Saturday, February 21, 2009

APA peitition supports discriminatory policy

One of the freedoms that I cherish is the freedom to disapprove. Any conception of tolerance that takes away my freedom to disappove, and to act on my disapproval, is a significant freedom lost.

Even if, at the end of the day, it turns out that homosexuality is morally acceptable, it does not follow that gays and their supporters have the right to punish people who disapprove of them and believe them to be acting immorally.

HT: Francis Beckwith.


Eric Koski said...

Evidently, the APA considers disapproval of homosexuality to be morally on a par with disapproval of miscegenation.

Victor Reppert said...

Just the petitioners. The equivalency just does not hold up.

Eric Koski said...

Yes, the petitioners. Sorry.

No one's right to disapprove of anything is at issue here.

To say "act on my disapproval" is a bit tendentious. No one's challenging your right to not invite people you disapprove of to your home, or to publish essays disapproving of certain behaviors. In the post, "act on my disapproval" = deny employment to individuals you disapprove of. That's a tangled mass of issues. In this case, the APA has already taken a clear position that it considers discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation to be unacceptable. (Not that I’ve read the APA’s policies; I’m taking the petition at its word on this as others are.) The petitioners are asking that this policy be followed consistently, and that the APA not be an accessory to employment practices inconsistent with its policy by allowing institutions known to have discriminatory employment practices to advertise in Jobs for Philosophers. Beckwith and his allies have the recourse available to them of trying to convince the APA to officially condone employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. I suspect they’ll need something more than luck to succeed at this.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, the policies are based on activity rather than orientation.

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, that does mean that a Christian college could be in accordance with the anti-discrimination policy if they allowed gay-oriented people to be hired so long as they adhered to the code of sexual conduct and didn't engage in any sexual conduct. But lest you think that that is a distinction without a difference, I would point out that during my career APA job-hunting, I was single, and had I been hired by one of those institutions, I would have had to sign a statement saying that I would not engage in any sexual conduct until I was married. Now it is true that I could marry my way out of such a requirement, but at that time I had no certainty that I would be able to do that. So I don't see that these places can be accused of discrimination against gays without also being accused of discrimination against single heterosexuals. Is it discriminatory for an institution to have a code of sexual conduct? Is that what this nondiscrimination position going to amount to.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Overreaction a bit, as they are asking that they either don't publish from those universities, or "clearly mark institutions with these policies as institutions that violate our anti-discrimination policy."

That seems reasonable. There is nothing about conferences and such. Nobody is trying to tell you you can't disapprove of gays. They are just going to put an asterisk by the name of your university if they discriminate against gays. Subtle differences, but real.

Victor Reppert said...

But does a sexual misconduct policy constitute discrimination against gays, if gay sexual conduct is not the only conduct proscribed?

Clayton said...

No one is threatening anyone's freedom to disapprove. In fact, no one is threatening to change anyone's discriminatory hiring practices. What the APA petition says is this:

[The undersigned] request that the American Philosophical Association either (1) enforce its policy and prohibit institutions that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation from advertising in 'Jobs for Philosophers' or (2) clearly mark institutions with these policies as institutions that violate our anti-discrimination policy. If the APA is unwilling to take either of these measures, we request that the APA publicly inform its members that it will not protect homosexual philosophers and remove its anti-discrimination policy to end the illusion that a primary function of the APA is to protect the rights of its members.

There is nothing in here about punishing people who disapprove of "them" (gays?) and believe that "they" (gays?) act immorally. If you work for an institution that has a discriminatory policy, the APA has a policy that forbids you from using the JFP. The JFP belongs to the APA and its members, the APA has a way of establishing these policies, and if bigots don't like it they can advertise for jobs elsewhere. How is there even an issue here? If the APA has no right to interfere with the hiring practices of schools like Westmont, surely Westmont has no right to interfere with the way that the APA decides who gets to advertise in the JFP.

Victor Reppert said...

But the real question is whether codes of sexual conduct which proscibe homosexual acts amongst other sexual acts constitute discrimination according to the rules. Yes, if I am gay I have to swear off sex to work at these places. If I am unmarried, then I have to do the same thing.

Clayton said...

But the real question is whether codes of sexual conduct which proscibe homosexual acts amongst other sexual acts constitute discrimination according to the rules.

I don't see that. What do you mean by "discriminate"? If it is read non-morally, the answer is obvious. It is discrimination according to the APA. It is not according to the relevant colleges and universities. If you mean "discriminate" in a moral sense, it doesn't matter because the APA's standards are the APA's to set and they have been set.

Victor Reppert said...

Why do you say that, since the rules would equally "discriminate" against unmarried heterosexuals.

What does the APA mean? It says, I take it "no discrimination based on sexual orientation." Any homosexual could be appointed to any of these institutions, so long as they agreed to abide by the behavior standards set down by that institution.

These places don't single out homosexual conduct for proscription.

Clayton said...


I've always had respect for you but I'm shocked by your position here. I'm really disappointed in you, I've always thought you were in a class apart from the likes of Beckwith.

First, you are trying to play up a distinction between behavior and orientation that doesn't matter one wit to the people who drew up the anti-discrimination policy. It's their policy.

Second, your remarks about sex outside of marriage are completely inappropriate. These schools would continue to discriminate against homosexuals even if they were allowed to marry. Moreover, you wouldn't (I hope) defend the practice of schools that insisted that unmarried professors remain celibate when the laws that prevent them from marrying are unjust. (Just imagine the school in question wouldn't hire a white man in a relationship with a black woman in the 60's when some states (e.g., Virginia) wouldn't allow this couple to marry.) So, there's the issue about the justice or injustice of refusing to recognize same-sex marriage. True or false. You wouldn't hold the view that it would be just for these institutions to refuse to hire the sexually active unmarried professor when the laws that prevent that professor from marrying are themselves unjust. If you say 'False', you have a bad moral view. If you say 'True', you are taking a stand on the issue of same-sex marriage and saying that it is perfectly just to refuse to allow them to marry. That is also a bad moral view.

Victor Reppert said...

Clayton: First, "Whose side are you on" is not an argument." I'm rather proud of hte fact that I have managed to disagree with virtually everyone in the four years I've been blogging. I voted no on the version of Prop 8 that was on the ballot last fall. But this is a different type of issue.

First, the use of the term "discrimination" has some negative connotations which implies some degree of condemnation on the part of the APA. The ordinary context for the use of that term has to do with racial discrimination, where someone is denied opportunties based on a characteristic that is entirely beyond their control and clearly has no relevance to performance. The same is the case in the area of gender. When you get to sexual orientation, it gets a little dicier, since there are some issues about the role of human choice in sexual orientation. But I will set those aside for the time being.

But when you say that a code of conduct is discriminatory, you cross and important line. Unless we've all gone hard determinst here, we do choose our conduct and are responsible for our conduct. So this is a step we have to watch very carefully. It raises a whole host of issues. Are no-drinking codes discrminatory? Are bans on heterosexual premarital sex discriminatory? Are we going to be hearing from NAMBLA attorneys saying that some got denied a job because of being a pedophile?

Christians schools often require their professors to sign statements of faith. I'm sure in many of them you have to sign statements that either entail or virtually entail that you believe that homosexuality is a sin. Is that discriminatory? If that isn't discriminatory, then why would a code of conduct be discrminatory. If you're gay by orientation but you are ready to sign a statement that entails that you believe gay conduct to be sinful, why should you not also be expect to sign a statements that says you won't engage in any of the conduct that you just agreed was sinful.

What is is the evidence that the APA actually took this step? Did everyone who signed onto this step think of it in this way?

The miscegenation parallel has some serious problems. First of all, there is pretty substantial rational consensus on this issue. Given our level of reflection on racial matters, we have reached a point where the community as a whole views this objection as prejudicial.

Second, there opposition to homosexuality has support from the founding documents of Christianity (and of other religious traditions) that is missing from the debate surrounding racial discrimination of miscegenation. In fact, leaders of the civil rights movement were largely Christians who made their appeal from the point of view of a Christian world-view. (It was Rev. King, remember).

There is nothing equivalent to Rom. 1: 26-27 to consider when it comes to the racial issue. But any Christian who thinks seriously about the issue of homosexuality has to at least come to term with passages like this one.

So while the moral discussion of the ethics of racial discrimination and opposition to miscegenation is essentially over, both within and without communities of faith, there is far more discussion and dialogue needed before a similar conclusion can be drawn concerning homosexuality.

The petition wants these schools who have the conduct policy to be asterisked, but given the use of the term "discrimination" would such an asterisk be viewed as a scarlet letter?

Are the laws preventing gays from marrying unjust? They may be. But we don't have a rational consensus on this issue. I have to object strongly to the APA treating the conscientious moral beliefs of serious Christians (and others) who hold that homosexuality is a sin as merely prejudicial. This strikes me as Dawkins-style militant secularism, designed to marginalize Christianity in the academic community in the name of gay rights. It is a refusal to share intellectual space with people you don't agree with.

I'd like to meet the gay person who would have gotten a job at Biola if it weren't for Biola's code of conduct. Maybe there is one. But who could it be?