Category Archives: Religion and Philosophy

The Bill Maher Ethical Conundrum

Wits

“One of these things is not like the other…”

 

The Bill Maher Ethics Conundrum is not what you probably think it is.

Maher, the alleged comic and anti-conservative scold who hosts an HBO program, was chosen by a student committee to be the  commencement speaker for the University of California-Berkeley’s December graduation. This was a lazy, embarrassingly juvenile and politically-loaded selection, but Maher had also just recently used his show to join fellow atheist and neuroscientist Sam Harris in a condemnation of Islam, calling it  “the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Later on Maher nodded approvingly  as Harris also called Islam”the mother lode of bad ideas.”

This caused Muslim students at Berkeley to prove Maher correct about their religion’s entrenched intolerance of opposition, and they have been joined by other political correctness censors in the student body—there are a lot of them—to demand that the university rescind Maher’s invitation because of his “hate speech.”A  Change.org petition—-now THAT site is the real mother lode of bad ideas—now urges students to boycott the decision and asks the campus to stop him from speaking. It has gathered more than 1,400 signatures. The committee that chose Maher, naturally, backed down, but the University, so far at least, is sticking to its decision to invite him.

Yes, yes, universities ought to be marketplaces of ideas where all views are welcome, and yes, it is hypocritical and offends the traditions of liberal education to stop Maher from stating his views on Islam, or re-telling “The Aristocrats,” or making a fool of himself, or whatever he’s going to do because some students or all students disagree with him, just as it was for Rutgers students to force Condolezza Rice into withdrawing after she was invited to speak at Rutgers. The dilemma illustrated by this flap is a classic ethics problem, which I will henceforth call the Bill Maher Conundrum, which has been long debated and never decisively settled:

Is the ethical nature of an act defined by its intent, or by an objective assessment of the act alone without reference to motive? Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Religion and Philosophy

Update On “The Hitching Post,” The For-Profit Chapel Being Required To Hold Same-Sex Weddings

Emily Litella

“Never mind!”

From NPR in Boise:

The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, says the Hitching Post, a for-profit wedding chapel owned by two ministers, doesn’t have to perform same-sex marriages.The city has been embroiled in controversy ever since the owners of the Hitching Post sued the city. They say a city anti-discrimination law threatened to force them to marry same-sex couples now that gay marriage is legal in Idaho…Initially, the city said its anti-discrimination law did apply to the Hitching Post, since it is a commercial business. Earlier this week, Coeur d’Alene city attorney Mike Gridley sent a letter to the Knapps’ attorneys at the Alliance Defending Freedom saying the Hitching Post would have to become a not-for-profit to be exempt.

But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit. “After we’ve looked at this some more, we have come to the conclusion they would be exempt from our ordinance because they are a religious corporation,” Gridley explained.

…Leo Morales of the ACLU of Idaho said the exemption makes sense as long as the Hitching Post primarily performs religious ceremonies. “However, if they do non-religious ceremonies as well, they would be violating the anti-discrimination ordinance,” Morales said. “It’s the religious activity that’s being protected.”

…The group that helped create Coeur d’Alene’s anti-discrimination ordinance says the Hitching Post shouldn’t have to perform same-sex marriages. The Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations says in a letter to the mayor and city council that the Knapps fall under the religious exemption in the law.

In other words, the result is as I said it would be, and as Professor Volokh opined that it should be.

The ethical thing, of course, would be for the Knapps to treat same sex couples as the loving human beings they are and marry them like they do any other loving couples. But when it comes to administering a religious ceremony, the State cannot force the Knapps to do what their beliefs don’t permit. Meanwhile, that’s some legal talent they are hiring in Idaho. “But Gridley said after further review, he determined the ordinance doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit.” Upon further review? I’d think the city’s attorney would actually read the applicable statute before threatening a business and its owners without cause.

Oh, Mike? Upon further review, the Constitution doesn’t specify non-profit or for-profit either. But thanks for causing a thoroughly unnecessary controversy based on knee-jerk political correctness and sloppiness. Unless… you knew your theory was garbage all along, and were trying to bluff the Knapps into doing what you felt was the right thing, and their constitutionally guaranteed rights be damned. You wouldn’t do that, would you? I hope not. It would be unethical.

 

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Now THIS Is An Unethical Pastor…

Forgiveness can only go so far, even in a church, and even for its pastor.

Good.

"So we're good, right? No hard feelings? No judging?"

“So we’re good, right? No hard feelings? No judging?”

In Alabama, Rev. Juan McFarland revealed to his Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church congregation, in three consecutive sermons beginning with Sunday Sept. 14, that he had  sex on the grounds of the church with several church members, used illegal drugs while serving as pastor, stealing some of the church’s money and being HIV positive, which he did not disclose to at least one of his sex partners.

With all of this, he expected to stay on as pastor; after all, he had confessed his sins. It took a court order to remove him.

It never ceases to amaze me what individuals used to power and influence think they can get away with as long as they eventually confess and say they are sorry. (Of course, they all have the shining example of Bill Clinton…) How much misconduct did McFarland think his flock could and should forgive? If he admitted that he was operating a terror cell from the church? That he was a serial killer? A cannibal? “Never mind, my son: we believe in redemption. God is merciful and forgiving”

When trust so abused can be reinstated with just a pro forma admission and an apology, it becomes nothing more than a tool for liars and manipulators to prey on the forgiving and gullible. Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and its leadership are to be congratulated for refusing to fall for the con.

______________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: AL 1, 2

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Romance and Relationships

On Forced Acceptance Of Same-Sex Marriage: The Slippery Slope Stops Here

Hitching-Post-Idaho

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, pictured above, are ordained ministers who conduct weddings at their for-profit chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, called “The Hitching Post.” After this year’s ruling by an Idaho federal judge that the state had to recognize  same-sex weddings, a City of Couer d’Alene deputy city attorney went on  local TV to say that for-profit wedding chapels could not legally turn away a gay couple without risking a misdemeanor citation. The Hitching Post, he noted, “would probably be considered a place of public accommodation that would be subject to the ordinance.” The Knapps say the the City Attorney’s office has made the same assertion in telephone conversations with them.

Now, the Volokh Conspiracy reports, the Knapps have moved for a temporary restraining order, arguing that applying the anti-discrimination ordinance to them would be unconstitutional and would also violate Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

They have to win. As Professor Volokh, a First Amendment authority of fame and renown, explains, Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

The-Gifford-Barn-in-Schaghticoke-NY

It is said that close cases make bad law, and they often make bad ethics too. Legally, the culpability of Cynthia and Robert Gifford is not at all certain. Ethically, however, as right as they may be on the law, the conduct of their persecutors, same-sex couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, has been unnecessary, without compassion, vindictive and cruel.

The Giffords are active Christians who own Liberty Ridge Farm, located in Schaghticoke in upstate New York. They supplement the farm’s revenue with attractions designed for kids and families, including a pumpkin patch, a corn stalk maze and a rustic barn for parties and weddings. That rustic barn has three stories. The Giffords reside on the top floor, with the bottom floor designed for events, and the second floor consisting of rooms for activities relating to their preparation and management.

When Cynthia Gifford received a phone call from Melissa McCarthy inquiring about having her wedding at the farm, Cynthia invited her to visit and assess the venue.In the follow-up phone call, McCarthy revealed for the first time that the affair would be a same-sex wedding. Cynthia explained that the family’s faith held that marriages can only be a union of a man and a woman, so they did not make their farm available for ceremonies. She said, however, that the couple was welcome to hold the wedding reception there.

Apparently expecting this response, Jennifer and Melissa surreptitiously recorded the phone call. Armed with the recording, they contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union who immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Giffords on their behalf.

The Giffords argue that this was not a matter of discrimination, but religious practice. They had hosted events for gay clients before, and employed gays. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians,” their lawyer said.

They lost. Bronx administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares rejected Giffords’ claim that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. She ruled that Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”  The fact that the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private. The Giffords were ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution.

The Giffords are appealing.

The Giffords, according to the judge, “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Another way of looking at it is that Jennifer and Melissa, now married, discriminated against the Giffords solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why couldn’t they agree to respect the Giffords’ religious beliefs, and use the property for the wedding reception only, having the actual ceremony elsewhere? Would that really be such a hardship, or a compromise in principles? Indeed, if the nation and committed progressives really aspire to tolerance, diversity and mutual compassion and understanding, why wouldn’t that be the ethical, desirable, reasonable compromise?

I know the response to that question, of course. This was a matter of principle. This would send a message. Crushing the Giffords was necessary to show that all opposition to same sex marriage would eventually be crushed under the advance of history. Never mind that these were not anti-gay bigots, and that they have as much right to practice their faith as a lesbian couple has a right to wed. This is a zero sum game, apparently. Besides the law—probably–supports McCarthy and Erwin.

I think the actions of Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin violate the Second Niggardly Principle, which is a rule of kindness, compromise and common sense. It holds…

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

The couple’s legitimate objectives in this case were to get married and celebrate the marriage in an attractive venue. I don’t think setting out to punish a couple for belonging to a religion that doesn’t accept same sex marriage is a legitimate objective, nor is turning their lives upside down, nor forcing them into the maw of litigation to bend them to their will. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer? It seems that this is McCarthy and  Erwin believe, and what this case will come to stand for.

If so, I think the story of the Giffords will do more harm than good, hardening opposition, confirming suspicion, undermining trust and ultimately making acceptance for gay couples harder, however it turns out in the courts. Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness. It would help if they showed a willingness to give as well as receive.

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Pointer: Steven Mark Pilling

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Charity, Citizenship, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

The Benefits of Mutual Respect and Civility vs. Hate and “Partyism”

A New York Times feature from October 3 tells the inspiring tale of a friendship between two scholars, one a Christian, the other an atheist. Their friendship does not thrive in spite of the conflict between their core beliefs, but rather because of it.

Prof. David Skeel, the Christian, recently published  a book, “True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.”  His atheist friend, Patrick Arsenault,  is  acknowledged in the book and quoted as well, and the Times notes that “True Paradox” “might not have existed at all, or certainly would not exist in its present shape and voice, without the secular scientist as its midwife. And that odd reality is testament to a rare brand of mutual civility in the culture wars, with their countervailing trends of religious fundamentalism and dogmatic atheism.” Says Skeel:

“One of the things we talked about was whether it matters if we persuade each other. I long to have Patrick converted to my perspective. So how can we have a friendship? I see it as toleration in the deepest meaning. We don’t just ‘put up’ with each other’s beliefs. We interrogate them.”

Arsenault tells the Times that “in the culture wars, the rhetoric is acerbic on both sides. On the humanist side, there’s this tendency to view people of faith as not rational. And David is clearly rational. He’s just looked at the same evidence as me and come to a different conclusion.”

Contrast this attitude—rational, respectful, practical, fair, constructive and profoundly ethical, with the “partyism” and bigotry being practiced with increasing intensity as the mid-term elections approach. There is Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in the video clip above, for example,  not merely accusing Republicans of fear-mongering, but suggesting that their criticism of the Secret Service is insincere: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Religion and Philosophy

Now THIS Is An Abuse Of Police Power

The trooper is on to something...it is amazing how persuasive a sermon can be when it's backed up by a gun...

The trooper is on to something…it is amazing how persuasive a sermon can be when it’s backed up by a gun…

According to the complaint filed in a U.S. District Court, Indiana State Trooper Brian Hamilton stopped Ellen Bogan to give her a ticket,proceeded to grill her on whether she had yet accepted Jesus Christ as her savior, and then gave her a pamphlet to help her see the light.

Quite reasonably, Ms Bogan felt coerced and was ready to swear that she had the Bible tattooed on her back if hse had to get away from the Preacher Policeman After the prolonged stop, Trooper Hamilton said “God bless you,” which was nice, and then went on to find other motorists to proselytize at gunpoint.

This is what the First Amendment to the Constitution is concerned about when it prohibits the state from interfering with citizens’ free exercise of religion. It’s wonderful that Trooper Hamilton is a good Baptist and all, but he is in the wrong line of work, and needs to have a forced occupation change immediately. A badge doesn’t give him the right to use his authority as a police officer to bully motorists into endorsing his favorite brand of Christianity. In fact, the badge, the gun and the nature of his employer take that right away from him while he’s working.

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Pointer: Fred.

 

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