FAA investigating discrimination complaint over Chick-fil-A rejection at Buffalo airport – Buffalo News

FAA investigating discrimination complaint over Chick-fil-A rejection at Buffalo airport - Buffalo News
FAA investigating religious discrimination complaints after airports exclude Chick-fil-a
The Buffalo Niagara International Airport is under investigation for religious discrimination by the FAAs Office of Civil Rights after airport concessionaire Delaware North dropped its plans to open a Chick-fil-A restaurant in the airport.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, protested the plans, citing controversy about the fast food chain and the support by some company officials for organizations opposing same-sex marriage.

Ryan said earlier this spring that a public accommodation like the Buffalo airport, administered by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, should not host a company that he said had demonstrated bias.

SAN ANTONIO — The Federal Aviation Administration says its investigating a decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from an airport concession contract in San Antonio over opposition to the fast-food chain owners record on LGBT issues.

Federal investigation launched into San Antonios airport Chick-Fil-A ban

“The Department of Transportation has received complaints alleging discrimination by two airport operators against a private company due to the expression of the owners religious beliefs. FAAs Office of Civil Rights has notified the San Antonio International Airport (SAT) and Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) that it has opened investigations into these complaints.

Texas lawmakers this month approved a bill that would prohibit cities from taking "adverse action" against an individual based on contributions to religious organizations.

“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. The findings of the investigations will be communicated to the complainants once the investigations are completed.”

The Atlanta-based restaurant chain has faced opposition elsewhere over donating millions over the years to groups that oppose same-sex marriage.

Feds investigate airports for religious discrimination after banning Chick-fil-A

The FAA statement does not cite Delaware Norths decision to drop Chick-fil-A but its clear the investigation is focusing on that because the statement also cites an investigation into a second airport where plans to open a Chick-fil-A were also quashed, according to a report in The Hill. Officials overseeing San Antonio International Airport also halted plans for a Chick-fil-A earlier this year because of concerns that the restaurant chain has intolerant views of the LGBTQ community.

“The Department of Transportation has received complaints alleging discrimination by two airport operators against a private company due to the expression of the owners religious beliefs,” the agency said in a statement to Fox News.”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.”

Chick-fil-A has denied any bias and claims some media coverage drives an inaccurate narrative about the company, which has been criticized because people associated with it have opposed same sex marriage.

Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand. We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

NFTA spokeswoman Helen Tederous said she could not confirm that the NFTA, which operates the Buffalo airport, has been notified of the investigation, but she pointed out that it was Delaware Norths decision “not to move forward with Chick-Fil-A … not the NFTA.”

FOX 8 noted that as the FAAs investigation takes place, “the Save Chick-fil-A bill, as it has been deemed, is headed to the Texas governors desk for expected signature. The proposed law would reportedly prevent discrimination based on a persons religious beliefs and conscience, including biblically based views of marriage.”

Video: FAA now looking into San Antonios controversial Chick-Fil-A-SAT decision

A Delaware North official said Saturday he would attempt to provide The News with a statement regarding the FAA investigation. Delaware North has provided concessions at the Cheektowaga airport since 1952

The San Antonio Express-News reported: “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched a separate state inquiry a week after the City Council vote, intended to determine whether the city violated Texas laws. At the time, he encouraged the U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, to look into the matter as well.”

A story in The Hill cited the San Antonio City Councils vote to block a Chick-fil-A from that citys airport. The story cited the companys anti-LGBTQ donations and history.

The Chick-fil-A restaurant in Buffalo Niagara International Airport was booted after leftist Democrat Assemblyman Sean Ryan urged hospitality company Delaware North and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to deny the restaurant a place in the terminal.

The Texas Legislature has advanced a bill to prevent the government from penalizing businesses for exercising their religious rights.

“Recent coverage about Chick-fil-A continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about our brand. We do not have a political or social agenda or discriminate against any group. More than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs represent the Chick-fil-A brand. We embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity,” the company said in a statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating two airports — San Antonio International and Buffalo Niagara International — over religious discrimination complaints, following the exclusion of Chick-fil-a from the premises, Fox News confirmed on Friday.

“The Department of Transportation has received complaints alleging discrimination by two airport operators against a private company due to the expression of the owners religious beliefs,” the FAA said in a statement Friday, according to Fox News.

"The Department of Transportation has received complaints alleging discrimination by two airport operators against a private company due to the expression of the owner’s religious beliefs," the agency said in a statement provided to Fox News.

The FAA announced its investigation after both cities faced widespread backlash for their actions, including from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who announced in March that he would investigate whether San Antonios actions violated Texas law.

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.

Chick-fil-a has faced nationwide backlash over its decision to direct charitable contributions towards organizations opposing same-sex unions — prompting public officials and others to denounce the popular fast-food chain, which has been accused of harboring anti-LGBT views.

The Federal Aviation Administration has launched an investigation into two airports — San Antonio International and Buffalo Niagara International — after both airports banned Chick-fil-A from opening locations in their facilities.

Save Chick-fil-A bill headed to TX gov.s desk

When San Antonio's city council narrowly rejected the inclusion of Chick-fil-a at its airport, it cited the restaurant's “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior." Buffalo Niagara International similarly excluded Chick-fil-a amid pressure from a Democratic lawmaker who called the business an "anti-LGBTQ corporation."

Chick-fil-A has faced nationwide backlash and calls for boycott because of its continued charitable donations to faith-based groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army, which has outraged pro-LGBT groups. Chick-fil-A gave $1,653,416 to the fellowship and $150,000 to the Salvation Army in 2017, per tax filings released earlier this year.

First Liberty, a law firm that fights for religious freedom, sent Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao a complaint about the issue in March — accusing San Antonio of blatant discrimination that disqualified it from receiving federal grants.

He said the donations were really about an authentic problem that is on the ground, that is present and ever present in the lives of many children who cant help themselves.” While the organization has been open about not supporting gay marriage, executives say its donations sponsor youth camps and outreach to low-income youths.

"Federal taxpayers should not be required to subsidize religious bigotry," the firm said in reference to San Antonio's decision.

San Antonios city council attributed its decision to what it said was the restaurants legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior, and the decision to exclude the popular eatery from Buffalo Niagara followed a Democratic lawmakers statement condemning the potential placement over the chains anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

On Friday, First Liberty Associate Counsel Keisha Russell blasted San Antonio for engaging in "blatant, illegal, religious discrimination." “We are pleased that the FAA responded to our request by opening an investigation into San Antonio for its blatant, illegal religious discrimination against Chick-fil-A," Russell said in a statement provided to Fox News.

Chick-fil-A has also faced calls for bans on college campuses, most recently from students and faculty at Trinity University and California Polytechnic State University. Officials at both schools refused the calls, with Cal Polys administration labeling the demand to do so a form of censorship.

"First Liberty also launched our own investigation into the City’s actions and we vow to get to the bottom of San Antonio’s decision.  American business owners should not have to suffer because they want to operate their businesses in accordance with their religious beliefs.  Few things are more un-American than government hostility against religion.”

Rodney Bullard, executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, said earlier this month that the organizations mission is to help the community — a higher calling that outweighs any political or cultural war thats being waged.”

Texas' legislature has passed a "Save Chick-fil-a" bill pushing back against the City Council's decision.

"The bill as filed ensures religious beliefs are protected from discrimination. It's about the First Amendment and freedom of speech, freedom of religion — those uniquely American rights," the bill's author said. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the legislation.

Chick-fil-a responded on Friday, saying it wasn't involved with the investigation and didn't hold any particular social or political stance.

“Chick-fil-A is not involved in this investigation. Recent coverage about our company continues to drive an inaccurate narrative about who we are. We are a restaurant company focused on food and hospitality for all, and we have no social or political stance," the company said in a statement to Fox News.

"We are grateful for all our customers and are glad to serve them at any time. We welcome and embrace all people, regardless of religion, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”


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