights because their views on marriage don’t reflect “American values” or “Christian values.” Now liberal mayors are adopting the same language, which glosses over considerable differences of opinion. It doesn’t help that many liberals have been too chicken to register their disapproval.

There is no defense for rejecting business licenses based on utterances. If a business is violating civil rights or labor laws, then pursue them on those grounds. Chick-fil-A’s support of social conservatism isn’t a secret. It gives money to those causes. It’s closed on Sundays. Don’t like it? Don’t eat there. I strongly disagree with Cathy’s message on gay marriage, but I don’t need the government’s help. I can take it from here.

I’m sure there are conservatives who avoid Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream because of the company’s support of social justice issues. When Vermont legalized gay marriage, the chain temporarily changed its Chubby Hubby flavor to Hubby Hubby and pictured two men on the label getting married. What if a mayor responded by blocking a Ben & Jerry’s business license? Wouldn’t liberals mention the First Amendment?

What’s especially maddening is that it’s safe for mayors ensconced in deep blue cities to act like this, but it harms the fight for gay rights where the issue is a toss-up or an uphill climb. Opponents of Washington state’s gay rights law often invoke a slippery slope in which they are ultimately punished for their religious beliefs. As the law is written, that concern is overwrought. But here are big-city mayors acting just as they fear.

While I support their right to free speech, I wish they’d shut up.

Long Distance Runaround. La Salle University, the one that used to virtually reside in Louisiana, seemed to have solved the problem of high tuition. It had one “educator” for every 5,000 students. Papers were graded by weighing them. You have to admit that would keep down costs. My guess is that former Stockton police Chief Blair Ulring paid a lot less than typical students seeking advanced degrees, though “summa cum laude” probably had to be “added to the cart” before checking out.

Other cost-saving measures included granting credits based on life experience. Students had plenty of time for life experiences since there didn’t appear to be much course work.

That’s not to say I don’t have questions about this innovative form of distance learning. For instance, how did La Salle’s computer servers handle homecoming?

Death panelS. We don’t have a revenue problem, conservatives say. Just gotta cut spending. Now researchers are telling us the obvious: The expansion of Medicaid saves lives. Yet, some states balk at expanding coverage to those with a revenue problem. It’s a shame that in these low-tax times we don’t have the money to save more lives. Guess we’ll just continue to ration care instead.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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