Blog Post

Cardinal George on Chick-fil-A and Chicago Values

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

In a hard-hitting column published on the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George reminds Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel and others who want to restrict the establishment of pro-marriage Chick-fil-A restaurants that it is not the role of government to dictate "values" to the population.

The Cardinal was responding to recent comments made by Emmanuel that because the owners of Chick-fil-A do not embrace same-sex marriage, they should not be permitted to open more restaurants in his city.

"Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values," Emmanuel said last week. "They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment, since it would be empty."

Perhaps he thought the comment would score him a few political points, but when speaking from a city whose value system produced the likes of Al Capone, it did nothing more than make him look silly. The mayor of a city known for its crime, corruption and spectacular murder rate is hardly qualified to sit on such a high horse. And by the end of the week, national ridicule knocked him off that horse and forced him to back down and allow a new restaurant to open. But not before the Cardinal was able to take him to task for the blunder.

"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," the Cardinal writes. "I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval."

He goes on to ask what should become of those who don't embrace the value system approved by the government. "Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?  Is the City Council going to set up a 'Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities' and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it?"

The Cardinal then tackles the issue at hand - the espousal of “gender-free marriage.” 

"Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus.  Are Americans so exceptional that we are free to define 'marriage' (or other institutions we did not invent) at will?  What are we re-defining?

"It might be good to put aside any religious teaching and any state laws and start from scratch, from nature itself, when talking about marriage.  Marriage existed before Christ called together his first disciples two thousand years ago and well before the United States of America was formed two hundred and thirty six years ago. Neither Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature."

Marriage exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes of male and female, he explains.

"The sexual union of a man and woman is called the marital act because the two become physically one in a way that is impossible between two men or two women.  Whatever a homosexual union might be or represent, it is not physically marital.  Gender is inextricably bound up with physical sexual identity; and 'gender-free marriage' is a contradiction in terms, like a square circle."

It is what it is, the Cardinal says. 

"Both Church and state do, however, have an interest in regulating marriage.  It is not that religious marriage is private and civil marriage public; rather, marriage is a public institution in both Church and state.  The state regulates marriage to assure stability in society and for the proper protection and raising of the next generation of citizens.  The state has a vested interest in knowing who is married and who is not and in fostering good marriages and strong families for the sake of society."

This latest bullying campaign by the anti-bullying crowd seems to be tripping over its own hypocrisy once again.

As Family Research Council President Tony Perkins asked rhetorically on Twitter, "Could you imagine the outrage if a mayor in TX decided to block a Starbucks from opening in her town b/c of their support of SSM [same-sex marriage]?"

The negative publicity does not appear to have hurt Chick-fil-A. In fact, a variety of supportive petition campaigns and "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Days" has resulted in more business for some restaurants rather than less. One new restaurant in Forest Hill, Maryland had 200 people camping out in front of the doors last week waiting for it to open, with the first 100 served set to receive free meals for a year.

The company will not - and should not - back down. In a recent statement, it said that the company's tradition is to "treat every person with honor, dignity and respect -- regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender" and that it will continue to apply its "biblically-based principles" to their business model.

The next Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day is tomorrow, August 1, launched by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

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