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Pawlenty calls officials' thumbs down on Chick-Fil-A 'chilling, jaw-dropping'

CARY, NC -- Fresh from lunch at Chick-Fil-A, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that officials' public objections to the Christian-owned fast food chain are "chilling."

"Now you have the police power of government intimidating and threatening people, being used to intimidate and threaten people, based on their free speech rights and their religious views," Pawlenty said Saturday of city officials' objections to president Dan Cathy's public disavowal of gay marriage.  "I mean it’s chilling.  I mean it’s stunning, it is jaw-dropping.  And so I think strong people who see this need to stand up and say no we don’t do that in the United States."

Several elected officials, including the mayor of Boston, have said that they will discourage the opening of new Chick-Fil-A franchises.

Pawlenty noted said that he had sampled Chick-Fil-A's products for lunch earlier Saturday. "It was awesome," he said of the chicken strips and waffle fries he ordered.

The former Minnesota governor's comments came in response to a question from roundtable participant Kristine Godeaux of Cary. 

"I was just really wishing that someone in the Republican Party would have stepped forward," Godeaux said of the "intimidation" she felt from pro-gay marriage advocates over the issue. "There just seems to be this real lack of leadership and I’m just hopeful and praying that if Gov. Romney does win the election that we’ll be allowed to have civil debate and disagree with each other without feeling threatened or penalized."

Despite the ongoing summer Olympics, recreational hockey player Pawlenty had winter sports on the brain. He took time after the "sports parents" roundtable at the Polar Ice House skating venue to skate a few laps around the rink.

Pawlenty wasn't the only politician supporting Chick-Fil-A.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday posted on Facebook two pictures of a visit to a Chick-Fil-A in The Woodlands, Tex., where she supported insurgent conservative U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz. She posted the comment, "Stopped by Chick-fil-A in The Woodlands to support a great business."