Ethics Observations On “The After-School Satan Club”

It’s difficult to know how to begin…

Let’s start with the unfortunate fact that this is not a hoax, a joke, or a parody. The Jane Addams elementary school in the Moline-Coal Valley School District—that’s Illinois—has approved an after-school club called “The Satan Club.” Here is the flyer requesting parental permission:

Note that it is sponsored by The Satanic Temple, which released this reassuring statement:

After School Satan Club does not attempt to convert children to any religious ideology. Instead, The Satanic Temple supports children to think for themselves. All After School Satan Clubs are based upon a uniform syllabus that emphasizes a scientific, rationalist, non-superstitious worldview.

There, that should put everyone’s mind at ease!

Now here is the school district’s statement:

The Moline-Coal Valley School District understands that there is concern and confusion over an upcoming after-school club at Jane Addams elementary.

The District would like to provide information on the situation. The Moline-Coal Valley School District and Board of Education have policies and administrative procedures in place which allow for community use of its publicly funded facilities outside the school day.

The district does not discriminate against any groups who wish to rent our facilities, including religious-affiliated groups. Religiously affiliated groups are among those allowed to rent our facilities for a fee.

The district has, in the past, approved these types of groups, one example being the Good News Club, which is an after-school child evangelism fellowship group. Flyers and promotional materials for these types of groups are approved for lobby posting or display only, and not for mass distribution.

Students or parents are then able to pick up the flyer from the lobby, if they so choose, which is aligned to District policy. Please note that the district must provide equal access to all groups and that students need parental permission to attend any after-school event. Our focus remains on student safety and student achievement.

Observations: Continue reading

The Lesson Of The Pete Rose Saga: It’s Hard Being Ethical When You’re Stupid

Rose rejected

Pete Rose’s final appeal to have his ban from Major League Baseball lifted was rejected, as Commissioner Rob Manfred delivered a stinging rebuke. (You can read his letter here.) The very first ethics post I ever wrote was about Pete, and I have posted about his character and plight several times since. Rose, the all-time leader in hits and undeniably a great player, was banned from the game in 1989. An investigation concluded that he had bet on baseball games while a manager of the Cincinnati Reds, a violation of MLB’s famous “third rail” no-gambling rule, which makes it an automatic expulsion from the profession to place bets on baseball games as a manager, coach or player. This is regarded as an existential rule for baseball, which was nearly ruined when gamblers fixed the 1919 World Series.

Rose maintained his innocence of the allegations for decades, then admitted(to sell a book) that he had been lying, and did gamble. Just a few months ago, evidence surfaced that he had also bet on baseball while a player, which Rose has always denied.

In his letter rejecting Rose’s appeal, Commissioner Manfred noted that one of the conditions that had long been set for Rose to have any chance of reinstatement—though Rule 21 has no exceptions, MLB was willing to do almost anything not to have the holder of the record for lifetime hits on its blacklist—Rose would have to earn a pardon by showing he had turned his life around, meaning that Pete was no longer a sleazeball.

Manfred wrote that Rose, who had, among other black marks, served time in prison for tax evasion, asserted in his latest appeal that he indeed was a new and better man. Nevertheless, Rose…

1. Refused to admit that he had bet on baseball as a player, when the evidence was incontrovertible, and

2. Revealed that he still gambles on horse racing and professional sports, including baseball.

Manfred came to the obvious conclusion that “Charlie Hustle,” who pretty clearly has a gambling addiction, has taken no positive steps toward addressing it, is still a risk to gamble on baseball games or get himself in debt to gamblers if he returned to the sport, and  can’t be trusted.

All of the above could be more concisely summarized by six words: Pete Rose is a stupid man. As comedian Ron White says, “You can’t fix stupid.” Manfred, in his letter telling Pete that he can forget about any future employment in baseball, noted more than once that Rose does not appear to understand the import and purpose of the rule he violated, which exists  to protect the integrity of the game. Indeed,  Pete Rose wouldn’t know what integrity was if it sat on his face. Continue reading

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

“Mild Pedophilia” and Richard Dawkins’ Ethical Blind Spot

"Bobby, do you thinkthere's anything wrong with mild pedophilia?"

“Bobby, do you think there’s anything wrong with mild pedophilia?”

When you are a public intellectual and your primary mission is using reason and scholarship to enlighten the public, you have an obligation to guard scrupulously against making careless,  irresponsible or easily misunderstood statements that will be accepted as inspired wisdom by the less analytically able. Or to be more direct, if you are Richard Dawkins and because of some serious neural malfunction you really think that there is such a thing as “mild pedophilia,” you want to ever to be taken seriously again, shut up about it.

Dawkins, for reasons only known to himself, used a wide-ranging  interview to airily wax on about what he regards as his contact with a harmless child-molester.  Reminiscing about his  days at a boarding school,  he recounted how one of his schoolmasters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts.” Noting that other children in his school peer group had been molested by the same teacher, he concluded: “I don’t think he did any of us lasting harm.”
The world’s most famous atheist explained, “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

What (in the name of Holy Hell) is “mild pedophilia”? Dawkins went on to say that the most notorious cases of pedophilia involve rape and even murder and should not be bracketed with what he called “just mild touching up.”

“Mild pedophilia”?Just mild touching up’? This from one of the most respected minds in the cosmos? Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Richard Dawkins

The headlines shout out: “World’s Most Famous Atheist Admits: I Can’t Be Sure God Doesn’t Exist!”

Wow, what a confession. Stop the presses.

Can anyone be 100% sure this doesn't belong in the Sistine Chapel?

To his great credit, and knowing how the 50% (that is, those of below median intelligence, a sad number of whom reside in the profession of journalism) would react, Prof. Richard Dawkins, the British evolutionary biologist who is point man for the atheist assault on religion, told a student audience at Oxford during a “discussion” ( translation: informal debate) with the Archbishop of Canterbury that he thinks “the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low,” but he can’t be 100% certain.

Well, of course not. While this will be taken as a sign of weakness by the faithful who, of course, are 100% certain of the Supreme Being’s existence, no honest, intelligent, fair individual suffering from less than clinical levels of egomania and omniscience could possibly claim to know with certainly where the universe came from. Bravo to Dawkins for his honesty and integrity.

Patch Motto Ethics, or WHO CARES???

Bear with me—this story has a point, and besides, it’s funny.

George S. Kaufman had the right idea.

Playwright George S. Kaufman  (“The Man Who Came To Dinner”, “You Can’t Take It With You”, and many more) was a panelist on  the long-forgotten early TV  program, “This is Show Business.” One of its features was to have a celebrity consult the panel members about a personal problem. On one show, singer Eddie Fisher ( father of Carrie) complained to the panel that some women refused to go out with him because of his youth. Kaufman replied with this immortal expression of complete disinterest:

“Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars to twenty-four times the magnification of any previous telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the development and construction of the Mount Palomar telescope.  The Mount Palomar telescope is an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification and resolution of the Mount Wilson telescope.

“Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn’t be able to see my interest in your problem.”

This is how I feel about the controversy over the removal of a reference to God on an Air Force unit’s patch, and it is how, I believe, everyone should feel, from the atheists who agitated for the patch to be changed, to the ridiculous Republican House members who are opposing the change. Continue reading

Toronto: Religious Bullies Distort the Alcoholics Anonymous Mission

In Toronto, two Alcoholics Anonymous groups that specifically removed reference to God and religion in their version of the Twelve Steps have been de-listed by the central organization there, a straight exhibition of the abuse of power and a breach of integrity in the pursuit of selfish ends.

Alcoholics Anonymous, as anyone who has listened to Charlie Sheen’s anti-AA rants knows, employs repeated evocations of God and “a higher power” in its formula for treating alcoholism.  But while many have successfully turned to faith in their journeys to sobriety, most individual AA chapters neither insist on religious belief nor preach it, leaving it to each member to decide what his or “her higher power” is. To many, it is a God, and to many it is the fellowship of AA itself. The point of the higher power is to help an alcoholic discover the spiritual strength and resolve to conquer a pernicious and powerful disease with no known cure. the objective of AA, however, is not to seek to strengthen religion. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: PZ Myers

PZ Myers, according to his blog, Pharyngula, is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota. Yesterday, however, he was just one more arrogant, mean-spirited bully (if this were not an ethics blog, I would have used the term “jackass”), ridiculing Catholics who chose to follow the traditions of their church by displaying a smudge of ash on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday.

Like all bullies, he chose the weakest and most defenseless targets for his attack: “little old ladies,” whose religious devotion made him want to “pull out a hankie, spit on it, and clean them up.” Continue reading

Intolerance vs. the Constitution in Ashville, N.C.

To someone passionately devoted to the belief in God and Christianity, the thought of having one’s city governed by non-believers may be repulsive. Unfortunately for the sensitivities of those facing this dilemma, the founders of the United States of America were quite specific about the irrelevance of religious belief to civic participation and the rights of citizenship. That may not stop some self-righteous political opponents of Ashville, N.C. City Councilman Cecil Bothwell, who says he doesn’t believe in God but who was duly elected in November, from trying to sue the city for its failure to abide by an archaic, and undeniably unconstitutional, state law forbidding atheists from holding office. Continue reading