Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Of “Chicago Values,” Chicken, the Cardinal, Dead Fish, and Pigs

As Rob Vischer referenced last week (here and here), Chicago’s Mayer Rahm said that he supported Alderman Joe Moreno’s plans to deny Chick-fil-A’s application for a license to open a restaurant in his ward in the City of Chicago.

Moreno acknowledged that individuals like Chick-fil’A’s president Dan Cathy are entitled to their opinions, but warned ominously that “[t]here are consequences for freedom of speech (and) in this case the consequences are . . . you’re not going to have your first free-standing restaurant in Chicago.”  At a press conference Emanuel expressed his support for this saying that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.  They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors, and our family members.”  (See here and the video clip here).

Emanuel is well known as a crass political bully.  The former advisor to President Clinton, former Illinois congressman and former chief-of-staff to President Obama famously earned the nickname “Dead Fish” for sending a dead fish to a political pollster who delivered his polling results in an untimely fashion (see here and here) imitating the famous scene in The Godfather marking Luca Brasi’s death (see here).

Still, Emanuel is nothing if not politically savvy.  So, over the weekend, his press secretary “clarified” his remarks.   Notwithstanding the apparent meaning of Emanuel’s comments, she insisted that  “[t]he Mayor simply said the CEO did not share Chicago’s values.  He did not say that he would block or play any role in the company opening a new restaurant here.”

Still, when Emanuel was personally given the opportunity to walk-back his comments at another press conference today, “Rahmbo” (as he is sometimes called by friend and foe alike) decided to dig in with both heels.  When asked if he regretted his earlier comments he stood fast (see here).

 “No. I don’t” regret it, the mayor said under questioning at an unrelated jobs announcement.

“And the simple reason is, when it comes to values, there’s a policy as it relates to gay marriage. The values of our city are ones that welcome and recognize that and I will continue to fight for that.”

Yesterday, Chicago’s Cardinal Archbishop. Francis George, responded to Moreno's and Emanuel’s comments (here) and the question of same-sex marriage – the issue that gave rise to the controversy in the first instance.  George clearly sees the genuinely totalitarian implications of Emanuel’s remarks.

Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago.  I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval.  Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city?  Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it?  I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.”

The Cardinal goes to argue that “[n]either Church nor state invented marriage, and neither can change its nature.”  Rather, it “exists because human nature comes in two complementary sexes: male and female.”  He concludes by noting that:

People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life.  The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage.  This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages.  Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6).  Was Jesus a bigot?  Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan?  Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society?  One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free.

One might add that currently, same-sex marriage is not legal in the State of Illinois.  That is, the law prohibits the very thing that Emanuel says defines Chicago’s “values.”  Indeed, last year Governor Quinn signed legislation making civil unions available to same-sex couples expressly with the idea that the State was not recognizing same-sex marriage.  Given Emanuel’s comments, are we to conclude that the State of Illinois is “un-Chicagoan” and that the majority of people in the State who support traditional marriage are also unwelcome in the City?

Thankfully, at least some understand that the intolerance expressed by Mayor Dead Fish represents a serious threat to the freedoms of belief and expression that traditional liberals have long cherished.  (See here and here).

Liberal push-back aside, Pundit & Pundette is left to wonder (here) where is the outrage?  Isn’t the measured response to Emanuel’s comments vastly understated?  Shouldn’t the response instead be “How dare you threaten to use governmental power to punish people for their beliefs – not their practices, not the practices of their businesses – but the beliefs of those with whom you disagree!”  Outrage is indeed in order.

Given his hardball tactics, some may think “Dead Fish” is an appropriate nickname for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  But his comments concerning Chick-fil-A suggest that he is really a pig who walks on two legs (see here).  

N.B.  The location of the first and so-far only existing Chick-fil-A in Chicago, is on the ground level of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.  All are welcome.


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