It’s always easy to get people to condemn threats to free speech when the speech being threatened is speech that they like. It’s much more difficult to induce support for free speech rights when the speech being punished is speech they find repellent. But having Mayors and other officials punish businesses for the political and social views of their executives — regardless of what those views are — is as pure a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech as it gets, and beyond that, is genuinely dangerous.What exactly is Greenwald referring to? There has been quite a furor lately over some remarks made by the president of the fast food chain, Chick-fil-A. Dan Cathy told an interviewer that his company exists to a) glorify God and b) to support the "traditional" view of marriage (which, of course, does not include gay marriage). So, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has decided to retaliate. He and one of the city's aldermen (a city councilor) have made an effort "to block Chick-fil-A from expanding in Chicago."
~ from Rahm Emanuel’s Dangerous Free Speech Attack by Glenn Greenwald ~
I completely agree with Greenwald that this action is grossly inappropriate. The doctrine of separation of church and state not only means that government shouldn't favor certain religions, but it shouldn't penalize them either! In a free country, each person has the right to believe as her or she will and it is not the job of government legally to reward or punish citizens and companies for those beliefs.
If those beliefs cause someone to break a law or regulation, then the government has the right to punish the specific behavior. For example, if you believe that homosexuality is a sin and so you attack or kill each gay person you happen across, the state has the right to arrest you for your behavior. On the other hand, if you believe that homosexuality is a sin and so you decide to avoid gay people, the state has no right whatsoever to charge or imprison you for your attitudes.
As a vegetarian, there is little chance that you would find me in a Chick-fil-A restaurant. However, even if I was a meat-eater, I would now decide personally to boycott this establishment. Several years ago, the restaurant chain Olive Garden was in the news for their discriminatory practices (I don't remember WHO they were discriminating against) and, though my wife and I liked to eat there, we made the conscious decision not to do so again and we haven't since.
When a corporation holds company views that you or I find abhorrent, we can decide that they will no longer get our business. That's because each one of us is free to pick and choose where we will spend our money. Government entities too can decide where public monies will or will not be invested. But aside from these types of economic decisions, government -- which by its very nature represents people of varying viewpoints -- has no right to reward or punish particular companies for their beliefs.