California and fast food. Say the two in the same breath and your head is likely to explode. It was in the state’s City by the Bay in 2010 that lawmakers turned the smile on McDonald’s Happy Meal upside down by banning the toy bundled with the children’s meal. Now another California town has taken matters a step further and tried to ban the Golden Arches altogether.
This time the outrage is fueled by religious beliefs. Loma Linda, described in this ABC video as the healthiest city in the nation, is also home to the world’s largest congregation of Seventh-day Adventists. Half of the town’s 23,000 inhabitants are members of the church, which teaches that humans were not meant to eat meat.
That explains why most restaurants in town feature a vegetarian menu in addition to meat-based items. And why there is widespread opposition to the opening of a McDonald’s.
Pastor Randy Roberts of the Loma Linda University Church told ABC News that the dictate to eat healthfully comes straight from the New Testament:
In Corinthians, Paul speaking of the human body says specifically, ‘you are the temple of the Holy spirit.’ Therefore, he says, whatever you do in your body, you do it to the honor, the glory and the praise of God.
The church, Roberts adds, has taken no official position on the opening of a Mickey D’s. Not so a coalition of community residents whose spokesman, Dr. Wayne Dysinger, is quoted as saying:
Loma Linda is sort of a symbolic city for healthiness, and McDonald’s is sort of a symbolism of unhealthiness. That’s a significant issue. My kids know about McDonald’s. McDonald’s is the one that sells the toys.
McDonald’s has countered with a statement that reads in part:
We have been working hard over the past several years to ensure we have options on our menu to meet a variety of dietary needs. For example, our line of Premium Salads can be ordered without meat. We also have other offerings including Apple Slices, Oatmeal and Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits as well as a variety of portion sizes….
Yada yada yada. McDonald’s can preach all it wants about its healthful menu alternatives but ultimately the chain is all about burgers and fries—and sales. Putting aside the issue of nutrition (a Big Mac alone provides 67% of your recommended fat intake), McDonald’s food is so hopped up on preservatives that a Happy Meal left sitting out on a photographer’s coffee table for six months exhibited not so much as a trace of mold (slide show here).
That being said, in a free market economy, McDonald’s is within its rights to open a store anywhere it chooses so long as its meets local zoning restrictions. The town’s own mayor, Rhodes Rigsby, agrees:
I don’t think it’s the government’s responsibility, personally, to legislate vegetarianism; I think if everyone became a vegetarian they would probably have a healthier life, but it has to be their choice.
I would hate to go to a town where vegetables are outlawed because the majority are meat and potato carnivores, to me that doesn’t make sense either way; I think people should have options.
The mayor went on to observe that if the citizens of Loma Linda want to ban further fast food development within town limits, the way forward is a ballot initiative. Were the people of this California town to adopt such a proposal, I don’t think anyone would be the least bit surprised.
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