Tag Archives: religious freedom

Tom Delay, Ethics Dunce Emeritus

I know, I know...it's mean to use the mug shot. Good.

I know, I know…it’s mean to use the mug shot. Good.

I am grateful to ex-Republican House Leader and former Texas Rep. Tom Delay for putting himself back in the news with a quote remarkable for its ignorance, hatefulness, and corrupting potential. There are many reasons:

1. It provides a little perspective for Republicans who are excessively smug about the unethical depths to which the Democratic leaders, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, will sink. Yes, they are ethically atrocious. DeLay, however, was as powerful as either of them for a very long time and was a major power in causing the Bush years to collapse in a smelly pile of corruption. The fact that the Republican Party would follow such a man is easily as damning as Democrats tolerating Reid and Pelosi.

2. It gives me the opportunity to name Tom Ethics Alarms’ second Ethics Dunce Emeritus. The first was Bill Clinton. Tom Delay makes Bill Clinton look like Atticus Finch. Think about that.

3. I miss pointing out how despicable Tom DeLay is. On Ethics Alarm’s predecessor, The Ethics Scoreboard, he was worth a post on a regular basis.

4. His statement is so ridiculous that it is bound to make thoughtful people wonder if they should be agreeing with the man, and reexamine their current anti-gay positions critically.

Here is what DeLay said, discussing the various religious rights protection measures and the controversy surrounding them, on an interview with Newsmax, with some restrained commentary by me in bold: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 1)

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2014 was the year of the Ethics Train Wreck. They were coming so fast that they were getting tangled up with each other, and old wrecks from past years started rolling again, or the damage that was triggered a year ago or more started kicking in. I don’t know if every year really is more ethics free than the year before, or that it just feels that way because I’m getting better at sniffing it out. By any standards, it was a wretched year, with epic ethical misconduct across the culture. But I can’t stall any more: let’s wade into it. There will be more installments this year, so the misery is coming in smaller bites. You’re welcome.

Ethics Train Wreck of the Year

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It’s a tie!

The Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck and The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck

The obvious winner is the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck, which has managed to hook up with the 2012 winner, The Trayvon Martin- George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck, as well as a the sub-EthicsTrain Wreck attached to the death of Eric Garner, to further degrade U.S. race relations, undermine the stability of numerous cities, get several people, including the recently assassinated NYC police officers killed, revive race riots, give vile demagogue Al Sharpton unprecedented power and influence, and pick up such distinguished riders as President Obama,  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, New York Mayor de Blasio. It is also still barreling along at top speed after many months, and is a good bet to continue its carnage well into 2015. 

Yet, it became clear to me this summer with this post that the entire Obama Administration has become an Ethics Train Wreck, and one that is neck-and-neck with the one spawned in Ferguson in threatening short and long-term damage. Incompetence, dishonestly, lack of transparency and arrogance have hardened cynicism in the public, corrupted the ethical values of defenders, let journalists to disgrace themselves, and fertilized festering potential disasters internationally and domestically. This is also, I now see, a wreck of long duration that started in 2009, and had gathered momentum with every year. It also has sparked other wrecks, including the one that now keeps it from being the sole 2014 winner. How much damage will The Obama Administration Ethics Train Wreck do in 2015? Which agency or department will prove itself to be corrupt, incompetent and mismanaged, which official will continue in a post after proving himself unfit to serve, which inept pronouncement or abuse of power will further degrade American trust and freedom?

I’m not looking forward to learning the answers.

Fraud of the Year

The U.S. Justice Department, which allegedly participated in a plot to force  Sierra Pacific Industries and other defendants  to pay $55 million to the United States over a period of five years and transfer 22,500 acres of land as settlement of charges brought against the company by DOJ for causing a 2007 wildfire that destroyed 65,000 acres of land in California. Naturally, the national news media has barely covered this scandal, which is still in litigation. Runner Up: The Victoria Wilcher scam, which made KFC pay for plastic surgery for a little girl when there was no evidence that the company was in any way involved with her injuries. After the fraud was discovered, it didn’t dare ask for its money back. Well played, fraudsters! Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Professions, Rights, Workplace

Twelve Post-Veto Ethics Observations On The Arizona “Religious Freedom” Bill

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1. As we now know, Governor Brewer vetoed AZ SB1062, the so-called “religious freedom” bill that was widely (and accurately) interpreted as support for discrimination against gays. In the previous post, I suggested that her delay in doing so sent a message that was as hostile to gays as the law itself: if she felt the law was ethically wrong, then she should have and would have announced that she would not sign the bill long ago. Instead, she waited to see how much economic damage the law would do to the state, and then vetoed it, not because this was the right ting to do, but because it was the pragmatic thing to do. (As the satiric Borowitz Report put it, “The state of Arizona found itself in the middle of a conundrum today as it awoke to the awkward realization that gay people have money and buy stuff.”) USA Today noted that, to the contrary,”Some political insiders believe Brewer has allowed furor over the legislation to build to thwart social conservatives’ attempts to push a similar bill later.” I doubt it, but if so, Brewer allowed her state and her fellow Republicans to be represented nationally as homophobic for as long as possible to spare herself the inconvenience of vetoing a second bill.

2. Despite the extravagant debate over the bill, almost no commentators actually published the bill’s text in the commentary. The reason appears to be that since the bill is really an amendment of an existing law, it takes a modicum of intelligence to figure out what’s going on. Here it is (the original law is in black; the new text is in blue; what has been removed in the amended version is struck through): Continue reading

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The Klan’s Birthday Cake, Individual Boycotts And The Ethics Of Refusing to Give Service To Jerks

"Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists..."

“Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, Dear Racists…”

[UPDATE: Apparently, the “news story” that prompted this post is a fake. In that case, I want to thank the hoaxers for  inadvertently sparking a useful discussion—nothing in my post is dependent on the factual nature of the story. I wasn’t the only one fooled, and I originally noted the links on reliable sites. On the other hand, to hell with people who plant fake stories that are not obviously tongue in cheek or satirical: it’s a despicable practice, and abuse of the web, and right down there with public vandalism and creating computer viruses as unforgivable public conduct. I apologize to readers here for misidentifying a false story as true, but I’m not the unethical jerk involved. If anyone knows who that is, please forward their names. I have some choice words for them.]

As I wrote the first time I stuck my ethics big toe into this kind of controversy, I am conflicted over the current trend of forcing certain kinds of service providers to serve customers they just don’t feel like serving. I have consistently come down on the side of the rejected customer, even when the service, as in the case of bakeries and photography salons, edges perilously close to art. I think I am there still, but my resolve is weakening. I think. Let’s look at this again, in the context of the kind of recent case that always eventually occurs when one sits on the slippery slopes.

A three judge panel of a Georgia appellate court recently ruled in favor of Marshall Saxby, the Grand Wizard of a local KKK chapter, after he sued a local bakery for refusing to bake a cake for the KKK chapter’s  annual birthday party. Elaine Bailey, who owns Bailey Bakeries, said she rejected the Klan its activities violated her religious beliefs, and Saxby claimed that Bailey’s refusal of service discriminated against his religious beliefs.

The difficulty with making an ethical call on this case and others like it (and sort of like it, arguably like it or a little bit like it) is that the crucial question in ethics analysis, “What’s going on here?” cannot be answered with certainty or clarity. There are ethical arguments and ethical principles, on both sides, making the issue an ethical conflict (rather than an ethical dilemma). In an ethical conflict, we must prioritize among important ethical principles that are opposing each other.

Let’s answer “What’s going on here?” in some of the various ways this case allows, as if only one of these ethical principles were in play: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Race, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, U.S. Society, Workplace

Ethical Quote Of The Month: Justice Richard Bossun of The New Mexico Supreme Court

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[The quote that follows is from the concurring opinion in the just-decided case of  Elaine Photography v. Willock, which challenged the proposition, discussed and endorsed on Ethics Alarms in several posts, that a business could not and ethically should not refuse service to same-sex couples.]

“On a larger scale, this case provokes reflection on what this nation is all about, its promise of fairness, liberty, equality of opportunity, and justice. At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life.

“In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world.”

——- New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Bossun, concurring with opinion in Elaine Photography v. Willock, which rejected the claim that legally requiring a photography shop to take photographs of a same-sex marriage was a violation of the First Amendment.

You can read the Volokh Conspiracy take on the case here, and here; Ken White has his usual trenchant observations at Popehat.

From an ethics perspective, however, Justice Bossuns’s words need no enhancement. I could not agree more, nor say it better.

______________________________

Graphic: Illinois Family

 

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Quotes, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Unethical Website Of The Month: Minnesota For Marriage

No, nobody's saying you can't advocate your beliefs, archaic and destructive though they may be. Just make sure they don't stop people from buying flowers and cakes like everyone else...

No, nobody’s saying you can’t advocate your beliefs, archaic and destructive though they may be. Just make sure they don’t stop people from buying flowers and cakes like everyone else…

I’ll spare you much commentary on this one, but it’s eye-opening in tone and content: an indignant, angry appeal to protest on the theory that legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota constitutes an attack on the freedom of religion.

A sample:

 “Now over 1.4 Million Minnesotans are considered the legal equivalent of “bigots” and have NO protection to live out their beliefs in the public square. The gay “marriage” law allows churches and SOME religious organizations to define marriage as only between 1 man and 1 woman. But, people of faith know that living out your beliefs means living what you believe OUTSIDE the walls of your church.

“Gay “marriage” supporters and their allies in the MN Legislature seem to think that Minnesotans with deeply held religious beliefs about Marriage will be content to believe that marriage is the union of 1 man and 1 woman in the walls of their church and then stay SILENT about those beliefs outside those walls. So, the MN Legislature passed the gay “marriage” bill with no protections for people outside the walls of their church. The MN Senate had the chance—and refused—to protect the religious liberty rights of Minnesotans outside their church walls….Now Minnesotans with the deeply held belief that marriage is the union of 1 man and 1 woman cannot act on this belief in the way they do their business or the way they practice their profession.

“The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has already confirmed our worst fears:  There is NO religious liberty protection for people of faith in the public square. The Department states specifically that nonreligious organizations are NOT exempt from the law and that nondiscrimination laws can (and will) be used as a weapon to punish people of faith. For example, if a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim florist refused to provide flowers for a same-sex “wedding” based on his religious beliefs, the same-sex couple can “file a claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights against the entity that discriminated against them.”

“Bottom Line?  The gay “marriage” lobby and their allies in the MN Legislature view Minnesotans of faith as “bigots” and will punish them accordingly using MN Human Rights laws—forcing men and women of faith to choose between their livelihood and their convictions.

“That is not acceptable.” Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, The Internet, Unethical Websites

The Florist, The Gay Wedding And The Slippery, Slippery Slope

OK, she's a jerk. But is it ethical to say she can't be a jerk? Isn't America about having the right to be a jerk?

OK, she’s a jerk. But is it ethical to say she can’t be a jerk? Isn’t America about having the right to be a jerk?

Arlene’s Flowers & Gifts proprietor Barronelle Stutzman had been selling flowers to Robert Ingersoll and his partner, Curt Freed, his partner, for a decade, but drew a line in the sand when they wanted her business to supply the floral arrangements for their same-sex marriage. She refused, citing her relationship with God. This week, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit against  Stutzman, drawing a line of his own.

There are legal and ethical issues mixed up here like gazpacho, and some of them are not difficult. For example, whether Stutzman should have the legal right to do so or not, her decision to reject and stigmatize long-time customers is indefensible ethically. It is cruel, unfair, ungrateful and disrespectful. They were good enough to profit from for ten years, but not good enough to accommodate at the most important time of their lives? Such conduct earns a massive ethics “Yechh.”  Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy