What's up with Chick-fil-A bans at two airports? Reporters need to ask more questions

The popular fast-food franchise Chick- fil-A has been getting a bad rap lately, ranging from being cut out of food options at a New Jersey university to the latest insult: Being dumped from a list of concessions for Buffalo (N.Y.) and San Antonio (Texas) airports.

That’s right — in Texas, even.

These decisions have garnered react from evangelist Franklin Graham to the governor of Texas. The Buffalo decision was the most recent. According to USA Today:

The Chick-Fil-A fast-food chain has been disinvited from opening a location at the Buffalo airport, its second local snafu in two weeks.

The decision was due to the company's "long history of supporting and funding anti-LGBTQ organizations," according to New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who had fought having Chick-Fil-A at the airport…

According to advocacy group Think Progress, the chain gave $1.8 million to what it calls "discriminatory groups" in 2017, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home, and the Salvation Army, which it says "spread an anti-LGBTQ message," and teach that homosexuality is a sin.

Yes, the Salvation Army.

Here’s my first problem with that story.

ThinkProgress isn’t just a simple “advocacy group.” It’s a très left advocacy website, so let’s be a bit more forthcoming with the descriptors, folks. And if you’ve ever lived in the South (which I did for two years, recently), you would know that Chick-fil-A has cult-like status in those parts, which is why the San Antonio airport’s decision has raised hackles, to say the least. Unlike Buffalo, the airport isn’t getting away with this decision without a fight.

We’ll start with the Associated Press’ take on it all:

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ attorney general opened an investigation Thursday into San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from opening airport concession facilities due to the fast-food chain owners’ record on LGBT issues.

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the investigation in a letter to San Antonio officials and stated his office will examine whether Texas’ second-largest city violated state law with the rejection. Paxton called the move “the opposite of tolerance” and a “discriminatory decision” based on the religious beliefs of the chain’s owners.

“The Constitution’s protection of religious liberty is somehow even better than Chick-fil-A’s chicken,” Paxton said in the letter. “Unfortunately, I have serious concerns that both are under assault at the San Antonio airport.”

The attorney general’s action comes after the San Antonio City Council voted 6-4 last week to block Chick-fil-A from getting a new concession contract at the airport. The councilmembers voted instead for city staff to find another company for the contract.

There’s been all sorts of reaction to this. One city councilman apologized to the franchise for the council’s decision. A San Antonio Express-News columnist (who applauded the decision) said part of the problem was the chain’s closed-on-Sundays policy.

(Mayor Ron Nirenberg) dispassionately defended the council’s action as a sound business move. Because Chick-fil-A closes (for religious reasons ) every Sunday, Nirenberg argued the city would lose 15 percent of its revenue from that location. Besides, the company isn’t local.

When asked by WOAI-TV whether the controversial Chick-fil-A vote wasn’t, in fact, about LGBTQ rights, Nirenberg showed obvious discomfort.

“No, the issue is making sure we have a restaurant that’s going to serve seven days a week,” Nirenberg said. “Because travelers come in every day of the week and we know that 15 percent of volume in the airport happens on a Sunday.”

However, the columnist might be interested to know of this piece on entrepreneur.com about how the not-on-Sundays policy has added to Chick-fil-A’s bottom line. You heard that right.

KBTX, a TV station in Bryan, Texas, say the locals thought the whole thing ridiculous.

It's a move customers in College Station say they're surprised by.

"Because a lot of times you've heard about Chick-fil-A's stance on everything and the fact that they're actually doing something about it now is shocking to me and in a place like Texas," said Madison Brast, a College Station resident.

"The fact that people of all religions come to Chick-fil-A because of their quality food and customer service I think that would uphold the reasoning of why it should stay there, so it's kind of shocking and interesting to hear," said Heather Gonzalez, a College Station resident.

All this makes for some interesting journalism. I wish someone could do some background checking to find out what goes into approving airport concessions and why such a decision reached the level of the San Antonio city council. Airports are usually controlled by port authorities.

Also, I don’t think Chick-fil-A’s opponents are making these arguments in a vacuum. Is there some group working behind the scenes to make sure the franchise is shut out of every major U.S. airport? There are a few too many coincidences going on here.

In the eventuality that more airports may try banning Chick-fil-A, I suggest that reporters bone up on whether it is religious discrimination to ban a business based on the religious convictions and charitable actions of its owner. There are all sorts of legal scholars that would probably be happy to be quoted about this.

This is obviously an issue that gets a lot of media riled up (see the accompanying New York magazine tweet), so any article on this is bound to get lots of hits. Go for it, folks.

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