Archbishop of Chicago Accuses Emanuel of McCarthyism Over Chick-fil-A

Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago who has previously compared gay pride parades to the Ku Klux Klan, is accusing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel of McCarthyism over the Chick-fil-A saga. Via the JTA, George wrote at the Archdiocese of Chicago’s blog:

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.”

That from the good Cardinal who once said, “You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.” Cardinal George subsequently apologized for that remark, but only because it hurt gay and lesbian people he knows, not because it suggested infringing on anyone’s First Amendment rights. He apologized under pressure, after having previously defended the statement, claiming that the gay pride parade was reminiscent of the Klan’s anti-Catholicism because the parade route happened to pass a Catholic parish during morning services.

Emanuel was wrong* to try to restrict Chick-fil-A’s access to required city permits because of Dan Cathy’s political and religious views. But George, in his hyperbolic accusations of Emanuel’s intent, performs his own twisting of the Constitution:

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. Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.

There’s an embedded fallacy there, of course, that gay marriage “undermine[s] the nature of marriage,” and that it’s somehow constitutionally impossible to grant same-sex marriage rights and protect religious freedom. But then George does some more verbal gymnastics to try to claim that granting equal rights to gay and lesbian couples somehow constitutes an imposition of “state religion” on religious opponents of same-sex marriage—a bizarre formulation of the Establishment Clause. He concludes:

Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to “marriage” against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice. The State’s attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile “civil union” as citizens.

Marriage equality doesn’t infringe on the rights of people who oppose it. Basing building permits on whether elected officials agree with the political or religious positions of the building owner does infringe on constitutionally protected rights to free speech. George is conflating these two things to imagine a “defining moment” for what he contends is a society under the thumb of an anti-religious government. Emanuel is turning out to be the best gift religious conservatives could hope for here: evidence that their claims that the government is punishing them for their religious beliefs them are real.

CLARIFICATION: I should have said Emanuel was wrong to suggest he’d support blocking Chick-Fil-A. Yet the confusion over what he really meant, in light of Alderman Moreno’s statements, will only fuel suspicion about his intentions — and ultimately his role. While an Emanuel spokesperson has told Fox News that “he did not say that he would block or play any role in the company opening a new restaurant here,” and “If they meet all the usual requirements, then they can open their restaurant, but their values aren’t reflective of our city,” the mayor still insists that he has “no regrets” about his comments on the matter: “[T]he 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.” So he’s saying he has no regrets about saying: “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values. They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.” (emphasis mine)