Ethics Quiz: Never Mind Breastfeeding In Church, What About Gus the Asparagus Man?

If churchgoers’ sensibilities regarding mothers breastfeeding during a religious service are worthy of respect and deference, what about their sensibilities regarding people dressed like vegetables?

This past Sunday, England’s Worcester Cathedral  kicked off the region’s annual Asparagus Festival with a unique ceremonial blessing. A man in a suit and tie carried a bundle of the vegetable to the front of the church, followed by a man costumed as a spear of asparagus (Gus the Asparagus Man) and someone costumed as St. George, shield and all. The cathedral’s Precentor then blessed the crop.

Many churchgoers were offended. “This is an absurd pantomime-type scene that makes a mockery of Christian worship,” said one.  A popular religious blogger asked, “Where’s the sprout liturgy, or equality for mushrooms? Would the Dean really permit a walking fungus to participate in an act of divine worship?”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

Was it unethical for the Church of England to present such a whimsical service to its unsuspecting members?

The values to consider here are trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility.

What do you think?


Pointer: Fred

Ethics Dunce: Annie Peguero, Defiant Breast-Feeding Mom

Ah, yet another feast from the legal/ethical divide, with seasoning from the minority/majority ethics balancing dilemma, and a side-dish of favored group arrogance and entitlement! The beverage? Why breast milk, of course!


Annie Peguero’s 19-month-old baby became unruly during the service at the Summit Church in Springfield, Virginia, so she nursed her, right there, in the church. She was quickly asked to move the operation to a private room, but Peguero refused.The church staff told her that it does not allow breast-feeding without a cover because the activity might make members of the congregation uncomfortable.

The mother of two left the church, and soon posted a livestream video on Facebook telling viewers her side of the story and urging women to stand up for breast-feeding.

“I want you to know that breast-feeding is normal,” she said.

Is it normal without any cover in a church? That church? Peeing is normal, but I wouldn’t rely on the “normal” categorization take a whiz in a pew. Farting is normal, but if I felt a big one coming, I would excuse myself. Eating is normal, but chowing down on a huge Italian sub during the hymns would be in bad taste. Sex is normal, but…well, you get the idea. Annie doesn’t.

To complicate the matter, breast-feeding is a legally protected right in Virginia thanks to badly written 2015 law that says women have a right to breast-feed anywhere they have a legal right to be. Dumb law, overly broad, and probably the result of pandering to the mommy lobby while assuming that mothers wouldn’t try to stretch the law to absurd limits. But Virginia also has a Religious Freedom Preservation Act, § 57-2.02, which says,

No government entity shall substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability unless it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is (i) essential to further a compelling governmental interest and (ii) the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Do we really think that churches shouldn’t be allowed to have dress and decorum codes and policies? Continue reading

On Tolerance, Religious Freedom, and “Ain’t No Homos Gonna Make It To Heaven”

It is generally true, as the indignant members of Greensburg, Indiana’s Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church say, that what they include in their church’s services is nobody’s business, and the fact that the congregation loudly applauded the horrific spectacle of a 3-year-old boy singing the hate anthem, “Ain’t no homos gonna make it to heaven!”would have never bothered a soul if it hadn’t been videorecorded and placed on YouTube. At this point, however, that no longer matters. The cat is out of the bag, the horse has left the barn and the beans are spilled, and now millions of Americans know that this church teaches hate, indoctrinates young and vulnerable children with its poison, and sows the seeds of prejudice and the active deprivation of American citizens of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since millions of people know this now, a critical number of them will go out of their way to make life in this country a living hell for members of that church and the church itself by demonstrating at every turn that we don’t want churches like that in America, or people like that in America. They aren’t good for society, they cause positive harm without any compensating benefits, and they need to change their ways or suffer the consequences. And to that I say: Good. Go to it. Continue reading

Reporting the Confessed Killer in Your Midst: An Ethical Dilemma That Isn’t

Pedro Hernandez, now under arrest for the murder of Etan Patz, the  6-year-old boy whose 1979 murder was a national mystery, confessed that he had strangled the child just a few years later to his prayer group at St. Anthony of Padua, a Catholic church in Camden, New Jersey.  No one, including Hernandez’s relatives who learned of his confession and the prayer group leader, reported the confession to authorities.

Hernandez’s sister, Milagros Hernandez, confessed what she described as a “family secret” to a reporter for the New York Daily News over the weekend, setting off “What would you do?” internet polls and blog posts, as if there was any question about the proper conduct for a family member or church group member who hears a murder confession. There is no question.  You report it. There are no debate issues, no competing considerations, no claims of loyalty or confidentiality.  It isn’t a Golden Rule dilemma, as in “Would I want someone to report me if I confessed to him in confidence that he had strangled a little boy?”  It isn’t a dilemma at all. There is only one right thing to do, and if you think otherwise, you missed a couple of key meetings when the ethics were being handed out. Continue reading

Child Predator Minister? No Problem! Just Tell the Kids To Stay Out Of Church!

Every picture I could find to illustrate this story was offensive, so here's a bald guy with a dog on his head.

Combine the comments I’m getting from the “cannibelles” launched at Ethics Alarms from the “Wisconsin Sickness” website (“Personal conduct has no bearing on professional trustworthiness!“), and add the film negative of the recently posted Ethics Hero, the selfless pastor, add some eye of newt, and ABRACADABRA! You get…. Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida, whose pastor, Darrell Gilyard, is a registered sex offender! 

And of recent vintage, too. This apparently doesn’t faze the good parishioners of Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist because—well. pick your rationalization…I’m sure they have:

  • “There but the grace of God go I!”
  • “Everybody deserves one mistake!”
  • “Let Him who is without sin cast the first stone!”
  • “Who are we to judge?”
  • “It’s not like he killed someone!”
  • “What he does in his private life is nobody’s business!”
  • Look at the Catholics! At least our pastor molests girls!
  • “Christians believe in redemption!”
  • “It doesn’t matter: he’s an excellent preacher!”

Gilyard’s last church wasn’t so understanding, but then it was that congregation’s underage girls who he pleaded guilty to molesting in 2009. You can’t blame them too much for being intolerant.

But his new church is being reasonable about this as well as broad-minded; they are taking the responsible course. Children aren’t allowed in church while Gilyard is preaching.

Problem solved!

Ethics Hero: Pastor Thomas Keinath

Rev. Keinath on holiday, under the overpass

Thomas Keinath is the pastor at Calvary Temple in Wayne, New Jersey, a so-called mega-church with a 2,000-plus seat sanctuary in an affluent community. It was time for him to take some vacation time, so he did. And what did he do?

Keinath spent his week off living with the homeless in the very un-affluent community of nearby Paterson, New Jersey. During the day, he wandered through the streets along with desperate, sick and destitute. At night, he stayed with them as they built fires to keep warm in freezing cold,  and slept with them, under a bridge, surrounded by discarded hypodermic needles.  He wrote down the life stories of the people he met, so he could learn from their life stories.

“I needed to understand what they were experiencing, and I needed to feel their pain.  How could I bring help or healing to the streets if I did not know what their needs are?” the pastor told reporters. Continue reading

These Parents May Be Unethical, But They Sure Belong to The Right Church!

This boggles the mind. An Irvine, California couple  suspected their 15-year-old son was smoking because they found a lighter in his clothes. Their solution? They hired Paul Kim, a man who is often delegated the task of disciplining the children of the couple’s fellow churchgoers.

He does not have a light touch.

The parents dropped the boy off at Kim’s home to be beaten.  The church enforcer repeatedly hit the child on his legs with a metal pole about an inch in diameter  a dozen times, causing severe bruising.  An adult at the boy’s school saw the bruises and called Irvine police, who informed San Bernardino County officials. They in turn arrested Kim, who faces a felony charge of willful cruelty to a child.  Investigators believe Kim has been used in this way by other families in the congregation, and asked for victims and witnesses to come forward.

Neither the name of the church nor the identity of the boy’s parents have been made public, but a few things can be determined with some certainty. To begin with, that’s one sick congregation. Continue reading

The Unethical Consequences of Ethical Coffee

"Mmmmmmm! Smells ethical!"

When ethical conduct becomes too complicated, confusing, or controversial, the vast majority of people will shrug and give up, leaving the conduct to be embraced by fanatics who can be relied upon to argue among themselves about who is really being ethical.   Welcome to the world of so-called ethical coffee, where adherents must choose between a dizzying number of certifications and categories to ensure that their coffee purchases support ethical practices and objectives.

“Shouldn’t the dollars you spend support the values you believe in?,” chirps the home page of “Fortunately, when it comes to the morning cup of coffee so many of us love, it’s easier to put your money where your conscience is than with any other commodity. (Just try to find a gas station that can certify that the gasoline you’re putting in your tank isn’t linked to environmental disasters or labor abuses halfway around the world.) With coffee, you can pay a little more and know the grower is getting a minimum price or be sure you’re helping preserve winter habitat for some of the same songbirds that will show up next summer in your back yard.”

Hey, sounds great! Love those song birds! Then comes the “but’… Continue reading