Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reply to Clayton on the APA Petition

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

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 the step of treating a code of conduct as discriminatory? 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. I'm not saying "that settles it" by any stretch, but you do have to come to terms with these kinds of passages.

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?


Wes said...


I noticed your name on the counter-petition, but also noticed that you are not listed as a member of the APA (along with 25 of the other first 49 signatures; plus 8 anonymous "signatures"). Do you think the organization to which I pay dues should be concerned more with your opinion or mine?

Gordon Knight said...

"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?"

For those who accept the view that discrimination against homosexuality (or homosexual conduct, if you will) is immoral, yes. Those who do not agree with that claim, no. Which is probably how it should be.

I would guess there are many gay people already working at Biola, albeit closeted.

exapologist said...

You signed the counter-petition? Say it ain't so, Victor!

Anonymous said...

At the Independent Gay Forum, John Corvino has a column on this controversy. it is at

Readers here may find Corvino's piece interesting. He discusses what he likes as well as what he dislikes in the petition to the APA.

For instance, Corvino notes the following:

"It seems to me that there’s no contradiction in prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation while allowing it on the basis of sexual conduct. The schools mentioned don’t exclude gay people; they exclude people who engage in homosexual acts. It’s a fine line, perhaps, but philosophers like fine lines.

"Generally speaking, these prohibitions are part of a more general effort to preserve the schools’ robust religious character. Schools that prohibit gay sex generally prohibit pre-marital and extramarital sex as well; some even prohibit the drinking of alcohol. (Philosophy without beer? Count me out.)"

Yet he also says this:

"I admire the petitioners for recognizing the serious injustices that daily confront gays and lesbians and for seeking to remedy those injustices.

I also agree that, while there’s a difference between orientation and conduct, the two cannot be teased apart as easily as some religious conservatives would like. Who we are is intimately connected with what we do—especially when it comes to deep personal relationships. Those who profess to “love the sinner but hate the sin” often distort that deep connection."

Corvino's editorial may not change your mind, but you'd probably find it a worthwhile read nonetheless.

Kuudere-Kun said...

The Pro-Racists thought Stricture supported them just as the Anti-Gay people do now.

That arugment falls a part Bibiclally, but so in my opinion does the Anti-Gay argument.