CORTMAN: Chick-fil-A can’t be banned from campus over speech

First Amendment protects businessman’s opinion

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

When Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy spoke about marriage last month, he did something every American is free to do. He voiced his opinion and aired his convictions. In response, some activist groups that disagree with Mr. Cathy have demanded that Chick-fil-A restaurants be removed immediately from several university campuses.

Mr. Cathy spoke without seeking to silence those who disagreed with him in any way. Yet many of those who disagree with him not only have voiced their disagreement but also are seeking to silence him, and Chick-fil-A, while they’re at it.

To prevent this from happening, Alliance Defending Freedom sent letters focused on the First Amendment and the Supreme Court precedent supporting Chick-fil-A’s speech to four public universities that have received demands to kick Chick-fil-A off campus. This type of retaliation is not only un-American, it’s likely illegal, too.

The groups say Chick-fil-A has no right to voice a position on marriage because it is an entity rather than a person. In our letter, we remind universities that the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment “is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers.” Therefore, the text of the amendment “offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals.”

For those who don’t concern themselves with what freedoms Chick-fil-A does or doesn’t have and simply want universities to ban the restaurant from campus because they find its speech disagreeable, we point to other court rulings, including the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision, which show that government discrimination against or punishment of a corporation because of its speech violates the First Amendment.

Any attempt to shut down a Chick-fil-A restaurant via license denial or permit rejections should fail, as Supreme Court precedent clearly holds that the First Amendment prohibits retaliatory enforcement of licensing and permit regulations against a business for its protected speech activities.

Perhaps some groups understand this, so they instead attempt to silence the chicken chain based upon the entities Chick-fil-A supports financially. By taking this angle, they try to paint the restaurant into a corner with depictions that it is “anti” this or “against” that. Yet here, too, the Supreme Court has spoken, making it clear via precedent that the First Amendment protection for speech likewise extends to Chick-fil-A’s freedom to give financial support to pro-family organizations and charities if it so chooses.

In truth, no angle that has been floated for use against Chick-fil-A’s freedom of speech will stand up in a court of law.

As with speech in support of same-sex “marriage,” we don’t have to agree with it — we don’t even have to listen to it — but we do have to tolerate the speaker’s right to utter it. This is true whether the speaker is a person or a corporation, such as Google, for example, which publicly has opposed the defense of marriage. It’s no less true for Chick-fil-A, and Supreme Court precedent supports that.

It seems clear from the outpouring of support at the cash register on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day that the American people support that principle, too.

David Cortman is senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.

blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts