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Chick-Fil-A Debacle In Texas Raises Concerns About Corporate Free Speech


The San Antonio City Council voted in March to block the opening of a Chick-fil-A at the San Antonio International Airport because of the fast food company’s alleged “legacy of anti-LGBT behavior.” Four months later, the state of Texas passed a bill protecting religious freedom and individual expression.

The city council’s 6-4 vote came one day after Think Progress found newly released tax forms that showed Chick-fil-A (CFA) donated an excess of $1.8 million in 2017 to faith-based organizations, or as ThinkProgress claims, groups “with a record of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.” The groups that received these donations include the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and the Salvation Army.

The Texas Senate Bill 1978, a “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, protects individuals’ “religious beliefs and moral convictions, including beliefs and convictions regarding marriage” from “adverse” government actions.

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott tweeted out last week, “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.”

The bill opposes San Antonio Councilman Roberto Treviño’s statement in March when he said, “San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

A spokeswoman for CFA told NBC News that CFA wished to have been given the opportunity to “clarify misperceptions” about itself before the council’s decision.

“We agree with the council member that everyone should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A,” she said. “In fact, we have welcomed everyone in San Antonio into our 32 local stores for more than 40 years.”

Speaking about the ThinkProgress report, the spokeswoman told NBC News, “To suggest our giving was done to support a political or non-inclusive agenda is inaccurate and misleading,” she said.

Abbott’s bill has been criticized in light of a 2017 Texas law barring state agencies from contracting with Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS).

“Any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy,” Abbott had said. “Texas is not going to do business with any company that boycotts Israel.”

While speech and donations are considered free expression, actions are expressive as well. Zuri Davis warns in Reason that when governments wade into the waters of determining appropriate expression, “Taxpayers find their dollars… supporting a cause with which they fundamentally disagree.”

Abbott was correct to preserve CFA’s donations as religious liberties and rights of expression, but the principle of freedom must be guarded to insure all opinions are protected.