State and Nation Business

Chick-fil-A inspires religious freedom law

A Chick-fil-A restaurant is seen in 2012 in Atlanta.
A Chick-fil-A restaurant is seen in 2012 in Atlanta.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed into law what’s known as the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, which bars governments from taking “adverse” steps against companies or individuals based on their religious beliefs or actions.

“No business should be discriminated against simply because its owners donate to a church, The Salvation Army or other religious organization. Texas protects religious liberty,” Abbott tweeted Thursday night.

The move stems from the city of San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from an airport concession contact because of the fast-food chain’s “legacy of anti-LGBT behavior.” Critics saw the move as a violation of the First Amendment.

Founded in 1946 by devout Baptist S. Truett Cathy, the Atlanta-based company that’s closed on Sundays has been under fire since 2012, when his son, Dan Cathy, told the Baptist Press he supported “biblical definition of the family unit.” That same year, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act. In 2013, the court struck down a key part of the law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman for the purpose of federal law.

The Chick-fil-A Foundation has donated to organizations that are seen by some as anti-LGBTQ or oppose rights such as same-sex marriage. But the company has said it did not support these organizations with the intention of “suppressing a group of people.”

Amid boycotts and pushback from LGBTQ groups, Chick-fil-A has grown into the nation’s third-largest restaurant chain, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Its $10.46 billion in U.S. sales trails only McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Senate Bill 1978 was introduced after the San Antonio City Council voted in March to reject a Chick-fil-A restaurant at the municipal airport, according to the meeting minutes.

“The inclusion of Chick-fil-A as a national brand tenant is something that I cannot support,” council member Roberto Treviño said during the March 21 meeting. “The heart of the LGBTQ community is in District 1, and the community has come together to voice its disapproval of this proposal because it includes a company with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

A week later, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the city’s representatives that he was opening an investigation into the council’s decision and asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to do the same, according to a news release.

“The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” Paxton said in his letter to San Antonio’s City Council. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.”

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