Quote of the day – basic First Amendment law

According to a Tribune report, Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno doesn’t want Chick-fil-A in the 1st Ward because of statements allegedly made by the company’s owner. Moreno dismissed concerns about the owner’s First Amendment rights: “You have the right to say what you want to say, but zoning is not a right.”

UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh, who teaches First Amendment law, weighs in:

Even if the government may deny permits to people based on various reasons, it may not deny permits to people based on their exercise of his First Amendment rights. It doesn’t matter if the applicant expresses speech that doesn’t share the government officials’ values, or even the values of the majority of local citizens. It doesn’t matter if the applicant’s speech is seen as “disrespect[ful]” of certain groups. The First Amendment generally protects people’s rights to express such views without worrying that the government will deny them business permits as a result. That’s basic First Amendment law — but Alderman Moreno, Mayor Menino, and, apparently, Mayor Emanuel (if his statement is quoted in context), seem to either not know or not care about the law.

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