The Board of Commissioners in Surry County, N.C., has voted to remove all Coca-Cola machines from government facilities.
The vote was in response to Coca-Cola CEO James Quincy’s statement about Georgia’s recently passed election integrity law.
“Voting is a foundational right in America, and we have long championed efforts to make it easier to vote,” Quincey said in a statement in April. “We want to be crystal clear and state unambiguously that we are disappointed in the outcome of the Georgia voting legislation. Throughout Georgia’s legislative session we provided feedback to members of both legislative chambers and political parties, opposing measures in the bills that would diminish or deter access to voting.”
Surry County Commissioner Ed Harris provided NBC News’ “TODAY” Digital with a copy of the letter he sent to Quincey, in which he denounced Coca-Cola’s “corporate political commentary favoring the Democratic party.”
“Our Board felt that was the best way to take a stand and express our disappointment in Coca-Cola’s actions, which are not representative of most views of our citizens,” Harris wrote. “Our Board hopes that other organizations across the country are taking similar stances against Coca-Cola and sincerely wishes that future marketing efforts and comments emanating from your company are more considerate of all your customers’ viewpoints.”
“Michael Jordan once said ‘Republicans buy sneakers too’ when asked why he didn’t make public comments about politics,” Harris continued. “Citizens of Surry County and across America are growing increasingly tired of large multinational corporations and their CEOs pushing an increasingly intolerant, bigoted, left-wing, divisive political agenda on its customers.”
A Coca-Cola spokesperson told “TODAY” Digital that they are aware of the backlash and that representatives from their local bottler have reached out to county commissioners and “they look forward to continuing their productive conversations with those officials.”
Eugene Volokh at Reason suggests that bans like this, or the San Antonia ban of Chick-Fil-A are unconstitutional, citing Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996); O’Hare Truck Service, Inc. v. City of Northlake (1996) as precedents.
“Members of the public can of course refuse to buy Coca-Cola; no law forbids them from doing so,” explained Volokh. “But the First Amendment does forbid the government from engaging in this sort of discrimination based on contractors’ First Amendment activity.”
Tell that to Christian bakers who have been forced out of business or into expensive legal battles or made to pay large fines for refusing to violate their religious beliefs.