Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/1/2019: Ethics Is Busting Out All Over! Mostly BAD Ethics…

Happy June!

1. Boycott/extortion update! Let’s see if Georgia has as much guts and principle as Alabama, and tells Disney to go fly a kite.

Hugh Culverhouse, Jr., the University of Alabama’s largest donor,  called for a boycott of Alabama , both the University and the state , because of Alabama’s defiant, anti-Roe  abortion ban, recently signed into law. The university’s law school was renamed Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law last September 2018 after the Florida businessman pledged  $26.5 million to the university. In response to Culverhouse’s boycott call, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John recommended to the Board of Trustees that it return the $21.5 million  the law school it has actually received from Culverhouse, and restore the name to “The University of Alabama School of Law.”

Good. That’s exactly how states should respond to attempted extortion by individuals and corporations to control their lawmaking and bend the state to their wills rather than the decisions of voters. The whole story is at TaxProf Blog.

2. Nah! A reverend like, say, Martin Luther King would never engage in the kinds of sordid acts his biographer claims! They are men of God!

Bobby J. Blackburn, the pastor of Elevate Church in Prestonsburg, Kentucky,  was arrested this week and  charged with the prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor to commit a sex act. Blackburn is also the owner of Giovanni’s, a pizza restaurant in Prestonsburg. A girl who worked there showed a police sergeant images of an iMessage conversation she had with Blackburn in which he asked the minor to engage in a “threesome” with him and another girl, also a minor. He also made other sexually explicit requests.

Rev. Bobby tried to weasel out of his mess by bringing a third young woman to the police station and having her claim that she sent the incriminating messages from his phone. It didn’t work: under questioning, she admitted that she was lying and that Blackburn ordered  her to make the false claim under threat of losing her job.

I hear he’s one heck of a pastor, though! Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical Pastor! Also An Idiot. Also…ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

As I go through life, I find myself having increasing difficulty distinguishing organized religions from cults. I know what Ben Franklin would say: “cult” is always used in the third person, as in “their cult.” I also have a difficult time of late distinguishing cults from religions. Isn’t climate change activism a religion now? How about hating President Trump? Socialism has always been a cult. Cults install One Great Truth as a substitute for critical thought and the ongoing process of self-education and accumulated wisdom. They also can drive people mad.

Take, for example, this story….

Jaddeus Dempsey, the associate pastor at Impact City Church in Pataskala, Ohio, asked the kids attending his after-school youth program to spit in his face,  slap him in the face, and finally to cut him on the back with a kitchen knife. He explained that  the exercise was part of a larger lesson on “how much Jesus loved them.”

If Jesus really loved them, He wouldn’t allow them to get trapped in a room with this wacko.

The whole horrible  episode was partially captured on video, as you can see above. Some of Dempsey’s Disciples  shout and laugh as they line up to  spit at the pastor and slap him.  Some of them seem genuinely enthusiastic about abusing him.  (Hitler Youth may have been trained this way.) The video ends after the first cut with the kitchen knife; who knows what happened after that.

The church spokesperson “explained” that Dempsey was just trying  to present the exercise as a lesson of the crucifixion ahead of the Easter holiday.

Oh! Then that’s all right then!

Dempsey appeared in a video on the church’s Facebook page, saying with a knife sticking out of his back—I’m joking!

“It was just not appropriate and it was in bad judgment. I am so sorry for misrepresenting the community, the church, the parents, and the students — anybody that I hurt. This was not my intention. My intention was to just show them how much Jesus loves them and that I love them as a student leader for almost four years now. Tonight was an anomaly and it is not normally what happens. Again, I am deeply sorry for the pain that I have caused.”

Got it! You’re an irresponsible moron, and unfit to be left alone with children! Now check yourself into a mental ward, that’s a good pastor…

The church’s lead Pastor Justin Ross elaborated on the intended lesson. “Jaddeus got up in front of the students and he says, ‘I’m going to ask you to do something that might seem a little crazy, but if there’s anyone here that would like to spit in my face, you can do so without any repercussions,” Ross said.

“He had the opportunity to share a message about Easter,” Ross added, “and he chose to use an illustration to explain a very important topic about the crucifixion, but the illustration went too far.”

Ya think?????

In another statement, Ross told WBNS-TV,

“We exist to create an environment that is safe and predictable for students to come, connect with their friends and grow closer to God. Today we failed at creating that safe, predictable environment. We want to do better.”

Well that’s a relief. It would be pretty hard to do worse.

Another disturbing aspect of the episode was that none of the adults, including Ross, who were in the room  witnessing Dempsey’s deranged lesson—that was child abuse, you know— had the integrity, courage or independence to stop it.

Cults are like that.

The mother of one of the male children who handled the knife told a TV station that  her son won’t be returning to the church, and that she reported the incident to the sheriff’s office. Good. That’s one responsible parent. Unfortunately, I assume most will echo the sentiment of Kelsey Collier, who  told the BBC,

“Jaddeus and people in that church were always there for us.They’re the most understanding, least judgmental people you will ever meet.”

Well they certainly have the least judgment of anyone you are likely to meet…

 “I don’t think someone should be judged just based on one mistake, that one mistake doesn’t define who he is.”

Sorry, Kelsey, but someone in a better youth group needs to introduce you to the concept of signature significance.

Normal, trustworthy, rational and responsible people don’t tell kids to slap them and cut them with knives—ever. That’s not a mistake, that’s fanaticism, and it absolutely defines what the pastor is, at least in a professional context.

Dangerous, and nuts.

Apology Not Acceptable: The Pastor, The Cake, And The Whole Foods Scam

This guy takes the cake...

This guy takes the cake…

Jordan Brown is the openly and presumably obviously  gay pastor at Austin’s Church of Open Doors. You will remember him if you saw his video last month explaining how an employee at the local Whole Foods, in an inexplicable burst of baker suicidal tendencies, had written in icing the legend “Love Wins Fag”—whatever that means—on a cake he had ordered there.

“When I got into my vehicle, I looked inside and saw they had wrote ‘Love Wins F–‘ on it,” Brown says in the video, in apparent emotional anguish. “You can see it nice and clear. Also, it is still in a sealed box. As you see, I have not opened up this box yet.” He also held a press conference, describing his feelings of humiliation when he finally got home with his cake and read the icing attack.

Then he sued the groceries giant, claiming that Whole Foods knew or should have known that cakes prepared by mad homophobic bakers in its employ might have “slurs or harassing messages” written on them and then be “presented to a customer without any oversight or prior warning.” Ah, if only Whole Food had said, to Brown, “We have to warn you, sir, we’ve written a homophobic slur on your cake. Have a nice day!”

Naturally, as with so many recent examples of members of frequently harassed and victimized groups, especially on campuses, creating their own racist, sexist or homophobic “hate crimes” and inventing  entire incidents, like Rolling Stone’s “Jackie,” the initial reaction of the news media was gullible acceptance, and the immediate response of social justice warriors was fury. Whole Foods was a cultural villain, and facing significant, business-threatening consequences.

Whole Foods did not turn the other cheek, however. It denied the allegations and countersued, stating that Brown “intentionally, knowingly and falsely accused Whole Foods and its employees of writing the homophobic slur … on a custom made cake that he ordered from WFM’s Lamar Store in Austin.” Whole Foods, ominously for Brown, said that it had video evidence proving that Brown had tampered with the cake.

Suddenly contrite in the face of resistance, the good pastor said, in effect, “Ooopsie!” He issued an e-mail, withdrawing his lawsuit and his story: Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical Pastor…

Forgiveness can only go so far, even in a church, and even for its pastor.


"So we're good, right? No hard feelings? No judging?"

“So we’re good, right? No hard feelings? No judging?”

In Alabama, Rev. Juan McFarland revealed to his Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church congregation, in three consecutive sermons beginning with Sunday Sept. 14, that he had  sex on the grounds of the church with several church members, used illegal drugs while serving as pastor, stealing some of the church’s money and being HIV positive, which he did not disclose to at least one of his sex partners.

With all of this, he expected to stay on as pastor; after all, he had confessed his sins. It took a court order to remove him.

It never ceases to amaze me what individuals used to power and influence think they can get away with as long as they eventually confess and say they are sorry. (Of course, they all have the shining example of Bill Clinton…) How much misconduct did McFarland think his flock could and should forgive? If he admitted that he was operating a terror cell from the church? That he was a serial killer? A cannibal? “Never mind, my son: we believe in redemption. God is merciful and forgiving”

When trust so abused can be reinstated with just a pro forma admission and an apology, it becomes nothing more than a tool for liars and manipulators to prey on the forgiving and gullible. Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and its leadership are to be congratulated for refusing to fall for the con.


Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: AL 1, 2

Ethics Dunce: Chelsea Welch (The Applebee’s Train Wreck, Part Deux)

Chelsea Welch 2

Chelsea Welch: Hire at your own risk. You have been warned. By Chelsea, in fact…

I really, really didn’t want to revisit the tale about the cheap pastor, the self-righteous waitress, and Applebee’s. The comments on the original post here were illuminating, not in a good way, and were profoundly discouraging. The fact that so many people are incapable of getting past their biases against any business that has to enforce basic common sense policies on their employees is depressing; the fact that they embrace wholeheartedly the idea that a minor instance of poor judgment and conduct warrants permanent vilification on the web is alarming; and the widespread rejection of the principles of the Golden Rule is scary.

Unfortunately, Chelsea Welch, the fired waitress whom I once had some sympathy for despite the fact that her firing was 100% justified, has apparently seen fit to publish a letter, although there is no way to tell that it is really hers—the way this whole scenario has gone, it probably was written by the pastor who started the whole mess to make Chelsea look bad. If that was the objective, the pastor was wrong again, for a ridiculous percentage of the commenters think the letter is perfectly reasonable, meaning, of course, that they have the ethical sensibilities of 5th graders. The cruel reader who brought this to my attention actually read the comments on one site and tallied them: 1538 supporting Chelsea, only 20 that didn’t.


Nonetheless, Chelsea Welch reveals herself as an A-1 prime ethics dunce, the kind of person who will blunder along through life behaving unethically, causing little and large harms and discomforts to those she encounters, always thinking she is in the right, because she doesn’t have the foggiest notion of how one goes about determining what  right is.

Her letter is a classic of rationalization. Some highlights (the entire letter is at the end)… Continue reading

Comment Overview: “Mutual Destruction At Applebee’s: An Uncharitable Pastor and a Vengeful Waitress Do Each Other In”

This post is approaching an Ethics Alarms record for comments, and as always in the case when my commentary strikes a nerve, almost never on the most serious issues [This earlier post from yesterday, for example, is one that matters, and that I wish would get wider distribution, since I appear to be the only one making these points], the later comments tend to re-iterate the earlier ones, which have already been addressed, and I hate explaining the same thing over and over. Also the trolls have come out to urinate on everything, and I’ve had to ban a few, which I don’t like to do.

Therefore, as I have done before, here is a summary of the thrust of the comments and my replies, as well as over-all observations about the issue and conversation generally. I wish any commenter would read this before repeating what has already been said:

1. Nobody is defending Bell, the cheap and arrogant pastor. Good, but if the update you’ll find at the end is correct, she is considerably less despicable than everyone, including Welch, presumed.

2. One clown, however, wrote an abusive comment accusing me of defending the pastor, insulting my work and character based on that accusation, which made about as much sense as accusing me of being Marie of Rumania. I banned her, and also told her why in intentionally unkind terms. I’m not sorry.

3. It continues to amaze me how many people feel they have to comment on commentary—often in abusive and indignant terms– when they haven’t taken the time to read the post. Unbelievable.

4. I expected some readers to defend the actions of the waitress, but not as many as turned up.

5. I am grateful for the assistance of texagg04, affectionately known as “Tex,” who jumped into the fray late last night when I was trying to deflect attacks left and right. I owe you, bro.

6. Facts:

  • It is not against the law not to leave a tip.
  • It is not against the law even it is a so-called “mandatory tip.”
  • It is not against the law even if the mandatory tip is noted in the menu.
  • It is not legally theft.
  • It is unethical to leave an inadequate tip when the service was at least acceptable, as it apparently was at Applebee’s that fateful day.
  • It is not unethical to leave less than the expected tip if the service was poor.

7. A server, or a server’s colleague, has no right to take any negative action against a diner who unfairly leaves an inadequate tip. That is the restaurant’s choice alone.

8. Applebee’s did nothing wrong whatsoever. The large number of posts asserting that Applebee’s or eating establishments in general mistreat their employees, justifying conduct like the waitress’s web-shaming are manufacturing rationalizations. Even if true, and I have no evidence of that in this instance, that is irrelevant to Chelsea’s duties as an employee, and subsequent misconduct.

9. There is no way to ethically shame the pastor without the participation and approval of the restaurant.

10. There are three  problems with what the waitress did: 1) She worked for Applebee’s, and embarrassed an Applebee’s customer in a manner that involved the restaurant and that directly related to a patron’s visit there. That is employee misconduct, anywhere, no matter what the provocation. 2) She was engaging in vengeance, which is unethical—“tit for tat” conduct which is virtually always wrong.  3) The vigilante punishment was disproportional to the offense,

11. A restaurant does not have to specifically inform employees that taking unilateral action against restaurant patrons is a firing offense. That said, I’d be shocked if the employment manual didn’t include language broad enough to cover this incident. It didn’t have to say, “Don’t web-shame cheap customers.”

12. I think Applebee’s should ban Bell from eating at any of its restaurants. I said that in the post. But that does not mean that it should “show some spine” and endorse an employee unilaterally harming a patron in revenge. She was acting personally, but doing so in a way that reflected on her employers, involved them, and harmed them. No employer should be expected to tolerate that, and those who endorse such conduct are foolish.

13. Dumbest and most irritating ethics-free comment, repeated many times: “If you ever waited tables, you wouldn’t take that position! You don’t know what you’re taking about!” Translation: “I’m biased, because I’m a server, sympathize with servers, and can’t be objective. You can’t analyze this without being biased too.” The underlying ethical issues–vengeance, vigilante action, violation of duties to employers—have nothing to do with waiting tables, and apply the same way in other professions.

14. The expropriation and publication of data on a proprietary document belonging to the diner, Bell, and Applebee’s is per se  unethical conduct. There is no defense for it.

15. A diner does not voluntarily put herself in the public eye by what she writes on a check that is between her and the restaurant.

16. An interesting spin-off was raised by a vengeful waitress who defended Chelsea and said that when she was stiffed on a large bill, she informed the mayor of the town that the diner, a city lawyer, was plotting against the city with his meal companion. Even if he was, servers are professionally obligated to keep the contents of conversations they overhear confidential. If she had done this as a whistle-blower, it is ethically defensible. She did it to get even, which is not a justifiable reason, and the restaurant would be justified in firing her for doing it.

17. Yes, I sometimes have typos and other errors in my replies to comments. As regular readers know, I have them in my posts, too, though I am constantly cleaning them up. The typos in the comments are mostly due to the fact that I answer a lot of them, in addition to the fact that I can’t type or spell. This does not, as one commenter asserted, mean that I did not graduate from the schools I “claim” I did. And what makes you think graduates of those schools  necessarily proof-read any better than I do?

18. As for the web-shaming fans who argue that Chelsea’s act was virtuous because such evil conduct should exposed, and anyone who acts so disgracefully deserves to be held up to disparagement across the globe: None of us should want to live in a society where every mistake we make is at risk to be preserved forever online, warping the opinions that others form of us for the rest of our lives. In Europe, it is called “the right to be forgotten.” The Golden Rule applies, not that Pastor Bell would recognize it. This is a perfect example of the kind of minor lapse–it’s 7 lousy bucks!—that the elephant gun of public shaming should not be used against.

19. Novel (and bad) rationalizations: 1) Because the waiter collected money, he became a co-owner of Applebee’s. Ugh, no. He is the agent of Applebee’s, and still just an employee. 2) The bill wasn’t proprietary, because it wasn’t copyrighted of trademarked. Wrong. “Proprietary” also means “property belonging to someone,” and the someone wasn’t Chelsea. 3) Bell’s comment on the bill slip was directed at the waiter personally, so the retaliation was only personal too. Ridiculous. First, it is unclear that the comment was directed at the waiter at all; I’d say it was directed at the restaurant that mandated the 18%. But even if it was directed at the waiter, it was directed at the waiter in his capacity as an employee, not personally….not that it would justify retaliation even if it was intended personally. 4) Applebee’s has an obligation to support retaliation for “blatant abuse” or an employee being “taken advantage of.” This suggests that every time a waiter is given an unfair tip, the restaurant should support web-shaming. The “blatant abuse” was withholding a seven buck tip—not nice, but “abuse”? This wasn’t even why Chelsea posted the bill—it was what was written on it that outraged her, and that didn’t “take advantage of anyone.” That was just someone being a mega-jerk.

20. This is not a free speech issue.

21. The Applebee’s employee manual has plenty of provisions prohibiting Chelsea’s conduct.

22. If you are tempted to argue, as one commenter did, that my use of an Applebee’s menu as a background on a day when I am getting nothing but comments related to this post suggests that I am endorsing the restaurant or otherwise a shill for it, heed this warning: Don’t. There are some insults I won’t tolerate, and this is one of them. UPDATE (2/2): The Applebee’s menu background was scheduled to be replaced today, but I’m leaving it up in honor of the cognitively damaged commenters, currently numbering two–one banned and one likely to be—who have accused me of shilling for the restaurant.


UPDATE (2/1): Now it appears that the pastor left a tip in cash, and only complained about it on the slip. And that Applebee’s charged her credit card with the tip anyway, meaning that it owes her money. If true, this makes Bell far less of a villain, and also makes her complaint to the restaurant more justifiable. It also makes Welch’s conduct look reckless and unfair, further justifying her dismissal.

Mutual Destruction At Applebee’s: An Uncharitable Pastor and a Vengeful Waitress Do Each Other In


The Combatants!

  • Alois Bell, a pastor at Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries Church. Uncharitable, vengeful, arrogant and cheap, she complained about an autotip of 18% added to her Applebee’s check that was triggered by the size of her group. The bill was small, but the group was large. Crossing out the tip amount and replacing it with nada, she scrawled, insufferably, on the bill, “I give 10% to God, why do you get 18?”, thus stiffing the waiter whom the party later said had rendered impeccable service. She also scrawled “pastor” by the bill amount, thus presuming a clergy discount that didn’t (and shouldn’t) exist. After a waitress colleague of the un-tipped waiter posted the bill on Reddit to inspire some well-earned web-shaming, Bell complained to Applebee’s management, successfully getting the waitress fired.

Verdict: Contemptible jerk. She abused her position to claim a discount that she wasn’t entitled to, and punished an innocent server by withholding a fair tip. [This may not be so; see UPDATE at the end] Then she set out to take vengeance on the young woman for exposing her despicable conduct. So much for showing the other cheek. Bell’s conduct was as far from the teachings of Christianity as one can get, at least at an Applebee’s.

  • Chelsea Welch, the now ex-Applebee’s waitress. She posted the obnoxious bill and scrawled comments online, whereupon the pastor was identified by her handwriting, and perhaps her jerkish personality.

Verdict:  Unethical conduct, though provoked. Her colleague was wronged by the cheap pastor, but she forgot she wasn’t free to do as an Applebee’s employee what she might choose to do as a private individual. Applebee’s can’t have its customers worrying about whether real or perceived slights to restaurant staff will land them on various websites to be mocked and vilified. Her actions were irresponsible and a violation of her duties as an employee, even though her anger was certainly justified. And her method of retribution was excessive and unethical too. Continue reading