There’s little room for free speech in Rahm Emanuel’s America

Mercedes V. Schlapp Co-Founder, Cove Strategies
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel showed his true colors last week when he vocalized his desire to block Chick-fil-A from opening a new store in Chicago. The mayor stated that the company does not share “Chicago values” and “disrespects our fellow residents and neighbors.” His comments reflect his philosophy that government should be able to dictate how business owners should think and act.

What’s next? Will the mayor require companies that want to expand in Chicago to fill out an application asking them if their positions are aligned with the platform of the Democratic Party?

While the mayor is attempting to appease his donor base, he should not put restrictions on businesses simply because their owners disagree with him on controversial social issues. Chicago does not belong to the mayor; it belongs to all the residents of Chicago, including those who don’t share his views.

If Chick-fil-A sells food that the people like, that food should be made available for purchase. These franchise businesses create jobs and tax revenue for cities, especially in these difficult economic times. But according to the mayor, these businesses better comply with his Chicago rules — the same rules that President Obama has established at a national level.

We have seen these Chicago-Emanuel-Obama standards in the contraception mandate debate, where the overbearing federal government dictated to the Catholic Church that it was required to cover contraception despite the church’s moral stance on the issue.

Mayor Emanuel and Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno seem to have forgotten that in America we are entitled to our own beliefs, and freedom of speech and religion should remain the cornerstones of our society.

Moreno will find excuses such as traffic, congestion or discriminatory practices to make it difficult for Chick-fil-A to open more businesses in the city. In an op-ed, Moreno stated, “because of [Dan Cathy’s] ignorance, I will now deny the [building] permit.” Although he has since slightly backtracked on his statements, Moreno is already working with the Chicago Civil Rights Agenda on possible discrimination cases against Chick-fil-A. His actions will lead to frivolous lawsuits as liberals try to destroy a family-owned company whose CEO practices his Christian faith.

Moreno’s statement is a slap in the face to those who believe in traditional marriage, which is close to the majority of Americans. They would be offended by being called “ignorant” simply because their religious beliefs run contrary to those of Chicago officials.

The mayor’s remarks are also a reminder to churches, mosques and religious businesses that the left is hostile to their religious liberties. Will the mayor prohibit a black pastor who believes in traditional marriage from setting up his church in Chicago? In Mayor Emanuel’s world, the church would be “disrespecting its residents and neighbors.”

It is a slippery slope and a disturbing trend that illustrates how the government is infringing on the rights of businesses and churches to operate according to their own principles. If people don’t think a certain way in Emanuel’s America, they shouldn’t express those opinions. If they do, big government will punish them for it and liberals will call them bigots.

We need tolerance on both sides of the issue, and the government should be the grown-up in the room to help lead the discussion and allow for diverse opinions to coexist.

Mercedes V. Schlapp is co-founder of Cove Strategies in Alexandria, Virginia. She served as Director of Specialty Media in the White House under President George W. Bush.

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Mercedes V. Schlapp