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Pastor: Blocking Chick-Fil-A Is ‘Anti-Religious, Agenda-Driven Bullying’

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Rev. Charles Lyons

Rev. Charles Lyons is calling the attempt to block a new Chick-Fil-A in Chicago “anti-religious, agenda-driven bullying.” (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — A Logan Square neighborhood pastor used the controversy over a proposal to build a new Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Chicago as part of his sermon Sunday, asking those opposed to the new franchise to reverse course.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports, the Rev. Charles Lyons of the Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Blvd. was animated as he read a letter to his diverse congregation that he intends to send to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Waelti reports

“Their money, their business, their taxes are not wanted? Not needed?” he said.

As to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s comments that “Chick-Fil-A’s values are not Chicago values,” Lyons said, “This could easily be seen as anti-religious, agenda-driven bullying.”

Lyons calls Chick-Fil-A a poster child for practicing respect for its employees and customers, and spoke of the day when what he calls the “thought police” would come to his own church.

“We will meet them at the door, respectfully, unflinchingly holding a copy of the sacred scriptures in one hand and a copy of the U.S. Constitution in the other,” Lyons said.

The local controversy about Chick-Fil-A began when Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) said last week that he would be blocking Chick-Fil-A from opening its second Chicago city location in his ward, in the 2500 block of North Elston Avenue, because of the anti-gay philosophy articulated by the company’s president.

“I’m not going to sit on the sidelines, and allow them to come in, when I know in my heart that they believe in discriminating against gay people,” Moreno said Wednesday.

Moreno has said he also has concerns about the traffic a drive-through Chick-Fil-A would create in the ward, but his most vocal objection to date has been Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy’s public comments opposing same-sex marriage.

The comments were published last week in an article on the Christian news site Baptist Press.

The article notes that some have opposed Chick-Fil-A’s “support for the traditional family,” and goes on to quote Cathy as saying, “Guilty as charged.”

Cathy is quoted further in the July 16 Baptist Press article: “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Cathy further expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage in an interview last month on the radio program “The Ken Coleman Show.”

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say ‘we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,’ and I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about,” Cathy said on the radio program.

Mayor Emanuel spoke in defense of Moreno’s stance soon afterward.

“Chick-Fil-A’s values are not Chicago values,” the mayor said. “They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors, and our family members. And if you’re going to be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect the Chicago values.”

It was not just the published comments that reportedly gave Moreno doubts about Chick-Fil-A. The Chicago Phoenix reports he been in talks with Chick-Fil-A for several months about the company’s policies, as had the gay rights group the Civil Rights Agenda.

The group’s executive director, Anthony Martinez, said Moreno had “already known that (Chick-Fil-A was) discriminatory against LGBT folks,” and the alderman had asked the company to prove otherwise “and of course they said that they’re not discriminatory,” the Phoenix reported.

Moreno and the Civil Rights Organization went on to demand that the company change its corporate policies to ensure an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination rule, which would include diversity and cultural competency training, benefits for people in domestic partnerships and civil unions, culturally-sensitive ads in the LGBT community, transgender health benefits, and a rejection of activities that would undermine equality, the Phoenix reported.

Chick-Fil-A told Moreno and the Civil Rights Agenda that they no longer planned to make political statements about gay rights or donate to anti-gay groups, the Phoenix reported. That came before Cathy’s comments.

Moreno has received kudos from many supporters for his stance against Chick-Fil-A, but opponents claim he is violating the company’s First Amendment rights. On Thursday, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) who chairs the City Council Zoning Committee, said Thursday if Moreno’s only objection to Chick-Fil-A is its opposition to same-sex marriage, he’d have to override Moreno’s “aldermanic privilege” regarding zoning for the restaurant.

Chick-Fil-A currently operates only one location within the Chicago city limits, at 30 E. Chicago Ave.

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