If you and your family visited a Chick-fil-A restaurant last Wednesday or Friday, your kids got a free, first-hand civics lesson.
I'm always searching for teachable moments for parents, those moments when you can have a great conversation with your kids on issues and values that are important. The Chick-fil-A restaurant in South Philly that I visited Wednesday had a huge crowd, and was a great spot to talk about diversity of thought, freedom of speech and voting with your wallet.
In our country, "freedom" is part of our national vocabulary: freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the free-enterprise system.
If you do not agree with Dan Cathy's comments on gay marriage, you are free to tell the world you disagree with them. You are free to take your business elsewhere. You are free to encourage others to boycott the company. That is your right.
Equally, citizens are free to patronize Chick-fil-A restaurants for whatever reason they want, whether it's to show support or if they just happen to like their chicken sandwiches. It's their choice.
What was particularly chilling were the veiled and not-so-veiled threats of elected officials. As far as we know, Chick-fil-A is in compliance with all local laws, regulations and ordinances. There is no evidence that it has discriminated against employees or denied service to customers.
In Chicago, an alderman has vowed to block a proposed Chick-fil-A restaurant in his district. Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed him up, saying, "Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values."
It's ironic that the same Mayor Emanuel warmly welcomes Louis Farrakhan, whose hatred and hostility toward Israel and Jews is legendary. Farrakhan even directed homophobic criticism at President Obama a few months ago when the president announced that he supported gay marriage.
Our local government bully, Councilman Jim Kenney, whipped off a letter to Cathy and told Chick-fil-A to "take a hike," and warned them that when Philadelphia City Council returned from its summer hiatus, he'd introduce a resolution "condemning you and your company for this expression of intolerance and hate."
It's pathetic pandering and grandstanding. Based on Kenney's logic, Chick-fil-A poses a bigger threat to Philadelphia than the countless nuisance bars that are a danger to many neighborhoods. When's the last time Councilman Kenney took such a public, passionate stand to shut down nuisance bars?
And let's not stop there. Instead of worrying about the personal viewpoints of a business owner, how about doing something about illegal guns, the city's crime rate and the sad state of our school system? How about enticing businesses to Philadelphia instead of scaring them away with hostile rhetoric?
What might parents tell their kids about the mayors and Kenney? They might use this situation to explain that these politicians believe they can use government to coerce business owners to pay things like a business-privilege tax and to over-regulate in a variety of ways. Is it any wonder that they now would try to use government to tell a business owner how to think and how to speak?
Kenney, of course, is the architect of the campaign to get Joey Vento to remove his sign asking people to speak English when ordering at Geno's. To him, disagreement or diversity of thought and expression always seems to equal hatred. This public arbitrator of civility, however, doesn't seem to follow his own rules when tweeting to taxpayers.
If you remember, Councilman Kenney is so arrogant, he paid a company called ChatterBlast $28,800 to act as his Twitter service. I've read many of his tweets and we were robbed.
I love the defense that ChatterBlast's co-founder Matthew Ray offered to the Daily News when he said, "I think everyone knows that $28,000 isn't a huge amount." In a city where the median family income is around $36,000, it's an insulting snapshot of the attitude of guys like Kenney who can be this wasteful yet attack businesses that are trying to bring jobs to Philadelphia.
I wonder if Councilman ChatterBlast has checked on the opinions and groups that ChatterBlast supports? Has he gotten their positions on gay marriage? And if Councilman ChatterBlast has an iPad, an iPhone and iPod, or a Mac computer, how come he has not demanded that the Apple store in Center City be shut down? After all, Apple's use of child labor in China and harsh working conditions have been well-documented.
That's why the message of Chick-fil-A appreciation is lost on people like Kenney. It wasn't about gay marriage or even a pushback against those who were boycotting the company because of Cathy's remarks and the organizations that he funds. It was about opposing the arrogance and bullying of intolerant municipal dictators.
I wonder if Kenney will have the courage to challenge significant members of the black clergy in Philadelphia who oppose gay marriage? Will he oppose some Muslim groups that are opposed to homosexual rights? Kenney is a Catholic, and I wonder if he will tweet that Archbishop Chaput is a hater for opposing gay marriage?
Councilman ChatterBlast has ducked me when offered a chance to debate me on Fox 29. He has hidden when asked to appear on my radio show. He fires away at me only in his Twitter bunker.
Philly values do not have room for hate, nor do they have room for cowardice. So Councilman ChatterBlast, why won't you meet me and tell me and your other constituents about your plans for the resolution you're drafting?
Let's meet at Chick-fil-A. Don't worry, I'll buy.