Acton Institute Powerblog

The Denver City Council’s Despicable Disregard for the First Amendment

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chickfilaIf you want to sell chicken sandwiches as the Denver Airport you need to check your First Amendment rights at the gate.

That seems to be the message sent by the Denver City Council to Chick-fil-A, a fast-food chain that is seeking to open a store at the Denver International Airport. The Council is considering turning away the popular franchise because the company promotes a Christian ethic in their business dealings. This offends the Council who is worried about how it will affect LGBT rights.

No one is really concerned that Chick-fil-A will flout the city’s nondiscrimination laws and refuse to hire or serve the LGBT community. Chick-fil-A has never in the past discriminated against gays or lesbians and is certainly unlikely to start doing so now. So what is the council’s concern? That Chick-fil-A executives may express their religious beliefs or that the company may use their profits in ways the council member’s find inappropriate:

Robin Kniech, the council’s first openly gay member, said she was most worried about a local franchise generating “corporate profits used to fund and fuel discrimination.” She was first to raise Chick-fil-A leaders’ politics during a Tuesday committee hearing.


Ten of the 13 members attended Tuesday’s meeting, and none rose to defend Chick-fil-A, although some didn’t weigh in.

“We can do better than this brand in Denver at our airport, in my estimation,” new member Jolon Clark said.

The behavior of the city council needs to be called out for what it is: anti-religious bigotry. This is unacceptable behavior, for the government officials are misusing their power to impose their views on citizens.

As the Denver Post article notes, “At the committee’s next meeting, Sept. 1, city attorneys likely will brief the committee behind closed doors on legal considerations affecting the decision.” Perhaps at that meeting the lawyers can read the U.S. Constitution to the council members and explain to them how they don’t have the authority to trample on the First Amendment rights of their fellow Americans.

In the meantime, any residents of Denver who care about religious liberty should contact their council members and tell them that such un-American behavior by elected officials will not be tolerated.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Nan

    So put a Planned Parenthood right there. They only chop up babies.

  • Jason

    Isn’t this the epitome of hipocracy. Christian bakeries are sued into bankruptcy for not wanting to be a part of something forbidden by their religion yet LGBT activists can use a government agency to discriminate against a Christian owned business.

  • Jason

    Well said.

  • One f

    Welcome to the new normal of the Democratic Party; Liberal Fascism.

  • cc

    LGBTaliban strikes again

  • hoosier_bob

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see where there is a violation of the First Amendment. In an article alleging that government action violates the First Amendment, is it too much to expect some articulation of a legal argument? Apparently it is.

    • Ryan Serrato

      Seriously? You’re joking right? A sitting council member says they should reject due to the company’s execs religious views and the organizations it donates to and you don’t see this as a First Ammendment issue? Are you able to comprehend what the 1st guards against? Tell me you’re joking.

  • TiranuSaurus

    Liberalism is the real definition of Anti-American.

  • ScienceABC123

    Translation: “We are tolerant of all points of view, as long as they’re ours.”

  • libh8er

    We live in a post constitutional America now. Just a few judges is all it takes to make objections to homosexuality a crime punishable by jail or fine, like many other “Western” countries like Canada. Five Judges overturned every state that voted to maintain traditional marriage. Not one state voted in favor of homosexual marriage. The Denver city council is emboldened by the new left wing fascism sweeping thru the country.

  • Goldcoaster

    I guess they missed the HUMUNGOUS crowds at CFA after the last gay rights brou-haha.

  • Stratosåurus®

    ‘Perhaps at that meeting the lawyers can read the U.S. Constitution to
    the council members and explain to them how they don’t have the
    authority to trample on the First Amendment rights of their fellow

    Wait for the thunder as millions of flying pigs take wing….

  • waynesteapartyworld

    If I were Speaker of the U.S. House, would cut off Federal funds for any city or state that discriminated against Christians in this way.

  • notfondoflibs

    Since when do the rights of the Gay/Lesbian community take precedence over the rights of the travelling public to exercise their free market choices relative to buying a sandwich at Chick-fil-A, McDonalds, or Burger King? The Denver City Council should be ashamed for even addressing this issue. If there is space at Denver International Airport, then it ought to be offered to Chick-fil-A or any other business that can pay the lease. Apparently, turning down revenue to make a political point is more important to creeps like Robin Kniech than providing a first class airport facility. Are all of the Denver City Council’s decisions going to be made based on whether a decision benefits/harms the LGBT crowd?

    • ElrondPA

      This is actually overstating the case for the LGBT side. There are no “rights” for them to exercise in precedence over the rights of the traveling public and the owners of Chick-Fil-A. There is no right to muzzle someone you disagree with, which is exactly what they’re trying to do.

  • Mr. Hidebound

    Denver, isn’t that where they recall 2nd A violators? Obviously, your work is far from done!

  • J. C. Smith

    Denver’s acts are despicable.

  • nonnamous99

    Whether you support Chik-Fil-A or not (I don’t, never spent a dime there and never will), government, including the Denver City Council, cannot punish a business for their public statements or religious beliefs.

  • Uncle Dave

    Imagine for a moment, that this business were owned by a family of another religion. One that actually kills people for being gay. What if this business were owned by a Muslim family. I would bet money that no one in Denver would ask a question, it would sail right through…

    I feel so very sad for my old home town. I am happy that I moved to Florida 30 years ago.

  • Mikey0

    The next step, obviously, is to close the remaining Chick-Fil-A’s for the same reasons.

  • Greg

    “We can do better than this brand in Denver at our airport, in my estimation,” new member Jolon Clark said.

    No, actually Jolon, you can’t. Please continue to enjoy your McDonald’s and whatever other crappy junk foods you offer there. Denver isn’t worthy of a CFA.