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Fed investigation sought into San Antonio 'bigotry'

The backlash against the San Antonio City Council’s vote to exclude Chick-fil-A from an airport contract because of its owners’ religious beliefs now includes a formal request for a federal investigation of the city.

And the probe could impact the federal grants the city receives.

The council recently approved a concession contract for its new airport on the condition that Chick-fil-A was excluded.

Members accused the company of promoting an anti-LGBT agenda.

What the company actually has done is donate to groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the Salvation Army that take seriously the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior.

The council’s 6-4 vote later brought an apology to Chick-fil-A from one council member and an inquiry by the local member of Congress.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dan Loesch were among the critics of the council’s decision.

It was council member Greg Brockhouse who apologized to Chick-fil-A, expressing how much he and other city residents value the company.

Now, First Liberty Institute has sent a letter to Elaine Chao, the U.S. secretary of transportation, asking for an investigation into the council actions.

The letter seeks to know whether city officials failed to comply with assurances of nondiscrimination as required as a federal grant recipient.

“Federal taxpayers should not be required to subsidize religious bigotry,” said Hiram Sasser, general counsel to First Liberty Institute. “The city council cannot operate in a way that brazenly violates the Constitution and federal law, but if it chooses to, then the federal government should pull its grant.”

The controversy arose when the council was approving a contract with Paradies Lagadère to run concession space at San Antonio International Airport.

Councilman Roberto Trevino demanded that the approval be conditioned on the exclusion of Chick-fil-A, and the council agreed.

“Given that the blatantly discriminatory statements by San Antonio city councilmembers against Chick-fil-A’s religious beliefs culminated in the discriminatory exclusion of Chick-fil-A from participating in the airport concession contract at issue, the Department of Transportation, and any other federal agency administering relevant grants, ought to fully investigate whether federal grant money is funding violations of these (or other) provisions of federal law,” the legal team said.

Loesch tweeted: “Because [Chick-fil-A executive] Dan Cathy loves Jesus his chicken sandwiches might be infected with the Holy Ghost and make airport people feel uncomfortable.”

The San Antonio Current reported Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas sent a letter to the council asking for an explanation.

Trevino had charged the company’s religious perspective was at fault.

“San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we don’t have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior,” he said.

Roy responded: “Targeting individuals, organizations, or corporations for carrying out their deeply-held religious beliefs in accord with our laws and consistent with many Americans’ similarly held religious beliefs is hardly making San Antonio a ‘champion of equality and inclusion.'”

First Liberty’s letter to Chao asked for an investigation to determine if the “religious discrimination” by the council violates federal law.

The letter pointed out the blatant hate that the council exhibited.

“Councilman Manny Pelaez took a significant amount of time during the debate on the pending agreement to lambaste, denigrate, and openly mock the otherwise upstanding corporate citizen of Chick-fil-A. He described Chick-fil-A as a ‘symbol of hate’ because it has donated to religious charities that he considered to oppose LGBTQ rights. The city councilman even went so far as to compare Chick-fil-A to such evils bearing public opprobrium as lottery kiosks and e-cigarette shops.”

The city further attacked Chick-fil-A on its website, stating, “We do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

The legal team said: “The San Antonio city council may spend its taxpayer dollars as its citizens will tolerate. However, it cannot do so in a way that brazenly violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”

The city’s actions violate Supreme Court rulings that held religious organizations cannot be treated worse that secular groups and that the government cannot deny a benefit on the basis of freedom of speech.

“The city council’s expressly discriminatory, religiously hostile reaons for excluding Chick-fil-A cannot justify its religious discrimination,” the letter warned.

The city, consequently, “should forfeit its eligibility for federal grant monies.”

First Liberty said grant funds already awarded should be returned immediately, and all grants involving the city, not just those for the airport, should be suspended.