Wednesday, January 25, 2012
This recent article in the Los Angeles Times details a controversy in the town of Loma Linda, California over the city council's approval of a new McDonald's (some sort of fast-food chain). Voters are contemplating a ballot measure to limit the number of fast food joints and threatening retaliation against the city council come election time. Yawn, right? By now, we've all seen our share of local land use/fast-food dust-ups. But check this out: Loma Linda is the heartland of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith, which preaches the value of a healthy lifestyle. Most Adventists are vegetarians. Importantly, every member of the city council of Loma Linda is Adventist. So I wonder: assuming a ban on fast-food were otherwise appropriate (an open question, in my view), does it become an unconstitutional Establishment of religion if a city's motivation for enacting the ban were its religious beliefs that a vegetarian lifestyle should be encouraged? I'm not aware of too much precedent on this issue, but one relevant case may be Kiryas Joel v. Grumet, 512 U.S. 687 (1994), in which the Supreme Court implied that the incorporation of a village by a religious commune because it wanted to use the zoning power in order to effectuate the religious goals of the commune (there, the traditional preference among Satmar Hasidim for high-density living accommodations) was permissible. Hardly compelling authority, though.
My favorite part of the Loma Linda story is that apparently the town already has a Carl's Jr. and Del Taco. McDonald's appears to have been singled out, perhaps because of its iconic stature. I smell an equal protection issue there. The Times reporter even interviewed a diner at Carl's Jr. who, in the midst of scarfing down some artery-clogging cuisine, declared her opposition to McDonald's because she thought people should be encouraged to eat healthier. For Loma Linda's sake, I hope she's not on the city council!