Texas Supreme Court rules for San Antonio in 'Chick-fil-A' lawsuit filed by conservative activists

Texas Supreme Court rules for San Antonio in ‘Chick-fil-A’ lawsuit filed by conservative activists

Conservative activists suing the city of San Antonio alleging it violated the Texas “Save Chick-fil-a” law have not presented evidence of a violation, the Texas State Supreme Court ruled Friday morning, as it sent the case back down to a trial court .

The case stems back to a 2019 City Council decision to deny the chain’s request to open a restaurant at the San Antonio International Airport because of what a council member described as the company’s support for Christian groups with anti-LGBTQ agendas.

Later that year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law — Chick-fil-A cup in-hand — the bill that allows any individual to sue governments that have taken “adverse actions” against corporations due to their support for religious organizations.

A group of people from the San Antonio area, including a conservative activist and former council candidate Patrick von Dohlen, sued the city under the new law. They are represented by lawyer Jonathan Mitchell, a former state solicitor general who helped write the legislation and are backed by amicus briefs from 62 Republican state lawmakers and Abbott.

The justices said the plaintiffs did not “not allege sufficient facts” to sue a governmental body for official action. The court said actions taken before the law was in effect couldn’t be considered as violations of it, and past actions couldn’t be used to assume that the city would in the future violate the law.

“But, more importantly, we do not think the city’s March 2019 conduct standing alone permits a reasonable inference that there exists a ‘credible threat’ of a post-September 1, 2019 adverse action against Chick-fil-A by the city,” the court’s ruling says. “Indeed, the contrary is true. Rather than assume the city would violate (the law), we presume the city would comply with (the law), until the contrary is shown.”

The case took years to make its way to the state Supreme Court in the first place, so Friday’s ruling is a substantial setback for the plaintiffs.

“It’s gratifying that the Supreme Court has recognized that the plaintiffs did not allege a violation of the statute. The fact is that the city did not violate the statute and will not violate the statute in the future. This case should be over and plaintiffs should not waste any more of the taxpayer dollars,” said Neel Lane, lawyer for the city.

Supporters of the lawsuit against the city also applauded the decision, saying that although it invalidated their legal reasoning and tossed the case back to a lower court, the Supreme Court did not side with a lower court that was inclined to dismiss the case entirely, so the legal challenge survived.

“We are grateful this case can continue to move forward to protect religious freedom,” wrote Jonathan Saenz, the president and attorney for Texas Values, a conservative advocacy group that filed on behalf of the plaintiffs.

As part of an agreement with then-President Donald Trump’s Federal Aviation Administration, in September 2020 the city offered the original airport spot to Chick-fil-A after all.

Chick-fil-a declined, and Whataburger is slotted to open instead this spring.