FAA Launches Investigation into San Antonio City Council’s Chick-fil-A Ouster

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United Planes at the San Antonio International Airport

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

United Airlines jets park at the San Antonio International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into the San Antonio City Council’s vote to remove Chick-fil-A from an airport concessions contract.

Michael Freilich, director of the office’s national external operations program, sent a letter to San Antonio Aviation Director Russ Handy on Friday informing the City of the investigation and outlining the complaint that the fast food restaurant was the victim of religious discrimination.

“To assist us in investigating and resolving the concerns related to the complaint, we may be contacting you in the near future to request additional information,” Freilich wrote.

City Council voted in March to exclude Chick-fil-A from a multimillion-dollar contract to operate food and retail shops at San Antonio International Airport. In a 6-4 vote, council members decided to remove the fast-food restaurant from the list of potential restaurants for the airport, citing the company’s association with anti-LGBTQIA groups.

The vote has become a contentious political issue during the local City Council elections – especially in the mayoral runoff race between Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) set for June 8.

Nirenberg, who was among six council members voting to exclude Chick-fil-A, has said his vote was a business decision based on wanting restaurants to be open seven days a week. Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. Brockhouse has said the decision infringed upon religious rights.

“My decision was based on the best interest of passengers, especially the 1.5 million who pass through our airport on Sunday,” Nirenberg said Friday via text. “They should have a full range of options and preferably local ones. Religion has nothing to do with decision on airport retail vendors. The only one to raise the issue of religion has been Councilman Brockhouse.”

But soon after the March 21 vote, the First Liberty Institute, a conservative nonprofit dedicated to preserving religious liberties, asked the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to investigate. That request was forwarded to the FAA.

“American business owners should not have to suffer because they want to operate their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs,” Keisha Russell, associate counsel to the First Liberty Institute, wrote in a press release. The institute has launched its own investigation into the vote. “Few things are more un-American than government hostility against religion.”

“This is literally Ron’s chickens coming home to roost for his bad decision-making and awful leadership,” Brockhouse said Friday via text. “As mayor, I’ll set standards and qualifications for City contracts that follow the law and do not discriminate.”

Federally funded airports like San Antonio’s can’t discriminate on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age, Freilich wrote.

Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) made the motion to remove Chick-fil-A because of the concerns constituents had about the chain’s reputation for association with anti-LGBTQIA groups, including those that perform debunked “conversion therapy.”

During discussion before the vote, Councilman Manny Pelaez (D8) said the City should not have a restaurant that some consider to be a “symbol of hate” inside of it. He later said he regretted those comments and should have voted to delay the vote until more discussion and research could be done on the company.

24 thoughts on “FAA Launches Investigation into San Antonio City Council’s Chick-fil-A Ouster

  1. So it’s ok to discriminate against gays per Brockhouse, just not a tiny minority of bigot religions. Many religions used to say people of color were less than human. Would Brockhouse also support the right of restaurants that preach that bigotry to have a place at our airport? Why is Brockhouse always on the side of anti-gay bigots. Perhaps he would approve of gay folks more if they favored spousal abuse?

        • Who exactly has CFA discriminated against? They hire all qualified, even LGBT. The serve everyone with exemplary service, even LGBT. They make more in 6 days than most other “fast food” restaurants. Hooters wasn’t approved in the contract process, and wouldnt have had any 1A rights violated.

          Have you ever given towards charity? Ever put money in that red Christmas bucket?

          • What the heck does giving to charity or the red bucket have to do with this issue????

    • I actually laughed out loud when I read this headline. What a waste of time and money. What has our country become?

  2. Being closed on Sunday was not the reason given for the council vote…to say differently after so much blowback is more than disingenuous, it’s a lie. Council should have discussed it further and RN should have known that. He should have been a leader and he wasn’t. He should have followed the procedure and the law and he didn’t. He should have understood city contractual processes-which prevent things like this, and he didn’t.

    It is not about CFA, it is about the city being unfair in its business practices and upending procedures, rules and laws on a knee jerk reaction by council…

    The FAA can do both-they have legal and safety departments.

  3. This FAA investigation will amount to nothing. Paxton’s “investigation” will also accomplish nothing.

  4. The FAA should get its own ethics house in order before they cast the first stone. Their lack of oversight of Boeing jets and sweethearts deals are responsible for deaths around the world. And they worry about Chick Filet. Give me a break!

  5. A joke. Anything to appease the rabid right wing fringe who must at all cost be free to spread their fear and religious paranoia throughout the land. (And all over some greasy fried chicken joint not willing to serve the public on the sabbath? What’s next – women banned from the airport for menstruating?)

  6. Brockhouse turning this into a religious issue is the reason I won’t be voting for him. Where is my freedom from religion?

  7. UT OH, looks like Trevino led Nirenberg down a rocky path where chickens don’t trod. If Nirenberg wins, he should be careful of Trevino,s hand grenades in the future. The removal of the memorial to the Confederate soldiers statue should have been a lesson. He couldn’t get Ivy to go there. She was too smart and wise. Viagran and Brockhouse were right on in asking for more information an full evaluation of the removal from a city contract of Chick-Fil-A. Contracting at it’s best. What is wrong with that??????

  8. This reminds me of the Sienfeld “spite” episode. Jerry dislikes the salesman and decides to return a coat out of spite. When he’s told that’s not a legitimate reason he tries to take back what he said to get his way. The salesman refuses to take back the coat because Jerry originally said “ out of spite”.
    So, in my book Ron already gave his true reason for screwing up. He said “out of spite.”

  9. The way this has been handled is outrageous! The 1st person to bring up CF’s philosophical undertones was remarkably irresponsible, because that should have had no bearing on the issue. This tarnishes San Antonio’s image, and makes it look like a bunch of kids on the playground in 2nd grade!
    Maybe you don’t “love” Ron, but Brockhouse will continue this trend of stupidity.

  10. What penalties will be levied against San Antonio when the FAA confirms our City Council discriminated against Chick-fil-A? Too bad certain Council members were so openly blatant about their discriminatory actions. Had they been a bit more restrained in playing to the perpetually offended, the FAA might actually need to “work” to find the city at fault.

  11. No surprise that Robert Trevino, who proposed the ban/vote, was was pandering to the LBGTQIA community for their votes while taking away the rights of an upstanding business. If this is the way the city is going to do conduct business, no one can qualify for gov contracts because all companies have a culture that would be construed as bias by another group. All Americans have a right to express their freedom of religion in a peaceful manner. I don’t ever recall ordering a Chick-fil-A meal and having their employees bash the LGBQ…community. There’s a reason that there is always a long line at Chick-Fil-A. They provide great food and service.

  12. God Bless America. You are free to do whatever the political party in power allows you to do. The FAA is only involved because some political appointee is making them get involved.

  13. A bad decision politically and civically even though I’m not a fan of CFA. Makes the City look like what we would expect from the far right.

  14. What a waste of time when planes are falling out of the sky. The FAA needs to investigate its priorities.

  15. How many of our public schools have benefited off the generosity of CFA? They just fundraisers left and right to help our kids get a better education. They’re a great company. To ban them because you disagree with the founder’s religious beliefs ita no different than banning someone of their skin color.

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