Anti-Chick-fil-A retaliation would put universities in constitutional pickle

Alliance Defending Freedom letters encourage five universities to reject demands to evict Chick-fil-A
Friday, August 03, 2012

Attorney sound bite:  Matt Sharp

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Alliance Defending Freedom sent letters Friday to five universities encouraging them to reject the demands of activist groups who want Chick-fil-A restaurants to be thrown off campus. Although Alliance Defending Freedom does not represent Chick-fil-A, it sent the letters on behalf of students, faculty, and organizations who share the same religious beliefs as Chick-fil-A and who often face similar threats of religious discrimination.

The activist groups have made the demands because of Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy’s views on marriage, but the Alliance Defending Freedom letters explain that retaliation against Chick-fil-A for its president’s constitutionally protected beliefs would violate federal law.

“Every American should be free to live and do business according to their faith,” said Litigation Counsel Matt Sharp. “The First Amendment protects Chick-fil-A’s right and its president’s right to express their opinions on marriage and other political and social issues. Any retaliation against Chick-fil-A or its president based on their speech is a violation of federal law.”

The letters went to five universities which activist groups are pressuring to evict Chick-fil-A: West Virginia University, New York University, University of Southern Mississippi, University of Kansas, and University of Louisville.

“The vitriol directed against Chick-fil-A is based solely upon the recent statements by Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy that ‘We are very much supportive of the family--the biblical definition of the family unit.’ But Mr. Cathy’s statement--which is an opinion shared by the majority of Americans--is no less protected than those made by business leaders from other companies who have expressed a different opinion upon the issue of same-sex ‘marriage,’” the letters state.

The letters go on to explain that “no matter whether Chick-fil-A has a permit to operate a restaurant on your university’s campus, is leasing space in the food court, or is considered an independent contractor providing food service on behalf of the university, the First Amendment protects the company from retaliation based on its protected speech…. Not only would discriminating against Chick-fil-A be a clear violation of the First Amendment and expose the University to legal liability, but it would undermine the very lessons of free speech and tolerance that the University seeks to teach to its student body.”

Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) is an alliance-building legal ministry that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
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