By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Mayor Menino versus Chick-fil-A, Round 2

I think it’s very difficult for the city’s top elected official to go after a person, a company or some other organization without making it sound like a governmental threat.

Nevertheless, Mayor Tom Menino’s letter imploring Chick-fil-A to stay out of Boston (via Universal Hub) does a reasonably good job of getting his point across while acknowledging that he’s only expressing his personal views.

If you read between the lines, he seems to back off a bit from what he told the Boston Herald: “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

Meanwhile, Gizmodo reports that Chick-fil-A’s homophobia-induced meltdown continues.

Earlier coverage.

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  1. I understand your misgivings about Menino’s role. I understand it’s a private business, there’s the fear of a chilling effect etc. But but on the other hand, I think about how I’d feel if Chick-fil-A’s Christian owners were using their religious beliefs to target Jews instead of gays. I’d want the mayor to stand up for what’s right. There’s no “other side” to racism, anti-Semitism or homophobia.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Esther: Please see my reply to Kevin in the other thread.

  2. Mike Benedict

    A Chicago alderman is moving to block a Chik-Fil-A franchise in his ward for much the same reasons.

  3. James Craven

    Esther, it might very well be a private business, but then so are the Boy Scouts of America. If you believe a government entity should act to block a private business because of homophobic tendencies, then should the mayor also attempt to block the BSA?

  4. Matt Kelly

    And not to interject craven political motives here– because I’m with the mayor 100 percent on this one– but I can’t help but wonder whether Menino is so publicly criticizing Chick-Fil-A because he wants to get ahead of those ‘New Boston’ people arguing for a more lively city. They could give him a run for his money in the next election if he doesn’t do more like this.

  5. peter sullivan

    Why doesn’t Mayor Menino let the people of Boston decide if they want to do business with a company who’s President has different views then their own.

    If we are offenened, we can buy a chicken sandwich somewhere else.

  6. L.K. Collins

    I still don’t see the legitimacy of the Mayor implying city action based on a clear violation of the First Amendment rights of another.

    Seems rather Soviet to me.

  7. C.E. Stead

    Matt – Not so craven. Or Chicken, either. Menino has issued a statement saying – Aw shucks, I don’t know what I’m talking about, but boy I wish I could.

    Which feeds my initial political grandstanding suspicion.

    I wonder if politicians/activists of EVERY stripe ever pause to consider how these cheap efforts to score ‘points’ have a long-term deleterious effect on our community and culture.

    And for what?

  8. L.K. Collins

    Bulletin: When questioned about trying to score political points, Mayor Menino said: “Points? What are they?”

  9. Mike Benedict

    Menino doesn’t need to score points. He owns that job.

  10. Aaron Read

    What part of signing his letter “Mayor of Boston” and putting it on official city letterhead is not Menino clearly speaking as the MAYOR and instead is him merely expressing his personal views?

    He can write an editorial to the Boston Globe with near-certainty that they will print it and sign it as “Thomas Menino, speaking as a Private Citizen” and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t mind him identifying himself indirectly so that people know it’s THAT Tom Menino and not just some dude who happens to have the same name. But it’s not cool for him to some brazenly throw the weight of his office around like that.

    I’m sorry folks. I may agree with Mumbles 100% on this one, but he’s gone way over the line on this.

  11. Mike Benedict

    @Aaron, I would politely disagree. We elect people not just to enforce the laws but to provide leadership and to represent our collective point of view. They should identify outrages and report them as such, and should do so in their official capacity. Menino is correct: All he has in this case is the bully pulpit, but he darn well should use it.

    The only thing I find unsettling in all this — although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised — is that the GOP, which has rallied furiously around a rogue cop in Arizona whose anti-minority stances are reminiscent of the KKK, is now whining that Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno has “violated the First amendment rights of Chick-fil-A.” (Keep in mind Moreno hasn’t actually done anything.)

    Boo. Hoo.

  12. Mike Rice

    Perhaps it’s time to cut Mayor Menino some slack, after all to err is human to arh is pirate. What can I tell you, it’s Friday night.

  13. Aaron Read

    Mike, one man’s outrage is another man’s pillar of truth. Menino did not get 100% of every possible voter in the last election, and thus he cannot take a stance that restricts free speech (and worse, also happens to take a swipe at freedom of religion) without becoming the tyranny of the majority. The Bill of Rights isn’t there to protect those who voted for the man in office; it’s there to protect those who didn’t.

    Now granted, this isn’t really a First Amendment issue. Menino is not Congress, nor is he passing a law here. Granted, IANAL and for all I know there IS applicable case law…but either way, it’s certainly the spirit of the law that’s being messed with here. Sure, you and I happen to agree with Menino now, but what happens when Menino says he doesn’t want any sex shops of any kind in his city, and demands Good Vibrations shuts down? (well, that’s in Brookline, but never mind) Suddenly taking a moral stance starts hurting a lot of innocent people (for those who don’t know, Good Vibes is about the opposite of a sleazy sex store as you can get. Hell, Menino himself probably shops there).

  14. Mike Benedict

    @Aaron: The reason to agree with Menino has nothing to do with the product being offered and everything to do with the owner’s very public discriminatory comments. I think that’s an important distinction. It’s not even about morality, really, since the state laws already reflect the public’s belief in the rights of the GL community.

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