Ethics Dunce: District Attorney Craig Northcutt

How long will it take our communities to exile social Neanderthals like Craig Northcutt to jobs where their bigotry and un-American values can only harm the people foolish enough to voluntarily associate with them?

Northcutt is the Coffee County (Tennessee) District Attorney, and a 2018 videotape reveals him saying such things as,

  • Regarding the Supreme Court decision declaring it unconstitutional to prevent gay couples from marrying: “Five people in black dresses rule us — it just takes five votes, it doesn’t take all nine.”

That statement is per se moronic, as well as irresponsible.. A ruling by any judicial panel is just as binding and has exactly as much force in law regardless of the vote. Northcutt is encouraging defiance of the law.

  • “DAs have what’s called prosecutorial discretion. Y’all need to know who your DA is. Y’all give us a lot of authority whether you know it or not, We can choose to prosecute anything, we can choose not to prosecute anything, up to and including murder. It’s our choice, unfettered. So, to deal with that, you elect a good Christian man as DA, and you’ll make sure at least [Christians] don’t get prosecuted criminally.”

Translation: “I’m biased, prejudiced, conflicted, and incapable of enforcing the law fairly and objectively., and don’t even want to, or know why I should” Continue reading

Ruby Tuesday Ethics Warm-Up, 5/21/2019: Of “Bad Charity,” Fake Headlines, Dumb Atticus, And Being Mean To Mr. Ratburn

Tuesday’s child is full of grace.

Tuesday’s ethics, not so much…

1. The other shoe drops...the New York Times yesterday editorialized against the  generous gift to Morehouse students by billionaire and Ethics Hero Robert F. Smith.  It also took a swipe at Smith himself, whose wealth the Times appears to consider suspect. What the mouthpiece of the Left is lobbying for is Bernie Sanders’ free college for all, meaning that not just billionaires but you and I will all have to pay for inflated tuition at institutions that do not so much teach as indoctrinate (or, in the case of Ohio State and who knows what others, molest).

The wonderful thing about Smith’s gift is that it was a complete surprise. The students had a strong financial motivation not to waste their college years taking useless courses on the Patriarchy of Gas Grilling, and instead had every reason to try to prepare themselves for the workplace. Free college education becomes a privilege and a lark, with no accountability or commitment required.

2. Fake Headline Dept. I have seen this in several places: “Ciara Accepted Into Harvard University’s Prestigious Business School.”  (Ciara is a pop diva, if you care.)

Uh, no, she wasn’t. She is going to attend a  Business of Entertainment, Media and Sports program at the B-school that lasts all of three days. She’ll pay for it, too. Ciara doesn’t have a college degree, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I bet she’ll tell people for the rest of her life that she attended the Business School, just like Bill O’Reilly still says he’s a Harvard grad because he attended the Kennedy School of Government on campus.

Not that a Harvard degree is anything to boast about these days… Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/25/2019: Woke Up Really Sick Of Democratic Party BS This Morning. I’m Sure I’ll Get Over It…

Good Morning!

…as the Mueller report lets the sunshine in…

1. Thank goodness judges don’t bake cakes…the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility have issued Formal Opinion 485. It holds that judges who perform marriages, either as an obligation of their office or by choice, may not refuse to do so for same-sex couples. The opinion emphasizes that regardless of their backgrounds, personal views or philosophies, judges must follow the law and act impartially, free from bias or prejudice.

I’d say the opinion is unassailable for a judge who regularly performs marriages  as a mandatory part of his or her job. A judge who is not so required, presumably, can choose not to perform any marriages at all. I bet some judge will challenge the proposition, however, that a  religion-based refusal to perform an optional civil wedding is per se “bias or prejudice.” [Source: Legal Ethics in Motion]

2. Welcome to my world...This week I am doing several ethics programs, one of which (not in legal ethics) I have presented over many years. Last year, I was told that the 2 hour program I had been presenting to the group only needed to be 90 minutes, so the materials I prepared and submitted indeed covered that amount of time, as did my presentation.  This year, I again prepared for 90 minutes. Now, looking at the conference’s two-day program, I see that my seminar is listed in the program as two hours again. That’s a mistake, but it’s too late to correct it: the attendees plan on getting professional credit. So what is my most ethical response? I could…a) stretch the material to two hours, but that’s a 30 minute stretch. b) At my own expense, create an additional 30 minutes of material, copy the materials, distribute them, and never mention that the conference manager, my long-time contact, screwed up. c) Use this crisis as leverage to negotiate a supplement to my fee for the necessary upgrade. d) End after 90 minutes, tell the attendees why, and suggest that they take up the matter of the missing credit with the conference organizers. e) Do the upgrade, present it, and then bill the conference for my time. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Refresher, 3/24/2019 [PART II]: Bill of Rights? What Bill Of Rights? [CORRECTED]

Now it’s “Good afternoon!”

Sunday’s depressing ethics potpourri continues…

3. Psst! San Antonio! This is unconstitutional! The San Antonio City Council rejected  Chick-fil-A ‘s application for a site at its airport this week because the company’s foundation has contributed to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage

Councilman Robert Treviño told the news media that the council made the decision based on “inclusivity.”

“With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion. San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior. Everyone has a place here and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport.”

Have these fools and censors even read the Bill of Rights? A government can’t penalize a business because it doesn’t like the opinions of its owner or management. This is viewpoint discrimination, and a screamingly obvious First Amendment violation. As Chick-fil-A accurately pointed out in its response, no one has ever been refused service or treated differently in one of the company’s restaurants because of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s their LGBTQ “behavior,” not their entirely legal and protected choice of charities and non profits.

Once again from the Democratic Party and the Left we whiff the rotten stench of nascent totalitarianism. Believe as we do, or be punished. This is the same company several Democratic mayors said were not welcome in their cities. Once again, this unconstitutional and undemocratic act by San Antonio’s Democrats is assured of a reversal by the Supreme Court, and if Justice Ginsberg still has most of her marbles and Sotomayor isn’t chasing rainbows and unicorns, it ought to be a 9-0 vote.

Local government actions like this ought to concern followers of both parties equally. The First Amendment should not be a partisan issue. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Masterpiece Cake Shop Decision

The Supreme Court ruled today in favor of Jack Phillips, the Christian baker in Colorado who refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Court  found that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission infringed on Phillips’s rights in ruling that he violated the Colorado anti-discrimination law barring merchants from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status, or sexual orientation. The ruling is narrow; it does not empower merchants to deny service based on sexual orientation.  It is based entirely on  the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s  hostility toward Phillips’s religious views in ruling against him.

Observations:

1. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor were the only dissenting votes, meaning that the decision was 7-2, and not a “conservative vs liberal” outcome. Even the dissent is based on narrow legal and factual distinctions rather than ideological ones.

2. Read the opinion, and the dissent. Also, if you really want to impress your friends, access the resources available here.

3. These statements from Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, cited by Justice Ginsberg, help clarify matters in the right legal and ethical direction:

  • “[I]t is a general rule that [religious and philosophical] objections do not allow business owners and other actors in the economy and in society to deny protected persons equal access to goods and services under a neutral and generally applicable public accommodations law.”
  • “Colorado law can protect gay persons, just as it can protect other classes of individuals, in acquiring whatever products and services they choose on the same terms and conditions as are offered to other members of the public.”
  • “[P]urveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons [may not] put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.’ ”

The ruling could have hardly been less of a ringing endorsement of either “side.”

4. To which I say, “Good.” As I wrote the last time this case was discussed here,
Continue reading

It’s A Comment Of The Day Weekend! First Up…Comment Of The Day (3): “An Ethics Alarms Holiday Challenge! Identify The Rationalizations, Logical Fallacies, Falsehoods And Outright Errors In This Essay…” AND, In Related News, Another Bakery Gets Slammed In Oregon

I’m not exaggerating: I have at least four Comments of the Day stacked up on the Ethics alarms runway after this one, and there are usually COTDs arriving on Saturdays. I can’t promise to get all of them up today, especially since I’m hacking away at the 2017 Ethics Alarms Awards, and this is a long working weekend at ProEthics. Still, I will get a lot of them to you, and it’s a provocative group, as you will soon see.

But first, a prelude and some context.

An Oregon appellate court this week upheld a ruling against the owners of the since-closed Sweetcakes by Melissa,  Aaron and Melissa Klein, forcing them to pay emotional-distress damages of $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, a lesbian couple for whom they refused to design and sell a wedding cake almost five years ago. The Klein’s argued that state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian violated state and federal laws and their rights as artists to free speech, their rights to religious freedom and their rights as defendants to  due process.

The Oregon court ruled that the Kleins’ argument that their cakes entail an artistic expression is “entitled to be taken seriously,” but it’s not enough for the couple to assert their cakes are pieces of art:

“Although we accept that the Kleins imbue each wedding cake with their own aesthetic choices, they have made no showing that other people will necessarily experience any wedding cake that the Kleins create predominantly as ‘expression’ rather than as food.”

This mess commenced  when Rachel Bowman-Cryer went to the suburban Portland bakery with her mother in January of 2013. When Aaron Klein was told that the wedding did not involve a male partner,  he said that the bakery did not make cakes for same-sex weddings. They left, but soon the mother returned to argue with Klein as Rachel sat in the car, weeping. her mother went in to speak with Klein. The mother told Klein she had once thought like him, but having two gay children forced her to see the error of her ways.  Klein retorted with Leviticus: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

The complaint and action by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries followed. You can read the opinion here.

Ugh.

This case is even worse than the one currently before the Supreme Court, discussed here. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day #4: “Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought”

Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day, the fourth on the post about the Great Cake Controversy ,responds to #3, by Extradimensional Cephalopod.

The four COTD’s cover a great deal of legal and ethical territory and if not the full spectrum of positions on this difficult topic. Ryan’s three predecessors can be read here:

After you read #4, I’ll ask you which of the COTDs come closest to your own opinion. If the answer is “none of them,” by all means try for #5!

Here is  Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day on the post Back To The Bigoted Baker: It’s Complicated…More Than I Thought:

EC,

I hate to answer for the baker, so I hope you don’ mind if I respond with how I would answer.

What if I walked into the shop and asked for a wedding cake for no reason at all? Nobody’s getting married; I just want the cake. Is it against his religion to make that style of cake for anything other than weddings?

It would not be against my religion, no.

One thing I want to point out about your line of inquiry here is that you are divorcing the mechanical action of making a cake from the purpose of making a cake. A cake is a cake, and apart from any purpose, it remains a cake with no further meaning than a configuration of confectionery molecules. But the purpose for making the cake defines the context. If you wanted me to bake you a cake so you could bury it in your backyard, I wouldn’t have any religious objections to that, but I would certainly object to having the fruits of my labor just thrown away. Just as I would object if you wanted me to write you a book so could use the pages of the book as toilet paper.

The purpose of making a wedding cake is for it to be displayed and consumed at a wedding. If you aren’t going to use the cake for a wedding, ontologically speaking, could it even be a wedding cake?

Do I have to show him a marriage license?

I wouldn’t require that. My general standpoint would be to take people at their word. That being said, if I knew you and you were known for pranks, were opposed to marriage in general, and nothing I knew about your recent activities hinted at a wedding, I might want some actual proof that a wedding was occurring.

I’m an atheist; will he refuse to acknowledge my marriage because you can’t have marriage without a god? Does only the Christian deity count for a “real” marriage?

Since I’m Catholic, I’ll just toss out what the Catholic Church teaches about marriage. Marriage is universal. Historically, marriage permeates pretty much every culture. Marriage is an institution that has, for the most part, united a man and his wife to the children they bear together. Marriage does not require a profession of faith, because it is a foundational institution of mankind. That is why eating, drinking, and shelter don’t require a profession of faith. They are also foundational aspects of the human condition. So, there is no objection to two atheists marrying.

Where the religious context comes into view is with the nature of that marriage. Catholics profess that Jesus elevated the institution of marriage to a sacrament. This means that a valid marriage between baptized individuals cannot be dissolved save by the death of one of the two parties. But that does not mean every marriage is sacramental. If one of the two parties is not baptized, the marriage is still a valid marriage, but it is not a sacramental marriage. Thus it could be dissolved, and either party would be free to re-marry.

A funny oddity of terminology crops up in Catholic teaching. Since a valid, sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved, but since parties can licitly separate for serious reasons (abuse, abandonment, adultery, addiction), a Catholic can be married and divorced at the same time…

I would argue that the artistic quality of the cake has nothing to do with who is getting married, or if there’s even a marriage at all–at least, as far as religion is concerned.

I agree with you to a certain extent, here. The artistic quality is its own concern. It is the teleological purpose of the cake that is the true contention. So that raises a question: if I bake a cake that I do not intend to be used at a wedding, but looks just like a cake that I do intend to be used at a wedding, is it a wedding cake? To use some technical terms, there is the essence of a thing, and there are the accidents of a thing. The essence of a thing is what is essential to a thing being that thing; accidents are just features that particular thing has that are not essential to a thing being that thing. The essence of a chair is something to sit on. Accidents of a chair are having one leg, or three, or four, having a back, not having a back, etc. So what is the essence of a wedding cake, and what are the accidents of a wedding cake? I think the only essential difference between a wedding cake and a non-wedding cake is the intent for which the cake is made. The only part I waffle on is the cake-topper…

On a separate note, I assert that religion ultimately must be subordinate to the law of the land.

I’m uncomfortable with how you phrase this, so let me toss out what I think about this, and let me know if it does or doesn’t conform with what you’re thinking. Continue reading