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FAA to investigate San Antonio airport’s Chick-fil-A ban

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — The Federal Aviation Administration will be opening a religious discrimination probe into San Antonio International Airport and Buffalo Niagara International Airport after both decided to keep Chick-fil-A from operating at either airport.

In a statement to KTSA News, the FAA said the Department of Transportation received “complaints alleging discrimination by two airport operators against a private company due to the expression of the owner’s religious beliefs.”

The FAA said its Office of Civil Rights has notified the airports it has opened investigations into these complaints.

One of those complaints came from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking her to investigate the matter.

Religious freedom group First Liberty Institute also filed a complaint with the FAA about the San Antonio city council’s actions to bar Chick-fil-A from San Antonio International Airport.

“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,” Keisha Russell, Associate Counsel to First Liberty Institute, said in a statement.  “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.”

The San Antonio city council action came during an airport concessions bidding process where the preferred contractor planned to put a Chick-fil-A franchise in the airport at the request of city staff.  During the city council meeting to approve the bid, councilman Roberto Trevino said he would not approve the contract as it stood because of the chicken chain’s donations to groups that have had an anti-LGBTQ history.  The council would eventually agree and voted to pass the deal with an amendment to explicitly exclude Chick-fil-A from it.

For the federal government’s part in all of this, the actions the San Antonio city council took could be in violation of federal law on religious discrimination.

“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 FAA said in a statement.

Nirenberg defends council decision on blocking Chick-fil-A from airport; company responds

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