There’s an old expression, “more heat than light”, about issues that generate a lot of emotion or cause a great deal of controversy, but which don’t allow for a deeper understanding of principle.
And some might mistake the pop-media chatter over Chik-Fil-A, its popularity, its Christian-based business outlook, its generous Christian-based philanthropy, and the anger leveled by LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer) people towards its executives and employees, as just that set of flashpoints. But a new development in the attacks on Chik-Fil-A reveals that the controversies are important to investigate, and offer profound lessons about freedom.
On May 24, Fox News reported that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Civil Rights was investigating San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) for possible religious discrimination due to their operators’ decisions to exclude Chik-Fil-A from their terminals.
According to the agency, federally funded airports cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. "The FAA notes that federal requirements prohibit airport operators from excluding persons on the basis of religious creed from participating in airport activities that receive or benefit from FAA grant funding," it said.
Of course, this announcement comes mere days after talk radio hosts nation-wide took calls from angry listeners who had heard about SAT and BUF banning the tasty purveyors of fine food, Chick-Fil-A. And it comes just weeks after leftists expressed umbrage at the fact that, despite protests, despite attempts to demonize the company, and despite the fact that Chik-Fil-A is closed on Sundays and not open 24 hours, the restaurant chain just moved into the Number Three slot for biggest selling fast-food chain in the US.
And that Third Place comes behind McDonald’s and Starbuck’s. And since Starbuck’s is technically a coffee shop with snacks, and not a restaurant, Chik-Fil-A now is actually Number Two.
All of which enflames its detractors even more.
Hence, politicians sensitive to leftist “inclusivity” pressures respond with what the San Antonio and Buffalo Airport rulers have done – attempts to exclude Chik-Fil-A. Because nothing says “tolerant” like using government power to stop people from freely choosing whether they want to frequent a business or not.
So, as the Trump FAA begins its investigation, let’s draw some larger lessons from this controversy.
First, it might be noted that this is the “FAA’s Office of Civil Rights” – an office that shouldn’t exist because the FAA isn’t sanctioned by the Constitution.
The way the FAA rose to power was through a series of political ploys that began in the 1920s shortly after the United States Postal Service (that word “service” evidently used to mock us) started air-mail deliveries, and created what were called “Lighted Air Routes” – east-west, north-south, and diagonal “lanes” of lit towers for pilots to use at night as they flew under Visual Flight Rules, sans radar, which hadn’t been implemented at the time. Those air routes were deemed “off limits” for private air carriers, and the feds claimed that the “interstate commerce clause” of the Constitution (in Article One, Section Eight) granted them the power to regulate anything traveling over state borders.
As I have mentioned previously, James Madison, who took notes at the Constitutional Convention, denied such a frivolous claim. He explained that the clause was designed to allow Congress to remedy trade disputes between state governments. It was never designed to give the Congress or any agency it created power over anything that traveled over state borders.
But the politicians, especially Franklin Delano Roosevelt, used the new power to create a grant-giving-glad-handling system of payoffs, political support, and regulations that has turned the US airline industry, including air routes and airports, into a politically driven, not commercially driven, system.
To cap that off, both the San Antonio and Buffalo airports are run by their own little government fiefdoms. SAT is run by the city of San Antonio, and BUF is run by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.
So the unconstitutional FAA is looking into whether the politically controlled airports are “discriminating” against Chik-Fil-A.
But most people debate the merits or demerits of Chik-Fil-A’s religious-based business model, its great food, fine employees, and high customer ratings, and the deeper issues get lost in normalcy bias.
Because generations have grown up seeing the FAA control air routes and airline regulations, hand out grants, and play games with local politicians, they’ve known no other system. Most people simply don’t question the fundamentally unsound, patently unconstitutional, system of air “control” under which private airlines, and private restaurant chains like Chik-Fil-A, struggle to operate. In airports today, agents of the US government search people without obtaining warrants, they intercede in the fulfillment of our private contracts with airlines, and politicians and bureaucrats set the routes and create the “air hubs” in which our vital time is squandered because the air travel system in the US is a product of political manipulation, not market forces.
And it is through market forces that we could see the answer when it comes to the Chik-Fil-A debate. If airports were allowed to be privately run, the owners of the airports could decide what went into them, and benefit or suffer because of their decisions, and customers could go to the airports or avoid them in favor of others. Market forces work with shopping malls, and they can work with airports.
When the government spends tax money on things, that choice always is lost.
That's something different to chew on next time we eat in an airport. It might not be as tasty as Chik-Fil-A, but it’s worth considering.