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Freedom For All*

*technicalities may apply

Remember when Newt Gingrich argued that “there should be no mosque near ground zero so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia?” Should we have no Chick-Fil-As near the Freedom Trail until the chicken sandwich chain opens on the sabbath? Mayors Thomas Menino and Rahm Emanuel believe they can obstruct a private business from locating in their cities because of the anti-gay stance of Chick-Fil-A’s Southern Baptist president.

Predictably, many conservatives are rallying around Chick-Fil-A and many progressives are cheering for the mayors. As objectionable as Dan Cathy’s discriminatory political views are, blocking private enterprise for political speech is a disturbing and anti-constitutional use of state power.  Some defenders argue that Emanuel and Menino are just voicing their opinions. Nope: Menino said, “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies.” In Chicago, the mayor and a local alderman are working to block the chain’s expansion by denying them permits.

Somehow each political side doesn’t notice that punishing groups for political or religious views they disagree with goes against our 1st Amendment. When Gingrich, Palin, and others cheered every effort to block the ground-zero mosque, progressives were happy to object. As the conservative American Center for Law and Justice sought to block Park51 on legal technicalities many of the same people now supporting the mayors smugly embraced the 1st Amendment. Of course, now that marriage equality supporters are pushing to block a business with evangelical Christian views, conservatives are back to loving the constitution.

Park51 opponents don’t need to go to the mosque. Marriage equality supporters don’t need to eat mediocre chicken sandwiches. Our government basing business licenses on political and religious litmus tests should frighten everyone.

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Categories: constitutional rights
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