Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Is it really about gay rights?

To be perfectly honest, I don't think that this petition business is about upholding gay rights. (You know any active gays who are disappointed that they can't get jobs at Wheaton or Biola?) It is about attacking and marginalizing conservative versions of Christianity. I would have thought that a national philosophical organization would be about generating and facilitating philosophical discussion, not about maintaining political correctness. The nondiscrimination policy had been in place for two decades and had never been interpreted to include codes of conduct. If "discrmination against orientation" is insufficient for these people, then they should introduce wording that includes discrimination against sexual conduct. The idea that we discovered, all of a sudden, in 2009, that some of the leading Christian colleges in America have been violating the APA discrimination code that had been in place for the last 20 years, is insane.

For atheists who think that Christianity is a "mind virus," who believe that religion poisons everything, who see God as a delusion, who seek then end of faith except for a few Baptists to be put in cultural zoos (so long as they don't try to teach their children that naturalistic evolution is false or that gay sex is a sin), this is an ideal tool.

Let me reiterate, I voted no on the marriage definition initiative (similar to California's Prop 8) here in Arizona, and would do so again. I am not even denying that the hostile environment that gay people face in many Christian environments is unfortunate. The hostile environment that many Christians face in some secular philosophy departments is no picnic either, let me assure you.

27 comments:

Wes said...

Victor,

I am a member of the APA, and I signed the petition because I believe it is morally wrong to refuse to hire someone based on her or his sexual orientation. I did not see this an an opportunity to "marginaliz[e] conservative versions of Christianity", but rather as an opportunity to show my homosexual colleagues that I stand with them against discriminatory policies. I don't appreciate your ascription of motives to myself and others in this post.

The APA's policy is there to protect its members. Personally, I think it goes out of its way to protect its religious members. For example, they specifically say that they deem it "unethical" to discriminate on the basis of religion, but then give an exception for religious institutions. Now, it is certainly possible that a particular non-religious institution could have a faculty that is overwhelmingly religious and could discriminate when hiring an atheist, but don't you think the ones protected by this prohibition most are the religious? In other words, I take it to be standard fare that the majority of faculty in most departments are not religious and probably do not think highly of religious beliefs. The APA's policy deems it unethical for these departments to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion, then, thereby mainly protecting its religious members. It then gives an exception to religious institutions on this matter.

I take it that you agree that it is generally immoral to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. If my state school, for example, were to reject a candidate solely because he is homosexual, I think you would object to this, right? So, the anti-discrimination policy is a good thing. What you want, though, is another exemption for religious institutions. You want them to be allowed to discriminate on the basis of both religion AND sexual orientation.

In my mind, the private institution to which I pay dues and you do not has already gone far enough in accommodating religious belief. I cannot accept the idea that the private institution to which I pay dues and you do not allows institutions that discriminate against my homosexual colleagues to advertise in one of our publications.

I honestly don't care what kind of other beliefs schools like Wheaton and Biola hold. I do draw the line when it comes to discrimination against my homosexual colleagues, however. I wish you would be more cautious when ascribing motives to those of whom you know so little.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Wes is right. Victor you are over-reacting. Would you mind if they put an asterisk next to schools that would not hire black faculty? Would it be crazy to refuse to even advertise for them?

I'm not saying it is exactly analogous (it's only an analogy after all).

News about a counterpetition from Leiter here.

Perhaps these institutions shouldn't use the services of the APA if there is a real conflict of interest here.

Seriously, it's the freaking 21st century I can't believe people are still hung up on this crap. Do they have conduct policies that enforce Old Testament rules about treating slaves, women, and food?

I have little sympathy for this. The APA needs to man up and do what's right.

From comments at Leiter blog: "you are not really discriminating against Christians as long as you are not asking them to change their belief but simply to abstain from going to Church or profess their beliefs in any way."

SedContra said...

Wes,

Does Wheaton -- or Calvin, or any other school named by Leiter, et al. -- discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation? I haven't seen any evidence of this, but perhaps you have. To your knowledge, has anyone ever been denied a job there, or fired from a job there, solely because he was homosexual? Do they have any written policies that discriminate on the basis of orientation, as opposed to action?

Victor Reppert said...

The problem here is that the text of the nondiscrimination policy, as stated, says that they will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and the text has been interpreted for 20 years not to involve codes of conduct. I don't think you can now stretch the meaning of that expression to include codes of conduct. If this is insufficient, then what you have to do is rewrite the codes in such a way that you cannot discriminate on the basis of homosexual conduct.

I actually had to think about whether I support any antidiscrimination policy. One part of me says that even in the case of racial discrimination, one should approach the matter through dialogue rather than censure. The reason I think an antidiscrimination policy is justified in that case is because I think racial discrmination is provably irrational.

In the case of conduct codes, I think conduct codes that restrict sexual activity to heterosexual married couples is not clearly irrational. At least within a theological framework, rational to hold that homosexual activity is sinful, and hire on the basis of that belief. I'm not talking about blazing homophobia, I am just talking about the conclusion that, at the end of the day, a person is violating God's law by being a practicing homosexual. If someone thought that, then it is equally not irrational for them to insist on a conduct code that proscribes active homosexuality.

Does the APA really deem it unethical to deny faculty membership based on religious belief? My experience suggests to me that this happens a lot, and many Christian job-seekers today, I am told, are careful either to avoid mention of, or downplay, their Christian beliefs. The policy, if it exists, seems unusually hard to enforce.

It is an essential characteristic of a Christian that they profess their beliefs and engage in public worship. It is not essential to being of homosexual orientation that a person engage in sexual acts with others of the same sex, any more than it is essential to being heterosexual that one engage in sexual acts with the opposite sex. These schools ask heterosexual unmarried persons to abstain. Can they be accused of marital status discrimination? If a person goes into the priesthood, either heterosexual or homosexual, does that mean that they lose their sexual orientation if they actually fulfill their chastity vows?

In my view, the mission for people who support the petition, if they choose to accept it, is to show by real argumentation from the standpoint of the Christian world-view, that the claim that homosexual conduct is sinful is irrational. Show me that someone in that position is irrational, and I will change my mind about the petition.

Finally, are there really going to be all sorts of active homosexuals who believe not only in Christianity but also the other doctrinal requirements at some of these schools (like biblical inerrancy), but who can apply there because they are actively gay? Is there any real discrimination in practice?

Victor Reppert said...

Sed Contra: The claim is that a policy that proscribes homosexual conduct implicitly discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. Go the the Leiter blog to see all sorts of arguments as to why that is so. I'm unconvinced, of course.

SedContra said...

Vic,

I know that this is the claim, but like you I have not heard any persuasive argument for it. The phrase "solely because he was homosexual" is Wes's: I was just quoting him.

Wes said...

The distinction many are trying to make between "sexual orientation" and "sexual behavior" would render the APA's non-discrimination policy meaningless.

Hey, our institution isn't discriminating on the basis of disabilities, we just say that we don't want people to behave like most people who are disabled and use wheelchairs. They can scoot around the halls on their stomach's after all. It's not like using a wheelchair is an essential characteristic of being disabled.

Hey, our institution doesn't discriminate on the basis of political convictions, we just say we don't allow the behavior of voting for or financially supporting Republicans. Voting for or financially supporting Republicans is not an essential characteristic of being a Republican.

Our institution doesn't discriminate against people on the basis of gender, we just do not allow the behavior of sitting to urinate, allowing one's hair to grow, wearing makeup or jewelry, wearing bras, and using tampons and/or pads. After all, none of these are essential characteristics of being a woman.

Furthermore, the policy explicitly states the following:

The APA Board of Officers expects that all those who use the APA Placement Service will comply with the letter and spirit of all applicable regulations concerning non-discrimination, equal employment opportunity and affirmative action.

Is it really your contention that distinguishing between the sexual behavior of homosexuals and their sexual orientation is within the "spirit" of the regulations?

Victor Reppert said...

I think these lines of argument miss the point. These analogies all sound good until you realize that all of them involve things that are closely connected to one's identity as a Republican, or as a woman, or as a disabled person. It would be extremely difficult to live as a woman, a Republican or a disabled person without those things. Giving up sexual activity may be also difficult, but it is done every day by lots and lots of people who believe that they are not in a position to engage in sex in a morally acceptable way.

Sexual activity is a choice, and plenty of people of both orientations choose not to engage in it. These arguments imply that people who practice celibacy, either temporary or permanent, somehow are not really heterosexual or homosexual. Talk about discrimination, people like that are essentially told that they do not exist.

If the policy is meaningless under this interpretation, then it has been meaningless for the last 20 years. Why has this been discovered all of a sudden now?

Three questions:

1) Do you think there are good arguments showing that religious opposition to gay sex is irrational, without also arguing that, say, Christian belief in special revelation is also irrational.

2) Can you have a sexual orientation, either homosexual or heterosexual, without being sexually active? If not, try explaining that to C. S. Lewis in the years before his marriage, or any other person practicing celibacy.

3) Are institutions like Wheaton guilty of marital status discrimination if they prohibit people of either orientation from having sex if they are not married? You can't assume that every heterosexual person is married, or that they can jump into a marriage any time they want to.

Finally, Wes, I signed the counter-petition because I thought I was within my rights to express my opinion to the APA. Whether the APA takes my signature seriously or not is, of course, up to the APA.

Wes said...

Victor,

I think you are being extremely inconsistent. Public worship is essential to being a Christian but having or seeking a loving relationship with someone to whom you are attracted is not essential. I guess when Christians isolate themselves or are isolated from public worship, they are no longer Christians.

You also seem to be convinced that the APA has interpreted their policy in a way that allows for this kind of discrimination for these many years. Isn't it more likely that they have just been inconsistent in enforcing the policy after all these years? Don't you think the "spirit" of the policy was to, oh I don't know, not permit discrimination against gay people? Is it really your contention that the "spirit" of the policy was to allow institutions to allow discrimination based on homosexual behavior but not based on sexual orientation? You really don't believe that do you?

1) Do you think there are good arguments showing that religious opposition to gay sex is irrational, without also arguing that, say, Christian belief in special revelation is also irrational.

It's irrelevant. The APA is a private institution. It says that it does not allow institutions to advertise in JfP that discriminate against homosexuals. The APA can freely choose its guidelines for participation with others just as the very institutions in question can freely choose their guidelines.

The APA policy says it permits religious institutions to discriminate on the basis of religion "so long as the criteria for such religious affiliations do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement." One of the other attributes is sexual orientation. If a particular institution cannot abide by the policy because of their religious beliefs, they simply can't advertise in JfP.

As a private organization, this is where we've drawn the line.

2) Can you have a sexual orientation, either homosexual or heterosexual, without being sexually active? If not, try explaining that to C. S. Lewis in the years before his marriage, or any other person practicing celibacy.

Sure, just as you can be a Christian without public worship. If you disagree, try explaining that to Christians who have been imprisoned or otherwise isolated from a Christian community.

Still, this is beside the point. The distinction, while it may dance around the "letter" of the policy, it clearly violates the "spirit" of it. The policy strictly forbids this.

3) Are institutions like Wheaton guilty of marital status discrimination if they prohibit people of either orientation from having sex if they are not married? You can't assume that every heterosexual person is married, or that they can jump into a marriage any time they want to.

Again, this tries to skirt the letter of the policy, but runs headlong against the spirit. The policy is meant to prevent discrimination against homosexual members of our organization.

Finally, Wes, I signed the counter-petition because I thought I was within my rights to express my opinion to the APA. Whether the APA takes my signature seriously or not is, of course, up to the APA.

How would you feel about people signing a petition to have your church change it's policy of preaching that Jesus is the only way to forgiveness before God? I think you would think they should mind their own damn business.

Mike Darus said...

I have the answer. Let's make it a religious affiliation. Let's call it Homosexualbehaviorisasinansim. Those who hold the religious tenant that homosexual behavior is sinful belong. Thos who deny it do not. The colleges can change their policy from a test of behavior to a test of belief.

Victor Reppert said...

First, I'd like an answer to this question. Are there any real actively gay or lesbian people who would consider themselves good candidates for the positions in question if only there were no behavioral code? That is, people who satisfy all the belief requirements (which in many cases require subscription to the inerrancy of Scripture) but would not be able to apply there because of being actively gay? Do these policies discriminate against real people, as opposed to hypothetical people? Do your gay and lesbian Christian friends come up to you and say "Gosh, I wish I could apply at Wheaton. Too bad they've got that darned code of conduct." I suspect that there aren't any. In order to have discrimination, don't you first have to have people who try to get a position there and are turned down because they are unable to fulfill the behavioral requirements?

Victor Reppert said...

Second, I don't know if you can say something is against the spirit of a policy when the policy has been interpreted in the opposite way for 20 years. At best, under those circumstances, it would be better for all concerned if there were open discussion about just what the non-discrimination policy entails and what is included within it.

I also think that extending nondiscrimination to codes of conduct raises a whole host of complex issues that you have to sort out. With race and gender, these are facts about ourselves we can't change. It's a little tougher of an issue on sexual orientation. But now suppose one of the colleges says "OK. You can be actively gay, so long as you're monogamous." Then someone else comes along and says "Well, I'm bisexual. If you insist on monogamy, you're discriminating against me." And then there's the issue of discrimination on the basis of marital status. I take it the APA doesn't support that, though you would know better than me what it says about that.

The problem I am posing was this, which was not answered so far as I can see. If I am single, and take a job at a conservative Christian college, I have to sign a statement that I won't have sex until I marry. I say "But I have no intention of every marrying. Does that mean I have to say celibate" and they say yes. This is, supposedly not discrimination. But if I'm gay, and this is what I have to accept, I am being discriminated against. I don't see a relevant difference. We've got to have a consistent use of the concept of discrimination here. If I am heterosexual, there is nothing that requires me to have sex in order to be heterosexual. I can choose not to have sex, like the Apostle Paul. But if I'm gay, I can't really be gay unless I am actively gay? This doesn't make sense. I do not need to have sex in order to have a normal heterosexual existence, so I don't need to have sex in order to have a normal homosexual existence. With the other analogies, I can't have a normal female life if I can't dress as a woman, I can't have a normal Christian life if I don't worship publicly, I can't have a normal life as a disabled person unless accomodations are made, I can't have a normal life as a Republican unless I can vote for and support Republican candidates.

Sexual activity, however pleasant it might be, is not essential for a normal human life, for either homosexuals or heterosexuals. The distinction between orientation and activity is therefore a real one. Vague appeals to the "spirit" of the policy are not sufficient here. What you need is a clarification, not a mere insistence that the policy that has been there all along be enforced.

Wes said...

Second, I don't know if you can say something is against the spirit of a policy when the policy has been interpreted in the opposite way for 20 years.

I addressed this above. I believe the interpretation you are giving (i.e. that we are okay with schools that discriminate based on sexual behavior as long as they don't discriminate based on sexual orientation) is so far out of what people normally mean when they draft these kind of anti-discrimination policies that it is much more plausible that they have simply neglected to enforce the policy rather than it is that they have your interpretation in mind.

Are there any real actively gay or lesbian people who would consider themselves good candidates for the positions in question if only there were no behavioral code?

Probably not, but it's irrelevant. As an organization, we have stated that we will not allow organizations to publish in JfP that discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. For years, we have not enforced our policy, but now around 1300 of us have spoken out and said that we want the policy enforced.

Victor Reppert said...

How can you discriminate if there are no actual persons being discriminated against?

SedContra said...

I believe the interpretation you are giving (i.e. that we are okay with schools that discriminate based on sexual behavior as long as they don't discriminate based on sexual orientation) is so far out of what people normally mean when they draft these kind of anti-discrimination policies that it is much more plausible that they have simply neglected to enforce the policy rather than it is that they have your interpretation in mind.

This seems clearly false: the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior is clear and well established. The most natural way to take the language of the policy is as a reference to discrimination based on things that are not up to the individual such as propensities and desires -- a point that some signatories of the original petition have essentially conceded by trying to make the analogy with race.

I almost wonder whether the language of "orientation" was intended originally as a bit of taqiya by activists on the relevant committee. Plausibly, one does not choose one's sexual orientation -- and who would want to endorse discrimination on the basis of something irrelevant that one cannot choose? Now that they sense the times are favorable, they are ready to try to leverage that language into something that perhaps they could not have gotten put in place in the first instance. This is a well-known maneuver in politics: pass some legislation with language that seems on its face to bear a modest meaning in the hopes that the courts will interpret it more radically.

As Vic points out, all of this would be moot if the original signatories would simply push for the APA to add "sexual behavior" to their existing policy. They could even do it as a clarification -- "... which is to be understood as including sexual behavior ..." But that alteration, though it would achieve the same effect in the understanding of the APA's policy, would not deliver the same slap in the face to conservative religious institutions. It is not enough that they should be marginalized by the adoption of a new policy; they must be humiliated by a ruling that they were in violation of an existing one.

Wes said...

Victor,

This is getting silly. So, if it just so happened that no women wanted to work at school A that has a policy of discriminating against women on the basis of gender if they did apply, they wouldn't be guilty of discrimination? That's really what you are arguing right now?

Here's my final word on this. About 1300 members of the APA, a private organization, feel that the organization to which we pay dues has not been living up to its own policies. Specifically, we feel that our organization has not lived up to its stated promise of not allowing schools that discriminate against our homosexual colleagues to publish jobs in our publication, JfP. We have asked our organization to address this matter.

If being consistent with the values described in our anti-discrimination policy prohibits many religious institutions from publishing a job ad in our publication, then so be it. We specifically stated that we will cooperate with religious institutions as long as they do not discriminate on any basis other than religion (and if their "religion" discriminates in any other way, they are in violation of the policy). If a school's particular codes of conduct or policies violate our anti-discrimination policy, we will not allow them to publish job ads.

Can individual philosophers who disagree with our policy still be members? Of course. They can be full members. They can present their views at conferences, vote for leaders they believe will change the policy, etc. There is no proposal to silence voices within the organization; the only prohibition is aimed at institutions hoping to publish jobs in a paper that comes out three times a year.

Currently, about 30 of the approximately 150 people who signed the counter-petition are members of the APA. I expect the APA to defer to the wishes of its members.

I am glad that you oppose discrimination against homosexuals in your state. I have a great respect for you and your philosophical work, but I think you are completely wrong on this issue. Your position seems to me to be embarrassingly inconsistent.

Victor Reppert said...

I'm glad somebody noticed that I voted no on the Prop 8 clone in
Arizona.

I still don't see how the orientation-activity distinction comes out trivial unless we make what seems to me to be the false assumption that sexual activity is necessary for a "normal" human life, homosexual or heterosexual.

Clayton said...

I would have thought that a national philosophical organization would be about generating and facilitating philosophical discussion, not about maintaining political correctness. The nondiscrimination policy had been in place for two decades and had never been interpreted to include codes of conduct. If "discrmination against orientation" is insufficient for these people, then they should introduce wording that includes discrimination against sexual conduct. The idea that we discovered, all of a sudden, in 2009, that some of the leading Christian colleges in America have been violating the APA discrimination code that had been in place for the last 20 years, is insane.

First things first. This wasn't something discovered this year, it's part of a discussion that has been taking place for the past few years at least.

Second, if the APA doesn't stand up for its homosexual members it's a pretty worthless organization just as it would be a worthless organization if it didn't stand up for its religious members if someone discriminated against them either for their beliefs or their practices.

Third, the original petition called for the APA to actually enforce its policies or change them. Conforming to that requires nothing on the part of the Christian institutions. If these institutions have the right to determine its standards of conduct, surely the APA enjoys the same rights to determine whether it gets to associate with institutions that engage in what many members of the APA regard as objectionable forms of discrimination.

Finally, about this behavior/orientation distinction. Remember that in debates about interracial marriage there were those who tried to defend Virginia's laws who conceded that it would be illegal to have laws that discriminated on the basis of an immutable characteristic such as race while insisting that it was consistent with this to have laws that discriminated against behavior (e.g., the behavior that individuals engage in when they marry or try to marry someone from a different race). That distinction didn't persuade the majority in Loving v. Virginia (good thing, right?) and it wasn't because the court didn't understand the distinction between behavior and immutable characteristics. That distinction did little work because it didn't seem that taking account of this distinction and using it in drawing up laws would serve any legitimate interest of the state.

Back to the case at hand. It may well be that from the perspective of the relevant Christian institutions there is some legitimate purpose that is being served by drawing a distinction between orientation and behavior. (We don't hate the gays, but their ways...) But, it seems that from the perspective of most members of the APA (and perhaps a critical mass of members of the APA) this distinction between behavior and orientation does not serve any legitimate purpose. It seems that the purpose of drawing this distinction is to justify the imposition of a code of conduct the imposition of which we (or, many of us in the APA) find morally objectionable. [[Note, there are two issues here. The first has to do with the moral status of homosexual behavior and the second has to do with responses to that behavior. The APA could condemn the way that some focus on that behavior as a condition of employment even if it is an open question as to whether homosexual conduct is morally permissible much in the same way that I think I coherently can say that it is immoral to raise children to have certain moral beliefs (e.g., the moral belief that it is wrong for people to engage in homosexual sex) and also say that it is wrong to discriminate against people who have the (unfortunate) religious and moral beliefs in light of which this is obligatory or permissible.]] Maybe the APA can't stop these institutions from imposing codes of conduct the imposition of which is regarded as morally objectionable, but to the extent that these institutions have the right to engage in discrimination that the members of the APA widely regard as objectionable the APA should have similar rights to say that these institutions cannot have it both ways. You can't both say that you want to discriminate against behavior in ways regarded by the members of the APA as objectionable and use the APA's publications to advertise without some sort of sanction.

Victor Reppert said...

If that is indeed the majority view of the APA then I think some clarification of the policy would be in order.

Schools with religious affiliation usually want persons who reflect the values embodied in their belief-system.

My inclination is in favor of institutional autonomy in determining these matters. I voted against Prop 103 because I thought that the state interest in marriage relationships is a distinct matter from the way in which religious groups might determine what is acceptable.

I think there is dialogue on homosexuality occurring within communities of faith, and I think it is even in the best interests of the GLBT community that that discussion go forward without pressure from the outside.

Clayton said...

If you want clarification, that's what the original petition would give you. It says, essentially, 'Crap or get off of the pot'.

You wrote:
"Schools with religious affiliation usually want persons who reflect the values embodied in their belief-system."

That's nice. And the APA wants schools to reflect the value system of its members, but when these two groups don't see eye to eye I think the APA is well within its rights to say that these schools can't use their services to advertise for jobs, not without some mark indicating the APA's disapproval. Those who signed the counterpetition want the APA to give these schools access to a publication when it is clearly the APA's prerogative to set up standards for the bodies it will associate with. It's a completely asinine position.

Troy Nunley said...

Hi Vic. You are correct...if the APA wants to target Christian hiring practices as immoral they need to change their statement and (contrary to your opponents on this threat) they need to stop pretending that the original writers thereof were too stupid to know what exactly they were forbiding. Otherwise those self-appointed moralists violate the principles "Don't lie" and "Don't bear false witness."

Of all the attempts to circumvent the orientation/behavior distinction, none are so ludicrous and sophistical as those of Alistair Norcross (Leiter blog, February 25, 2009 at 09:40 AM). Consider one of his more rediculous analogies; the distinction between discriminating against women and discriminating against those who don’t pee standing up is clearly spurious and this is supposed to illustrate how the orientation vs. behavior distinction is untenable. Poppycock! The reason that discrimination against those who don’t pee standing up (behavior) would be a clear attempt to discriminate against women (who are “oriented” towards such behavior) is obvious…how you pee doesn’t typically affect your job performance. However, if the job called for a model for male catheter insertion I’ll bet that the ‘discrimination’ would be regarded as legitimate.

What if the employment opportunity involved participating in the production of a bizarre, fetish-porno film involving peeing a certain way? Well, I would personally regard the film project as immoral, but would I complain that the producers were anti-women bigots? Would something like Norcross’ argument against the orientation/behavior distinction work here? Of course not; if I were to concoct a charge of misogeny against those pornographers everyone would immediately see that I was trying (dishonestly) to disguise my anti-porn sentiments as popular egalitarianism. Similarly, those petitioning moralists clearly have a bias against the project advanced by Christian educational institutions (promotion of Biblical living), and it is likely one that is as strong as my anti-porn view…but to disguise this motivation as a claim that the hiring practices target persons (perhaps naturally unavoidable) orientations is flatly dishonest.

Similarly, the military can forbid behaviors towards which women are ‘oriented’ (ie. childbearing) if the job (say, if they are called to the field of combat) calls for it, yet the military would not be exhibiting bigotry towards women by this. Complain about the military’s ‘purpose’ or ‘projects’ if you like…but you can’t fault this policy for misogeny. Are there many pregnant women in the Victoria’s Secrets catalogue? Shall we file a suit against them for gender-bias against women? Ah sure, they aren’t discriminating against the orientation towards pregnancy...but the woman can lose employment in a great many circumstances if she acts on it. I’m sure Victoria’s Secret would protest that they have some sort of ‘project’ that justifies this exclusion; but will we allow ‘bigotry’ just because institutions select explain it away as due to their ‘project?’ This form of reasoning is the exact logic of a great many of the anti-APA petitioners and I regard it as self-deluding nonsense. Worse, I think it is a cowardly lie.

Simlar points refute Clayton’s “interracial marriage” analogy. You must remember that the topic is not “When is it OK to forbid a behavior” but “When is it OK to refuse to hire because of a behavior.” Suppose a magazine wanted to encourage and strengthen marriages within the black community and thus offered some cash to strong black couples who permited them to publish some photos and personal anecdotes. Obviously, those in interracial marriages would not need to apply. But this hiring practice would not constitute racial discrimination; and it is certainly not unethical unless you can prove that the project being undertaken is inherently immoral. Surely it isn’t.

Troy Nunley said...

P.S. Didn't mean to sound angry at bloggers at this cite. I'm sure plenty of folk signed the petition (bad as that is) without malicious intent.

Clayton said...

Troy, you wrote:
Simlar points refute Clayton’s “interracial marriage” analogy. You must remember that the topic is not “When is it OK to forbid a behavior” but “When is it OK to refuse to hire because of a behavior.” Suppose a magazine wanted to encourage and strengthen marriages within the black community and thus offered some cash to strong black couples who permited them to publish some photos and personal anecdotes. Obviously, those in interracial marriages would not need to apply. But this hiring practice would not constitute racial discrimination; and it is certainly not unethical unless you can prove that the project being undertaken is inherently immoral. Surely it isn’t.

I can't tell if you're trying to miss the point, but you did. Let me state it again so you don't miss it this time:

Finally, about this behavior/orientation distinction. Remember that in debates about interracial marriage there were those who tried to defend Virginia's laws who conceded that it would be illegal to have laws that discriminated on the basis of an immutable characteristic such as race while insisting that it was consistent with this to have laws that discriminated against behavior (e.g., the behavior that individuals engage in when they marry or try to marry someone from a different race). That distinction didn't persuade the majority in Loving v. Virginia (good thing, right?) and it wasn't because the court didn't understand the distinction between behavior and immutable characteristics. That distinction did little work because it didn't seem that taking account of this distinction and using it in drawing up laws would serve any legitimate interest of the state.

Back to the case at hand. It may well be that from the perspective of the relevant Christian institutions there is some legitimate purpose that is being served by drawing a distinction between orientation and behavior. (We don't hate the gays, but their ways...) [[LOOK<-------------]] But, it seems that from the perspective of most members of the APA (and perhaps a critical mass of members of the APA) this distinction between behavior and orientation does not serve any legitimate purpose. [[Look<---]] It seems that the purpose of drawing this distinction is to justify the imposition of a code of conduct the imposition of which we (or, many of us in the APA) find morally objectionable. Maybe the APA can't stop these institutions from imposing codes of conduct the imposition of which is regarded as morally objectionable, but to the extent that these institutions have the right to engage in discrimination that the members of the APA widely regard as objectionable the APA should have similar rights to say that these institutions cannot have it both ways. You can't both say that you want to discriminate against behavior in ways regarded by the members of the APA as objectionable and use the APA's publications to advertise without some sort of sanction.

Troy Nunley said...

Hi Clayton,
Thanks for a well-thought out response...but I’m going to refute it again ;-).

In the inter-racial marriage case, you reiterated regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the orientation/behavior distinction “That distinction did little work because it didn't seem that taking account of this distinction and using it in drawing up laws would serve any legitimate interest of the state.” By contrast you point out that the distinction in case involving sexuality (particularly homosexuality) might be in the legitimate interests of Christian institutions but not of the APA et. al.

No, no...

FIRST of all, the Supreme Court’s decision was based on their view that the inter-racial ban violated the 14th Amendment. It is only by depicting their reasoning as limited to issues of the States “interests” that you make headway to the conclusion that the APA ought never to uphold distinctions except in its own “interests.” So you haven’t shown that the APA has any legal precedent for neglecting the interests of parochial groups.

SECOND, the Supreme Court specifically noted that there was no overriding purpose for the distinction except racial bias, specifically white supremacy...After all, why was it still legal for Blacks to marry Asians but not to marry Whites? In the example I offered, there WAS an overriding purpose for the distinction...and again, it does not matter whether the State has an interest in that purpose (the one taken up by the magazine). The State can (and probably should) defend the hiring practices of that magazine.

So if the APA reasons as the Supreme Court did (and your running presumption here is that they ought to), then they will find no reason to change their present practices or policies.

THIRD, your concluding sentences inform me that you hold the view that the APA needs to censure advertisers whose practices violate the moral views of the majority. No way! If conservative Christians or Muslims somehow became the majority, have you thought at all about who might get censured then? I hope you weren’t implying with all the talk of “interests” in your legal argument that this boiled down to simple DESIRES or VIEWS of the majority or of the state....As if the court should have ruled differently had the views or desires of either of these been racist ones?

Admittedly though, I may have slipped by assuming that your argument here to be as simplistic as that of Norcross. “Peeing standing up...” Geez.

Gordon Knight said...

If anyone is still reading this, Keith DeRose has what to me is a very wise letter to the APA:
http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/

Troy Nunley said...

Thanks for the update, I didn't quite find it all that wise though. Any attempt to dismiss the behavior versus orientation distinction in the present case has to overcome the objection I mentioned above. To repeat, where behaviors (naturally oriented or not) adversely affect essential elements of job performance it is perfectly ethical for an employer to make hiring decisions based on that fact.

Troy Nunley said...

Sorry I’ve been away so long...looks like the discussion on Problogion closed down so I'll post my summary-update on the dialogue here just in case anyone cares for my conclusions.

(1) Mark Murphy defended the consistency of policies requiring ALL faculty to abide by “no sex outside traditional marriage.” Van Roojen and Kvanvig switched the issue by deleting the word “traditional” and spoke only of “when gay marriage becomes more common?” Oops.
(2) Kvanvig proposes that some natural law traditions might be innocent of violating the APA standard because even if it’s not proven that natural law condemns homosexual activity “groups are entitled to act on the basis of their best judgment about such a defense.” Yet (a) groups who disagree on whether the Bible offers such grounds are NOT entitled to act on their best judgment here and (b) indeed their capacity for any competent judgment here is to be regarded as guilty until proven innocent. Even if I found the case for (a) compelling (b) violates the laudable example of Socrates when he refused to cooperate with Athens in putting certain generals on trial as a group rather than investigated individually. Even those justly accused of deep wrongs cannot be treated like that.
(3) Along these lines, Murphy even suggested that perhaps the APA should investigate whether Kvanvig-style challenges to a rational Biblical-basis to the banning of homosexual behavior before declaring whether all those schools violate its standard. Of course, he surely realizes that the suggestion is laughable. As if the APA is in a position to make declarations on New Testament ethics? To contradict as irrational the conclusions of, say, Richard Hayes on the present issue? Shall the APA next adjudicate between various interpretations of Kabalistic Judaism, contradict some top scholars and declare their interpretations irrational?
(4) MHart defends the consistency of Christian schools who prohibit practicing homosexuals but admit the divorced because these insist that faculty who divorce/remarry repent; they do not ask for more than this because it would result in more sin (another divorce or such). Kvanvig replies that NT verbage seem to indicate that the continued relationship is still sinful. Perhaps...but did MHart contend otherwise? The (consistency-making) principle is “Don’t make the situation morally worse” not “Eliminate any moral wrong so long as it is present” as Kvanvig’s reply assumed.
(5) Luke Gelinas seems to have misunderstood me (my fault probably). First, he takes me to argue that the Bible said that homosexuality was 'more sinful' than any other sin, because I said there were good reasons for not putting it on so low a par as some other sins. I didn’t say that. I don’t know, for example, if Bible teaches that bestiality is ‘more sinful’ than gossip. But I assert that here are perhaps theological considerations (that, not the sin issue, was the point of my citation of Rom 1) or practical ones that make it rational to make one rather than the other a criterion for hire. Second, he takes my views on Jesus’ ethic (about which we can assume a good deal of conventionality) to overlook his radical attitudes towards women, Sabbath keeping, divorce and violence. No, I merely assert that in all these he was within, not against, a 1st century tradition of Torah interpretation. Interpretation, not demolition. Fulfilling the law, not abolishing it. Interpreting divorce law is one thing; denying OT prohibitions on, say, incest is quite another. So NT historians can safely assume he wouldn’t. Same goes for the issue of homosexuality. And I merely contended that this was a rationally defendable approach to the historical Jesus; post-Schwietzer, there is likely no other alternative.

Summary: the objection raised regarding the obvious permissibility of discriminating on the basis of behaviors (even naturally oriented ones) directly relevant to job performance is clearly FATAL to the claims made in the petition. It seems many bloggers here have decided to talk about something else instead...