GOP lawmakers link Chipotle and 'religious freedom'

Customers dine outside at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 2, 2015. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty)
Customers dine outside at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in San Francisco, Calif., Feb. 2, 2015.

What does the popular fast-casual Mexican chain Chipotle have in common with religious liberty?

Apparently, more than you think, according to Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford and Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes, who took to the pages of The Washington Examiner this week to explain why they feel religious business owners should be able to run their companies according to their faith. They homed in on Chipotle to make their case.

RELATED: States kick off legislative session with anti-LGBT moves

The fast food chain recently announced that it would not be serving pork at a third of its locations, because Chipotle suspended ties with a pork supplier that did not meet the company's standards for humane animal care.

In their op-ed, Lankford and Forbes wrote: “Chipotle's founder and CEO, Steve Ells, has made a decision to commit to self-imposed standards, which he personally finds important, enabling him to live out his commitment to environmental care and sustainability through how he runs his business … It is crucial that the same freedom of conscience enjoyed by the leadership of Chipotle remain equally available to business owners of faith.”

“If a decision based on moral convictions is celebrated, shouldn't a decision based on the free exercise of religion – a right guaranteed in the Constitution – be even more so?” Lankford and Forbes argued.

Lankford and Forbes are referring to the hotly debated issue of so-called religious freedom bills, which have been proposed in many states across the nation over the past year. Religious freedom bills such as the ones proposed in Utah and Georgia could allow business owners to legally turn away LGBT customers if they feel it would be in violation of their religious beliefs. Critics argue that these bills are a form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.