The Ethicist Apparently Endorses Discrimination As Ethical

, the New York Times Magazine’s ethics columnist, just opened a can of metaphorical worms, and I’m going to spread them around a little. It may get messy.

A woman—actually, now that I re-read the post, we don’t know it’s a woman— wrote to be reassured that he or she wasn’t a bad person for wanting to dump a man she had engaged in a nascent romantic relationship after discovering that he had Crohn’s Disease. “I know I’m being selfish, but is it unethical to not date him because of it?” she wrote. ” I don’t know what to do to support him, and I am worried about the future. He said it’s very likely his intestinal issues could get worse, and his life expectancy may be shorter. I want to shield myself from the pain, but I also feel like a terrible person for even thinking about it.”

Hey, don’t feel bad,  sayeth “The Ethicist”:

“Once someone is truly a friend or a lover, you have all kinds of responsibilities to them that you didn’t have before. So for example, it would be deplorable to abandon a spouse because he or she has become seriously ill. That’s part of what’s meant by saying a marriage is to endure “in sickness and in health.” Of course, this can turn out to be a promise someone can’t keep. But precisely because a partnership is for the long term, you can appropriately consider what your lives together would be like before you enter into one. When a potential partner is already seriously ill, committing to this person may be committing to a life as a caregiver. (The specific condition you mention has a wide range of severity; it can be mild and well controlled or genuinely debilitating.) You don’t owe it to anyone to accept that burden; indeed, if you think you don’t want such a life, you have a good reason not to enter into the relationship. It doesn’t make you a terrible person to think about the issue. The terrible thing would be to make the commitment and then to be unable to keep it.”

Oddly for “The Ethicist,” he ducked the main question that was asked, and instead answered what he thought was an easier one.   The questions he answered were ” Is it wrong to reject a commitment to someone because that commitment may be too burdensome?,” and “Is it wrong to think about the issue?” (It isn’t wrong to think about anything, regardless of what Black Lives Matter says. They should see what I think about them.)

What the inquirer was asking, however, is whether she should end a casual relationship—she had only known the guy through Zoom, after all—because he had Crone’s Disease, before she could form an attachment to him and might decide that he was worth the trouble…make that  potential trouble.

I see no distinction between what she wants to do and invidious discrimination in any other relationship, like employment. Discrimination is when you treat someone worse than someone else because of who they are and  features they have no control over, rather than what they do, have done, or “the content of their character.” It is also discrimination to make judgments about someone based on assumptions about people “like” them—profiling, essentially. “I don’t want to date him, even though I really like him, because he has a handicap” is,  as I see it, indistinguishable from saying, “I don’t want to hire her because she has a handicap/ is likely to become pregnant/ is old/ is black.”

That’s discrimination, and that’s wrong. Continue reading

A Message From PetSmart

I just received a message from the CEO of PetSmart, which inspires this project: I ask any and all Ethics Alarms readers to send in, as comments to this post, other virtue-signaling screeds from businesses and organizations on the topic of race. Once we have a sizable collection, Ethics Alarms will hand out some awards—Most Sincere, Most Offensive; Most Ridiculous; Most Hypocritical; Most Substantive, even Most Useful, if there is such a message. Perhaps I will put these up for a vote.

Here’s the PetSmart letter; I’ll have some comments at the end. Continue reading

Wait…WHAT? The NFL’s Crazy Diversity Proposal

The National Football League’s “Rooney Rule” requires every team to interview one qualified minority candidate for a head-coaching job.  That requirement was introduced by owners in 2003, but it has done little to remedy the perceived problem that spawned it. About 70% of NFL players are black. Today, 17 years after Pittsburgh Steelers owner John Rooney pushed through his diversity-inspired rule, the NFL has two African-American general managers for 32 teams, or 6.3%. The league has three black head coaches for 32 teams. That’s 9.4%.

The contrast with the National Basketball Association, which also has an overwhelmingly black player population, is striking, as the graph above illustrates. Is this evidence of NFL discrimination? It’s certainly a bad look. Fans, of course, literally do not care what color their team’s management is as long as their work results in winning seasons and championships.

So this coming week, in a Zoom meeting necessitated by the pandemic, NFL owners will reportedly consider a new proposal to provide incentives to motivate owners to hire more of those minority candidates rather than just interview them. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: … Reasonable Discrimination Opposed [Item #5]” [Corrected]

The 5th item in yesterday’s Warm-Up sparked a lot of debate, and a number of Comment of the Day candidates (another is on the way.) That was the post about the white police officer suing on the basis of employment discrimination because his superior told him that the community controversy over the police-involved shooting of a black man had made it essential to hire a black police chief.

Here is Glenn Logan’s Comment of the Day on Item #5 in “Friday PM Ethics Discoveries, 5/15/2020: A Coup Option On The Way Out, A Narrative Reappears, Trump Tweets, Reasonable Discrimination Opposed, And More}:

You said: The community has a potentially explosive race problem, and hiring O’Toole would exacerbate it. They need a qualified black officer in the job. If that violates the Missouri Human Rights Act as O’Toole’s lawsuit claims, the Act needs to be fixed.

Tools of ethical decision-making: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/25/2020: The Quiet Before The Storm

Something’s coming.

(I’d have the West Side Story song up, but for some reason WordPress hasn’t been letting me embed videos lately.) Do you feel it? I sure do…

1. Our incompetent leaders, Part 645, 991. The proper anti-virus conduct as modeled by Nancy Pelosi on TV last week: take off your mask, wipe your nose with your hand,

…and touch the podium. Members of both parties demonstrated similar Wuhan virus safety awareness:

2.  Meme Wars…

[Pointer: Steve Witherspoon (not Other Bill, as I erroneously stated originally. Sorry, Steve)]

…and this (from the Babylon Bee):

3. You know, I really don’t care what someone like this thinks about illegal immigration. In a review of a pro-illegal immigration book by illegal immigrant (OK, she’s a “Dreamer”)

Quick diversion: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that “Dreamers”—people brought to the U.S. illegally as children—cannot access emergency funding set aside for college students who are enduring disruptions in their education because of the pandemic, because grants may only be given to students who are eligible for federal aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act,  meaning U.S. citizens. Naturally, she is being attacked as cruel and racist.

It is the correct, responsible, legal and ethical decision.

So she is laboring under emotional difficulties, a law-breaker herself, and a liar. That’s some expert you got there. She’s also not very bright, based on this statement from her book: Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Minnesota’s Cottage Grove United Methodist Church

They’re going to have to update this, I think…

I believe that it’s fair to say that no church should ever make an ethics dunce of itself. This, unfortunately, is an extreme example. [Full disclosure: My father was raised as a Methodist, and my father in law was a Methodist minister and scholar.] The rationalizations and  double talk came fast and furious, and there even was a Jumbo in the mix.

Praise the Lord!

Rev. Dan Wetterstrom, lead pastor at the Woodbury and Cottage Grove branches of the United Methodist Church, sent out letters to parishioners that the Cottage Grove branch would close on June 1, then open, refurbished, in the Fall seeking the membership of young families with children. Current members who don’t fit that description will not be welcome. The letter encouraged the exiles  to worship elsewhere.

The good news is that the old, childless members should be able to come back into the fold  in 15 to18 months.

“The ends justify the means” is not a Christian, moral nor ethical philosophy, but that is the reasoning being applied by Wetterstrom and his church’s administrators to deal with what they see as a demographic crisis. Young people are staying away (perhaps because they have noticed the rank hypocrisy and stupidity in the church, indeed many churches, engage in, but I’m just guessing) and the current flock keeps getting older and older.

Yecchh. Continue reading

From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Integrity Surrender For The U.S. Marines”

Frequent commenter Steve (not to be confused with Steve-O-in-NJ or Steve Withspoon, also veteran combatants here) asked my opinion about an article titled “Marines’ Obsession with Pull-Ups May Be Hurting the Corps, Study Finds.”

To begin with, it’s a  misleading headline. The real subject of the piece, in Military.com, is the alleged hostility being fostered toward female recruits because of their disparate and less demanding physical requirements, including pull-ups. I was sure that I had written about the Marine pull-up controversy before, and sure enough I had, in 2013, (My, how time flies.) Re-reading it now, I felt that the Ethics Alarms post was relevant background to evaluating the article, which includes this…

The idea that female Marines can do fewer pull-ups than their male counterparts and get an equal score “did not sit well” with men, researchers wrote. “Are [women] required to meet equal physical standards? No, it doesn’t take a scientist to study that,” one gunnery sergeant said. “They need to do this many pull-ups, and I need to do this many. Is that equal? No. Four and four is equal. 20 and 20 is equal. That’s equal. So either we’re equal, or we’re not.”

Somehow, the author spins the findings into a rationalization for allowing the unequal standards to continue, writing at the beginning of the article,

Marines are putting an “extreme emphasis” on the number of pull-ups leathernecks can do, a recently published internal study found. And that, some fear, could result in other important qualities that are vital to the Corps’ mission being overlooked. Participants in a study on Marine Corps culture were often focused on pull-ups as a best measure of a person’s value and worth, researchers found. Marines’ ability to lift their own body weight on a pull-up bar was “routinely what Marines referenced when discussing physical standards, a Marine’s value, and physical readiness,” the report’s authors wrote.

I hadn’t checked the name of the author until after I read the article and was struck by how the title and first paragraphs attempted to ignore the ethics issue involved. Guess the writer’s gender. Yup, you’re right.

Here was my article in 2013, (and I wouldn’t change a word); I’ll have some final comments at the end: Continue reading

A Bias Detection Test

What is the obvious (and in my estimation) amazing bias and prejudice the video above embodies? Here’s another one: same problem.

I hope it jumps out at most of you as much as it does to me. This product’s most obvious market, both in terms of those who most need it and those most willing to look ridiculous wearing it, is seniors. My parents, both of them, would have loved to have one of these on their regular excursions. Yet the promotional video not only doesn’t show any users over the age of 35, it seemingly doesn’t know such creatures exist.

My mother used to complain bitterly once she reluctantly reached her Golden Years that younger people acted as if she were invisible.  I wonder if this video is one more example of the fracturing of American culture and consciousness into hostile groups that choose to regard non-group members as “the other,” not worthy of consideration or acknowledgment.

After all, one would think that at least the profit motive would be enough to prompt us to include the elderly in our world view. In this case, at least, apparently not.

One More Time: A Correct Decision Because There Is A Right To Be A Jerk, Even Though Being A Jerk Isn’t Right

This decision should have been easy; it should not have has to go to an appeals court.

Carl and Angel Larsen (above) operate the Telescope Media Group, a Minnesota videography company.  In 2016, they claimed  Minnesota’s anti-discrimination laws required them to make videos of same-sex marriages, which they say their religious beliefs oppose. They challenged the Minnesota Human Rights Act as unconstitutional. The relevant provisions state,

“…It is an unfair discriminatory practice . . . to deny any person the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation because of . . . sexual orientation.

…It is an unfair discriminatory practice for a person engaged in a trade or business or in the provision of a service . . . to intentionally refuse to do business with, to refuse to contract with, or to discriminate in the basic terms, conditions, or performance of the contract because of a person’s . . . sexual orientation . . . , unless the alleged refusal or discrimination is because of a legitimate business purpose…”

The Larsens told the lower court that they wanted to make films that promote their view of marriage as a “sacrificial covenant between one man and one woman.” Thus they will only film heterosexual  weddings, to “capture the background stories of the couples’ love leading to commitment, the [couples’] joy[,] . . . the sacredness of their sacrificial vows at the altar, and even the following chapters of the couples’ lives.” They also, they said,  intend to post and share these videos online, in order to “affect the cultural narrative regarding marriage.”

 U.S. District Judge John Tunheim  dismissed their case, comparing  their stated mission of  promoting marriage as a bond between one man and one woman was comparable to posting a sign that said “white applicants only.”

Bad opinion, bad logic, bad judge. The couple made clear that they will “gladly work with all people—regardless of their race, sexual orientation, sex, religious beliefs, or any other classification.” However, as ” Christians who believe that God has called them to use their talents and their company to . . . honor God,” the Larsons decline any requests for their services that they feel conflict with their religious beliefs, and so state in their promotional materials.

In a 2-1 decision,  the three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit reversed, ruling that the Larsons have a First Amendment right “to choose when to speak and what to say.”

Of course. While one may argue whether a cake is “speech” under the First Amendment, there is no persuasive argument that a video or film is not protected communication and speech by definition. The opinion cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1995 landmark decision in Hurley vs. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, noting that the Court “drew the line exactly where the Larsens ask us to here: to prevent the government from requiring their speech to serve as a public accommodation for others.”

As with the various baker and wedding photo cases, I find the Larson’s conduct obnoxious, divisive and unnecessary. How does simply filming a wedding—I don’t care if it’s between a man and a musk-ox—constitute an endorsement, support, or a violation of their religious beliefs? It doesn’t. It can’t. Refusing to make a video of a wedding is an insult to any couple that requests it, and cruelly implies that they are less than worthy of association. Sure, the videographers have a right to withhold their services, but they are being jerks to do so. This is a Golden Rule matter. A law shouldn’t be necessary.

However, the Larsons should have the choice of whether to be good, ethical members of the community, fair and compassionate, and not be forced to act the way the State thinks they should act, even if the State happens to be correct, under threat of  90 days in jail and up to $25,000  in fines. Continue reading

Labor Day Weekend Kick-Off Ethics Warm-Up: The “I’m Baaaack!” Edition

Excellent work in the Open Forum, everybody.

Thank-you.

As it happened, there would have been no way I could have written a post yesterday, except after I arrived home following a 6 hour drive from New Jersey following my three-hour seminar. At the point, however, my IQ had fallen below Joe Biden levels, so it would have been unethical for me to opine or analyze anything. I’m slightly better now, at the Kamala Harris level and rising, so I’m going to get right back on the metaphorical horse.

I hate missing a day like that, mostly because it puts me behind in covering the ethics news, but also because I view Ethics Alarms as a commitment to the loyal readers who come here.

1. Well this is good news…The College Board is dropping its proposed “adversity score” from the SAT. The ill-considered device, which Ethics Alarms metaphorically spat at here, would have assigned a score based on the socioeconomic background of each student, artificially raising his or her score based on socioeconomic circumstances.

Of course, this was an unusually transparent ploy to facilitate race-based college admissions .As I wrote in May,

This is a cynical and dishonest device to give cover to colleges and universities as they try to base their admissions on race and ethnicity while avoiding legal prohibitions on discrimination based on race and ethnicity. That is all it is, and exactly what it is.

2. And MORE good news! A new Rasmussen Reports survey shows that most voters believe the average journalist is liberal, and few are conservative. Moreover, a majority believe it is appropriate for politicians to criticize reporters and hold them to the same scrutiny as those they cover.

Of course  it is. For more than three years, we have been hearing that President Trump’s condemnations of the news media and specific news organizations and journalists represent a threat to the freedom of the press and democracy. For those same three years, the Ethics Alarms position has been that while the President’s rhetoric and tone is often irresponsible, the threat to democracy is being created by a mainstream media journalistic establishment that is no longer interested in being fair or objective, not by criticism of this dangerous trend.

The survey analysis found that 61% of likely U.S. voters believe reporters at major news organizations are public figures who deserve critical scrutiny of their conduct and biases.  Only 61%? 19% directly disagree with that contention. How  can they disagree? What would give journalist the unique right to be immune from criticism of bias, competence, and abuse of power? Elected officials are not immune, nor are scholars, artists, lawyers or judges. Continue reading