Dress Code Ethics: Stupid, Yes, But Offensive? Seriously, American Airlines?

This is too dumb to poll on, so I won’t, but still…

Swati Runi Goyal, 49, was told that she would be kicked off the American Key West flight to Las Vegas unless she removed a black shirt with the text “HAIL SATAN”  along with“Est. 666” and an upside-down cross.

Goyal was seated with her husband  when an American Airlines crew member told her to remove her shirt or get off the plane. The flight was delayed until she changed into an extra shirt that her husband was wearing. “The gentleman asked me if I understood what ‘offensive’ meant, Goyal told the news media.  She says she is  an atheist and a member of the Satanic Temple, which she supports because one of its tenets is “kindness to all creatures.”


  • Complaining because of another passenger’s non-obscene, non-profane shirt? Unethical, as in violating the Golden Rule, which even Satan worshipers can support. What a gratuitous, meddling, unfair thing to do.

Why, it’s almost like complaining to Facebook about an ethics blog!

  • American airlines personnel not telling the officious inter-meddler that he or she can simply not look at the shirt? Incompetent and cowardly.

By the way, what does “offensive” mean? If there’s any word that America in 2019 does not agree on, that’s it. If an airline in going to have a dress code it will enforce by disrupting violators’ travel, it is obligated to have a clear and unambiguous one so ticket purchasers know what not to wear.

  • And now, regarding the atheist Satan worshiper, or what ever she is. Show some respect for the world around you and a modicum of taste and consideration while flying.  People are stuck in  small space with you; you shouldn’t talk too loudly, smell, or expose too much skin (especially unattractive skin) or ram political or social opinions down your flying companions’ metaphorical throats. Just because you can wear a deliberately provocative T-shirt doesn’t mean you should, and incidentally, you’re almost 50: grow up.

There were no ethics heroes in this idiotic episode, only dunces.

16 thoughts on “Dress Code Ethics: Stupid, Yes, But Offensive? Seriously, American Airlines?

    • My understanding is that the Church of Satan is meant as something of a religious parody. It’s a bit more serious than the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but the idea behind most “Satan worship” nowadays is to push religious tolerance to it’s breaking point. “You silly people want a public Christian display? Well then you gotta allow a public Satanist display or you’re just favoring a particular religion!”

      • It’s presented that way when they want it to be, but it’s also presented as supernatural or magical when they want it to be. I did a deep dive on their website and it contradicted itself all over the place. Half of the time it insisted that it was atheist and skeptical, and half of the time it appealed to people’s desires to develop their “hidden magical abilities” that normal folks don’t understand or whatever. LaVey seemed to think he was capable of casting spells. There’s no reason to expect consistency from Anton LaVey or his ideological descendants anyway, seeing as he was a complete con artist and plagiarized most of the Satanic Bible.

        There are completely secular/materialist versions of Satanism, and there are people like the Dayton mass shooter or the Oregon college shooter, who literally claimed to worshipped Satan.

        • I do appreciate the ‘satanists’ broadcasting the method of St. Peter’s martyrdom.

          Their cultural appropriation inadvertently reminds us level of the devotion to which Peter’s faith brought him. Death on an inverted cross.

  1. Personally I’m more disgusted with bad hygiene, morbidly obese seat mates, or clueless parents that bring screaming toddlers on red eye flights than a dumb t-shirt.

  2. Who was the officious inter meddler? I saw no reference to anyone other than the AA personnel and Goyal here or in the linked story.

  3. Are we not going to talk about the religious liberty issue? If the person had on a Praise Jesus shirt and was forced to change or be kicked off the plane, would that not be a violation of civil rights? I thought we had a right to express our religious viewpoints (no matter how vapid they may be). I am pretty sure that religion is in the 1964 civil rights act.

  4. I wonder what would happen if I wore my “I haven’t seen the Democrats this angry since we took away their slaves!” T-shirt?

  5. Wouldn’t that fall under private company, private rules?

    I would think a company can be allowed, maybe even obligated, to confront one customer who is doing, or wearing, something that offends a large number of their other customers. If they did nothing, they would have more people complaining (not to mention risk boycotts and the like).

    I wonder is there a line on that as well? Would “Hail Hitler” be ok. How about Osama Bin Laden (though might be considered a threat on a plane)?

    • I didn’t say it didn’t fall under company rules, or the AA didn’t have a right to do what they did. Please note that this is an ethics blog. The question was, is AA’s conduct competent and responsible, as well as consistent with American values. My view: it’s not.

      You really think an argument can be made that THAT T-shirt is so offensive that it requires censorship? More passengers would be “offended” at a MAGA cap. A Hitler T-shirt could fairly be construed as ant-Semitic. Osama would scare people.

      • It’s no more offensive per se than “In God we trust”. Or “Jesus Saves” for that matter.

        That latter would likely lead to dire consequences on an Air Emirates flight. It would certainly be inflammatory, assholic, in that context. Similarly “Hail Satan” might lead to riot in parts of the US.

        Here principle collides with pragmatism. I prefer principle, but have to acknowledge the concepts of “fighting talk” and “disturbing the peace”. I just value them less highly than freedom of speech. Others may reasonably disagree.

        • That’s fair, Zoe. But if we are going to protect the First Amendment from accumulated attacks and death by a thousand cuts, the principle that offensiveness to some or many cannot be a justification for censorship.

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