COMMENTARY: Religious Liberty, Fried Chicken, and WVU

Note: This editorial has been first published in the Dominion Post and it has also appeared in later editions of the Charleston Daily Mail, and the Charleston Gazette.

Every American should be free to live and do business according to their faith.  But if recent events are any indication, it seems that many Americans want to give lip service to a First Amendment right to free speech for everyone, but will only permit the exercise of that amendment for people with whom they agree.

Case in point – Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy.  Here is a man who learned just how narrowly the First Amendment can be construed by some following his “audacious” claim that his business plan, as well as his business ethics, stems from his Christian faith.

That Cathy said he believes in the Biblical family unit should surprise no one, but many have labeled that, “bigotry.”  That he is married to his first wife should be lauded, yet activists are demanding that his business leave the campus of West Virginia University.

According to these activists, Chick-fil-A has no business being in the Mountainlair at WVU because of its past financial support for such “hate groups” as Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

We hope that WVU will not take retribution on Chick-fil-A by driving them off campus, as activists continue to demand.  Should they do so, not only would it be a clear violation of Federal law, it should be viewed as a pre-emptive attack upon the religious liberty of every WVU student, alumnus, faculty, and supporter.

Just how far will those demanding the censoring of religious expression in word and deed extend their own logic?

If the WVU football team were to be invited to the Chick-fil-A Bowl, would they be permitted to accept?  Are university alumni – like myself – who hold to the same, “bigoted” opinion as Mr. Cathy welcome on campus?  Will activists object every time WVU accepts a donation from businesses or businessmen who believe that every child is deserving of a mom and a dad?

Will activists demand that the great seal of West Virginia University be altered to remove the reference to 2 Peter 1:5: “Add to your faith, virtue, and to virtue, knowledge”?

Every American, and every Mountaineer, should be always free – semper liberi – to live, learn, and do business according to their faith.  Our constitution protects not only your right to say what you believe, but to order your life according to what you say.

We are clearly beyond the point of discussing whether a fried chicken sandwich ought to be served with a pickle, and now firmly faced with the honest outcome of such hyper-tolerant, “nondiscrimination” laws.

Today, campus ministries like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Campus Crusade for Christ, Baptist Campus Ministry, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and Campus Light Ministries await their fate.  Will the same policy invoked to kick a chicken sandwich maker from campus be invoked to force them to violate their faith or leave campus?

Tomorrow, should activists succeed with plans to lodge such a “nondiscrimination” law in West Virginia law, it could be your business, your church, or your ministry that feels the sting of this new breed of intolerant tolerance.

Who knew that it would take fried chicken to remind us that the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees each of us the right to live and do business according to our faith?

Jeremiah G. Dys, Esq., is the president and general counsel to the Family Policy Council of West Virginia.  On the web at

About Jeremy Dys

Jeremy Dys is the FPCWV's President and General Counsel. In addition to his duties of providing strategic vision and leadership to the FPCWV, Dys is the chief lobbyist and spokesman. Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives close to Charleston with his wife and growing family.

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