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!

Yum!

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

“Piss Christ” and Garland

Piss-Christ

Ethics Alarms participant Other Bill raised “Piss Christ” on the comment thread to my post about the Garland, Texas attack, progressives’ and news media’s “hate speech isn’t free speech” confusion, and Geller’s supporters’ “gratuitously uncivil speech is laudable” delusion. He posted a column by George Parry, published under the heading “Think Tank” on a Philadelphia site. I’m grateful to Bill for raising the column, which he neither endorsed nor criticized. Titled Double Standard on Offending Christians and Muslims, Parry’s argument was…

  • “Christians objected to “Piss Christ” and the feces-covered Holy Virgin. And they rightfully wondered why their tax dollars had been used to promote these blasphemies. But their objections and questions were condescendingly dismissed by the secular left in the media and intelligentsia. …
  • “As if in one voice, the mainstream media and self-anointed intelligentsia argued that antiquated religious sensitivities must not be allowed to interfere with either an artist’s free expression or his right to government funding regardless of how offensive his work may be to Christians….”
  • “In Garland, Texas, on Sunday, two radical Muslims died trying to replicate the Charlie Hebdo massacre by mounting an armed attack on a “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest. We are not talking about drawings of Mohammed dunked in urine or smeared with animal dung. No, the gunmen apparently deemed the mere drawing of Mohammed to be an offense punishable by death…The overall media consensus has been to blame the intended murder victims for recklessly provoking the terrorists. Such provocation, we are told, is unacceptable and irresponsible behavior given the risk of retaliation by offended radical Muslims…”
  • “Better to question the wisdom of cartoonists exercising their rights than to acknowledge and vigorously confront and expose the elephant in the room, i.e., that there is a disturbingly large number of radical Muslims in this country who oppose our Constitution and who believe that murder is an appropriate sanction for those who offend Islam….”
  • “All of which leads to this question: Given their pusillanimous double standard, why should any reasonable or serious person believe, respect, or credit the self-serving mainstream media?”

That’s not the question. First of all, there is already no reason to believe, respect, or credit the mainstream media. Second, while Parry is correct that the analysis of the issues in the Garland attack have been largely incompetent and tainted by media dislike of Geller and journalism’s own cowardice (most news outlets were afraid to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even though they were essential to reporting on the Paris massacre), his analogy with “Piss Christ” is no better.

The questions areContinue reading

The Garland, Texas Shooting, Free Speech and Ethics

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Last Sunday, two men opened fire outside uber-Islam-hater Pamela Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas. Both gunmen were killed by police, a security guard was wounded. Since cartoons of the Prophet have sparked killings around the globe, this was a risk, if not an inevitability, of holding such an event. That was undoubtedly one of the reasons for it, in fact: to show defiance of those that would cow us into self-censorship.

Since the episode, commentators and pundits have engaged in various levels of  confused ethical thought regarding the competition and the shooting, much of the confusion due to cognitive dissonance regarding Geller, who is beyond question an anti-Muslim bigot. So horrible is it to their delicate liberal sensibilities to have the principle of freedom of speech represented by Geller that rather than accept it, many would prefer to jettison freedom of speech itself. In this they seem to have forgotten that the reason for free speech is precisely to protect the most infuriating, inflammatory, controversial speakers, whether they be hateful fanatics like Geller, or Martin Luther King.

It really is remarkable that the First Amendment has survived so long, since those who discuss it in public the most frequently are journalists and politicians, neither of whom are consistently able to interpret it accurately.

Ethically, this isn’t hard, or shouldn’t be. In fact, not a single new issue is raised by the Texas shooting that was not thoroughly covered here five years ago:

1. No group, no matter how offended or righteous and no matter what its holy book says, is ethically entitled to threaten violence against those who say, or draw, things that they find offensive, including the offense of blasphemy.

2. Encouraging such groups to do this by self-censoring is cowardly and a threat to free speech. Thus South Park and Comedy Central breached their duties to the nation, the culture and free speech by censoring a satirical animated series after receiving radical Islamic threats. As I wrote here: Continue reading

Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

The-Gifford-Barn-in-Schaghticoke-NY

It is said that close cases make bad law, and they often make bad ethics too. Legally, the culpability of Cynthia and Robert Gifford is not at all certain. Ethically, however, as right as they may be on the law, the conduct of their persecutors, same-sex couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, has been unnecessary, without compassion, vindictive and cruel.

The Giffords are active Christians who own Liberty Ridge Farm, located in Schaghticoke in upstate New York. They supplement the farm’s revenue with attractions designed for kids and families, including a pumpkin patch, a corn stalk maze and a rustic barn for parties and weddings. That rustic barn has three stories. The Giffords reside on the top floor, with the bottom floor designed for events, and the second floor consisting of rooms for activities relating to their preparation and management.

When Cynthia Gifford received a phone call from Melissa McCarthy inquiring about having her wedding at the farm, Cynthia invited her to visit and assess the venue.In the follow-up phone call, McCarthy revealed for the first time that the affair would be a same-sex wedding. Cynthia explained that the family’s faith held that marriages can only be a union of a man and a woman, so they did not make their farm available for ceremonies. She said, however, that the couple was welcome to hold the wedding reception there.

Apparently expecting this response, Jennifer and Melissa surreptitiously recorded the phone call. Armed with the recording, they contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union who immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Giffords on their behalf.

The Giffords argue that this was not a matter of discrimination, but religious practice. They had hosted events for gay clients before, and employed gays. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians,” their lawyer said.

They lost. Bronx administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares rejected Giffords’ claim that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. She ruled that Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”  The fact that the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private. The Giffords were ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution.

The Giffords are appealing.

The Giffords, according to the judge, “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Another way of looking at it is that Jennifer and Melissa, now married, discriminated against the Giffords solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why couldn’t they agree to respect the Giffords’ religious beliefs, and use the property for the wedding reception only, having the actual ceremony elsewhere? Would that really be such a hardship, or a compromise in principles? Indeed, if the nation and committed progressives really aspire to tolerance, diversity and mutual compassion and understanding, why wouldn’t that be the ethical, desirable, reasonable compromise?

I know the response to that question, of course. This was a matter of principle. This would send a message. Crushing the Giffords was necessary to show that all opposition to same sex marriage would eventually be crushed under the advance of history. Never mind that these were not anti-gay bigots, and that they have as much right to practice their faith as a lesbian couple has a right to wed. This is a zero sum game, apparently. Besides the law—probably–supports McCarthy and Erwin.

I think the actions of Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin violate the Second Niggardly Principle, which is a rule of kindness, compromise and common sense. It holds…

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

The couple’s legitimate objectives in this case were to get married and celebrate the marriage in an attractive venue. I don’t think setting out to punish a couple for belonging to a religion that doesn’t accept same sex marriage is a legitimate objective, nor is turning their lives upside down, nor forcing them into the maw of litigation to bend them to their will. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer? It seems that this is McCarthy and  Erwin believe, and what this case will come to stand for.

If so, I think the story of the Giffords will do more harm than good, hardening opposition, confirming suspicion, undermining trust and ultimately making acceptance for gay couples harder, however it turns out in the courts. Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness. It would help if they showed a willingness to give as well as receive.

______________________
Pointer: Steven Mark Pilling

Ethics Train Wreck Updates: The Obama Presidency and The Washington Redskins

Obama golfing

1. Update: The Obama Presidency Ethics Train Wreck

This has been a week dominated by Ethics Train Wrecks old and new: the Ferguson Express, which will presumably slow down for a few months until we find out what the grand jury does and why; the previously dormant Donald Sterling choo-choo, which came around another bend in its tracks, and, predictably, the Ethics Train Wreck that is the entire Obama Presidency, highlighted by the President more or less intentionally refusing to act like an engaged leader, happily going back to fun on the links after making a statement regarding an American journalist beheaded on video by terrorists.

Naturally the latter concerns me more than the rest, but I have realized that most of those who are in permanent denial about this leader’s ineptitude simply don’t want to process the truth in this regard. Mention the obvious, or what should be, that this frightening confluence of crises domestic and foreign is an irresponsible time to be perceived as taking a break, and one is bombarded by specious comparisons with Bush or JFK’s home away from home on Cape Cod. Some observers have the integrity to concede what many–you know, those mean Obama critics who are out to get him because he’s black–correctly discerned long ago. Here’s The New York Times, consistently one of the President’s most incorrigible apologists:

“Yet the juxtaposition of his indignant denunciation of terrorists and his outing on the greens this week underscored the unintended consequences of such a remove. If Mr. Obama hoped to show America’s enemies that they cannot hijack his schedule, he also showed many of his friends in America that he disdains the politics of appearance. He long ago stopped worrying about what critics say, according to aides, and after the outcry over Wednesday’s game, he defied the critics by golfing again on Thursday, his eighth outing in 11 days on the island.

It was all the more striking given that Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain canceled his vacation after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released the video showing Mr. Foley’s death because the accent of the masked killer suggested he came from Britain. Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News that Mr. Obama would “rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with the crisis.”

But the criticism went beyond the usual political opponents. Privately, many Democrats shook their heads at what they considered a judgment error.”

It is not a judgment error at all. It is just another example of Obama’s flat, flat, flat learning curve regarding leadership. Continue reading

KABOOM! Homophone-phobia In Utah

headexplode

I thought this had to be a hoax.

I prayed it was a hoax.

It’s not a hoax.

Now I’m washing my brains off the ceiling using a rag on a stick.

Behold…from the Salt Lake Tribune:

“…the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda. Tim Torkildson says after he wrote the blog on the website of his employer, Nomen Global Language Center, his boss and Nomen owner Clarke Woodger, called him into his office and told him he was fired. As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw. “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page….”

Continue reading