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The politicizing of my beloved profession

As an undergraduate I was drawn to philosophy. As a young Christian seeking understanding, I found in philosophy not only the intellectual tools by which to plumb the depths of my faith tradition, but also to come in contact with the greatest minds in the history of ideas. What a privilege to learn from and tangle with the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, Locke, and Kant. I became friends with a whole array of contemporary philosophers, many of whom shared neither my politics nor my faith, but they were friends nonetheless. And here I am thinking of folks like Craig Walton (UNLV) and Louis Pojman (both of whom have left this mortal realm) as well as Maurice Finnochiaro (UNLV). And over the years I had the honor to publicly engage thinkers like David Boonin (Colorado), Michael Ruse (Florida State), and Kenneth Einar Himma (Seattle Pacific) on issues over which we have profound disagreement. And yet, there was a spirit of mutual respect in these encounters, even when I knew I was outmatched by a superior intellect who had mastered the finer points of his philosophical case.

This is the profession I have come to know and love through many years at a variety of institutions, public, private, and religious. I share this with you because of recent events that do not seem to me to portend well for the future of my profession.

Since posting on this blog my assessment of the APA petition, there have been things said about me that are beyond the pale of civil discourse. Here is one of them, as it appears, on the blog of University of Chicago professor, Brian Leiter:

Francis Beckwith, notorious and sleazy shill for "Intelligent Design" creationism, has now come to the defense of discrimination against gay men and women (as a commenter on our earlier thread pointed out). Do read the whole thing. He invokes the canard about "discrimination" against religious universities (discussed earlier), and misrepresents the petition, which calls for the APA to either abide by its own anti-discrimination policy (which includes sexual orientation) or abandon it. (He also got called out in the comments section for lying about the hiring practices of some religious institutions, but that's another matter.)

Meanwhile, in the comments, Professor Beckwith explains that opposition to discrimination against gay men and women can be "blamed" on the PGR and the fact that this blog reports news about faculty hires:

This, by the way, is what happens when a profession, once dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, gets hijacked by those who treat its membership and its departments as so many stories on an academic Entertainment Tonight. The Philosophers' Gourmet could use a dash of hemlock, if you can find its mouth.

I'll assume that this isn't actually a proposal that I commit suicide or be murdered. But then what does it mean?

I bring this to the attention of the readers of WWWtW because it reveals a level of meanness and personal hatred that makes an otherwise bright and charming philosopher, Professor Leiter, appear ugly and seething with guile. It is no coincidence that the words "vicious" and "vice" are so close in spelling and meaning. Both refer to something disordered about the soul. And Professor Leiter's post exposes such a soul for the whole world to see, if, to quote the wisest man who has ever lived, "you have eyes to see." It is the sort of soul that I would not want to be mine or the possession of any person I dearly love. To be sure, I wish I had Professor Leiter's intellect. Who wouldn't? But since intellects require souls (I am a Thomist, after all), I would rather remain mediocre me.

Professor Leiter is wrong about me and intelligent design (ID), as those familiar with my work as well as well this blog clearly know. No less of an authority than ID advocate William Dembski has claimed that I have disowned ID. I have in fact privately emailed Professor Leiter on this matter on several occasions. He has never responded, not even to offer a counter-argument to my own understanding of my own work and beliefs. And yet, Professor Leiter continues to repeat what he knows to be false, often with words that on the playground would be called "trash talk." (Or in Latin, tum podem extulit horridulum.)

The comments I made about religious institutions about which Professor Leiter writes were published by me in haste and I have since taken them down. I have privately corresponded with the professor who rightly criticized me for them. I asked for his forgiveness, and he offered it. Like virtually everyone else who publishes a lot online, I sometimes write things that I should not have written. In situations like that, the best thing to do is to acknowledge one's mistake, ask forgiveness of those harmed, and suck it up.

The Philosophers' Gourmet Report comment was not about Professor Leiter. It was about the project that he founded and manages. I don't know whether its his leadership or the tone that he sets with his public persona or both that has resulted in a sort of a celebratizing of the profession, a kind of TMZ of philosophy. By suggesting hemlock as the medicine for this illness, I was, by employing the technique of metaphor, calling for my colleagues in the profession to remember its founder, Socrates, who was willing to be virtuous and to welcome death rather than to be vicious in order to live with the crowd.

I actually think I fully understand the APA petition: its purpose is to publicly sequester (by "marking") or permanently ban from Jobs for Philosophers advertisements from certain Christian institutions that Professor Leiter and others believe embrace hiring and/or admission policies that are inconsistent with what morality requires. He claims that disagreement with the purpose of this petition is bigotry, and snarls at and issues secular fatwas against those who have the temerity to counter this charge. Is this what philosophy has come to? A more linguistically adept version of the Daily Kos? If this is liberalism, I hate to think what fascism is like.

I argue in my blog post that the petition itself is inconsistent with what morality requires on matters over which reasonable people within a diverse profession may disagree. I single out religious institutions, especially Christian ones, since they are the ones mentioned specifically by name in the APA petition: "Azusa Pacific University, Belmont University, Bethal [sic] College, Biola University, Calvin College, Malone College, Pepperdine University, Westmont College, and Wheaton College" These are all fine institutions on whose faculties many of my dear friends sit. These friends are some of the most wonderful and kind Christian thinkers I have ever known. To call these people "bigots" is defamatory. It reveals a lack of understanding of the philosophical grounds on which these institutions base their views on human sexuality, the nature of marriage, and the life of a virtuous Christian. One may, of course, legitimately think that these grounds are mistaken. But to say that these grounds are inconsistent with what morality requires is philosophical hubris in the extreme. Are we to believe that the profession that has not been able to conclude what reason requires in the debates over abortion, free will v. determinism, realism v. anti-realism, positivism v. natural law, internalism v. externalism, or even affirmative action knows that reason requires that no philosopher or academic institution is within her or its epistemic rights in judging homosexual conduct as immoral?

Thus, to move from the claim that these religious institutions are mistaken on their views of human sexuality to charges of "bigotry" is not how philosophers ought to conduct their disagreements in public.

Because of my commitment to stop blogging and reading blogs for Lent (with the exception of my Return to Rome blog), I will not be able to interact with those who may comment here. So, I trust that my friends will come to my defense when they believe it necessary.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Comments (63)

Boy, you can't win: Demski thinks you are a traitor, and this guy Leiter thinks you are a shill. You must actually have your own mind or something.

(And happy Fat Tuesday!)

Both the left and the right dislike me. I should take my hemlock and call you in the morning. :-)

"It reveals a lack of understanding of the philosophical grounds on which these institutions base their views on human sexuality, the nature of marriage, and the life of a virtuous Christian. One may, of course, legitimately think that these grounds are mistaken. But to say that these grounds are inconsistent with what morality requires is philosophical hubris in the extreme."

The claim that is offered by the signers of the petition is that these grounds are inconsistent with the APA's stated policy of non-discrimination, not, as you suggest, that the claim is that they are inconsistent with what morality requires. The two views, of course, are logically independent.

But to say that these grounds are inconsistent with what morality requires is philosophical hubris in the extreme.

No, it is merely an assertion of principle. It is no more "hubris" than the counter-assertion that homosexual conduct is morally wrong. Leiter claims one, you claim the other, and so the argument goes on. To lose a moral argument is not to be "persecuted", as you hyperbolically claimed in your last post. When Christians are rounded up and sent to camps, or the private practice of Christianity is made illegal, American Christians will have grounds to cry "persecution" (and I will be right beside them).

The claim that is offered by the signers of the petition is that these grounds are inconsistent with the APA's stated policy of non-discrimination, not, as you suggest, that the claim is that they are inconsistent with what morality requires.

The claim implies a) that the policy the signers cite is a good policy. Otherwise they would instead urge that that policy be repealed, or else would not attempt to have it enforced more stringently, as they claim to be trying to do. And b) that the policy means that institutions may not "discriminate" against those who engage in homosexual acts, even though the policy in question mentions only orientation. I am told (I really do not have much interest in reading Leiter's blog) that the distinction between act and orientation has been "debunked" there. Since there obviously _is_ such a distinction, I can only surmise that the "debunking" claim is that the distinction has been shown to be irrelevant or a distinction that ought not to be applied in this situation. That means, of course, a _moral_ implication, namely, that institutions _ought not_ to ask their faculty not to act on a homosexual "orientation" if they should happen to have one.

The morality implications here are inescapable. The signers of the original petition could have gotten off the train at more than one station if they didn't have a moral stake in the game. If they didn't think the policy they cite not only morally defensible but also morally important, they would never have written and/or signed the petition. If they didn't think that it is _wrong_ to ask persons of a homosexual orientation to refrain from acting on it, they would agree that the policy in question does not apply (at least not given the data cited in the petition) to the institutions in question.

I take it then, that both the meaning of "non-discrimination" and the position of "non-discrimination" in a rank-ordering of diverse moral goods have been established beyond all cavils, such that no legitimate disagreement on the point exists. This, after all, is the manifest implication of the previous comment.

What a rich fantasy life its author must have! Either that, or he simply enjoys the begging contested questions.

"Previous comment" being that of "Kian".

"The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age, whether in graduate admissions, appointments, retention, promotion and tenure, manuscript evaluation, salary determination, or other professional activities in which APA members characteristically participate."

There is two-fold problem here. First, the petition is calling for a reinterpretation of this language to include conduct as part of orientation. Second, to say, by implication, that one "rejects as unethical" any judgment of sexual conduct that is tied to someone's orientation ("all forms of discrimination based on....") seems categorical to me.

Wouldn't it be more charitable to retain the ordinary meaning of orientation? After all, given the tone and animus exhibited against these institutions on the Leiter Reports, isn't it more likely that an Evangelical Christian philosopher who has published on the immorality of homosexuality will be discriminated against by faculties at non-religious and public institutions populated by folks like Leiter? Why no concern for the chilling effect on religious citizens that this sort of mean-spirited discourse produces and nurtures?

or the private practice of Christianity is made illegal

Meaning, the very quiet practice in your closet. Not in your private religious institution. Homosexual activists are already trying to make the latter illegal.

Meaning, the very quiet practice in your closet.

No. Meaning the practice of your religion such that it does not unreasonably interfere with the rights of others. Your right to swing your fist, etc.

Not in your private religious institution. Homosexual activists are already trying to make the latter illegal.

Cite please.

"or the private practice of Christianity is made illegal"

Sit in the back of the secular bus. Speak only when spoken to.

that institutions ought not to ask their faculty not to act on a homosexual "orientation" if they should happen to have one.
It should be noted that many ways in which people act on a heterosexual orientation are also not permitted by these colleges. Sex is for marriage. Marriage is for a man and a woman. An unmarried person is required to be celibate regardless of orientation. So it really comes down to Christian colleges not recognizing same-sex marriages.

But even that is hardly the point. Because in the colleges I am familiar with, a faculty member confessing a liberal brand of Christianity is simply not acceptable. Supporting same-sex marriage would certainly put you in that camp. So the policy is deeply imbedded in the ethos of the college. Violating it would violate a bunch of related policies as well.

My own view is substantially similar to that of Ross Kaminsky in the second linked article: private individuals or businesses should be allowed to "discriminate" as they see fit. Ironically, this is exactly what the APA is now proposing to do, if they adopt the petition, so anyone who agrees with Kaminsky should agree with that as well.

If you want to discuss the misuse of anti-discrimination laws, you will find me very much in agreement. (The Georgetown case & the Boston case are a good deal murkier. No organization that taps the public coffers should be empowered to discriminate.) The eHarmony lawsuit and the lawsuit against the photographer are clearly wrong. I denounce, condemn, reject, etc. The last two are poorly-written op-eds, not news pieces.

Lydia writes: "The claim implies a) that the policy the signers cite is a good policy. Otherwise they would instead urge that that policy be repealed..."

But this is precisely what the petition advocates. The petition (http://www.petitiononline.com/cmh3866/petition.html):

"If the APA is unwilling to take either of these measures, we request that the APA publicly inform its members that it will not protect homosexual philosophers and remove its anti-discrimination policy to end the illusion that a primary function of the APA is to protect the rights of its members."

I read signing the petition, then, as affirming this disjunction: Either the APA should eliminate or alter its current policy, or the policy should be enforced against the named schools.

What selective skepticism treats the condemnation of homosexual acts as questionable, but proposes the in toto condemnation of discrimination to be an obvious ethical imperative?

Ironically, this is exactly what the APA is now proposing to do, if they adopt the petition,

I take it that your point is that the APA would be "discriminating" as it sees fit? But I'm not urging that the APA be legally stopped from adopting the petition. I'm urging that it would be _dumb_ and _unprofessional_ of them to adopt the petition. That is, I'm merely urging them not to do so.

end the illusion that a primary function of the APA is to protect the rights of its members

Come. Let's not pretend that that is neutrally worded as regards the morality of the issues involved. Let's please not pretend. The implication is _obviously_ that the APA _should_ do what the writers call "protecting the rights of its members" and should do so by making it harder for its members to find job advertisements if the advertisements come from those horrible religious institutions that don't allow people the "right" to engage in homosexual acts. Way to go. Brilliant idea. And uturn, you do not address my second point, which is that the deliberate brushing aside of the act/orientation distinction is inexplicable except as the result of a moral belief.

Gee, and I thought on the other thread the people affirming the petition were saying that they _are_ making a substantive moral claim. Now we seem to be back to the denial that this is making a substantive moral claim. Like Zippy says, liberalism has lots of built-in deniability.

Come. Let's not pretend that that is neutrally worded as regards the morality of the issues involved.

I certainly haven't pretended that, as my first post made clear. We are dealing with incompatible moral claims here, and only one of them will win out in the end.

Right, SNK, I shd. have been clearer. The second part of my answer was directed to "uturn." (Can't you guys come up with more human handles?)

It will be obvious to those who recall my most infamous contribution to *Right Reason* that I ought to comment on this.

Would that it were not so. Would that Brian's short march to professional power had been accompanied by some sort of growth in basic professional decency.

Anyway, be that as it may, I just can't deal with it, tonight.

If one only read from particular liberal intellectuals, one might not know that Francis J. Beckwith has written brilliantly on elective abortion and many other topics. I have read Francis Beckwith’s Defending Life and David Boonin’s A Defense of Abortion. It is interesting how some liberal intellectuals will try to make even the most brilliant (Francis Beckwith) conservative intellectuals look like nothing. It is a good thing that there have been a growing number of philosophy professors that argue for theism. Quentin Smith has written about the growing number of philosophy professors that argue for theism. Is Beckwith nothing? Are all of the aforementioned theists nothing? If a person says yes, that is complete nonsense.

This is an horrible instance of a broader problem. Liberalism always twists language in order to serve its own interests. Honest people cannot even rationally argue in favor of their own ideas anymore. They are, by default and through definition, the losers of the moral argument. Now these institutions can use language to hide their radicalism. We have been defined out of the discussion. This all goes on, mind you, while liberalism claims that we should live within a "free" society. The contradictions are too many to count.

Have strength, Prof. Beckwith, for you have the Truth.

I don't get it. I don't understand what your problem with homosexuality is.

There are lots of positions I disagree with that still make sense to me and it's easy to see how a reasonable person could believe them. Though I think the arguments for those positions fail, they still seem to have some force behind them. They make a prima facie plausible case.

But the arguments that people like Finnis, George, or Bradley make about why homosexuality are wrong aren't even prima facie plausible. They just seem like nothing more than rationalizations--and not very good ones--of what certain backwards barbarian tribes found repugnant thousands of years ago.

Internalism vs. externalism is an interesting debate. There's stuff to be said for both sides. It's not obvious to me that there's much to be said for your side here. (By the way, I've looked at your links to what damage gay marriage has done in Massachusetts, by the way, and all I saw were assertions without evidence.)

So, let me ask you this. Assume for the sake of argument that I am a rational but misinformed person--I mistakenly believe that there is nothing morally wrong with gay sex. Or suppose I am a rational person who simply has never thought about it. What would be the best argument I could find that would explain why it is wrong? What's the best case for your view? Name the very best article arguing for your position, and I promise I will read it with as open and self-critical a mind as I can muster.

threadjack: v., To take over the content of a message thread by changing the subject of discourse to a topic outside the purview of the original subject and/or forum.

Let me simply add to this discussion that, even if every word of what Leitner says about Beckwith were the literal truth, he still writes like a man gripped with fury and hatred. He still writes with an overabundance of vituperative, as a man who has clearly lost his composure, whether due to personal spite or an overpowering sense of personal outrage. In these exchanges, it is Beckwith who comes across as calm, self-reflective, and genuinely committed to the love of reason (however imperfectly). Meanwhile, the accusation that Leitner and his organization are in the midst of a political and moral--as opposed to a professional--crusade are only confirmed by his thundering tone, his name-calling, his unconcealed contempt and fury.

"Right-winger! Sleaze! Bigot! Liar!" This is the language of a man with a serious bee in his bonnet. Now, whether he be right or wrong about Beckwith, an outsider with no dog in the fight will not fail to notice the difference in these two men's approaches to this issue immediately. And frankly, it vindicates my own decision not to become an academic whenever I see someone in Leitner's position writing in this way, in public, in his capacity as an institutional authority (of sorts).

Oh, and of course it's also revealing when someone like Leiter (apologies for my misspelling above) uses the term "shill" to describe someone's advocacy for an intellectual position, rather than for an interest group. It reveals the way he conceives of intellectual disputes, not as between people holding a given opinion but as between people representing a certain class or organization. It reveals a tendency to think of intellectual adversaries as the evil "them," in contrast with the good and upright "us." Which, of course, justifies any sort of incivility.

Can there be an apolitical philosophy? I would have thought it is inconceivable as an apolitical Established religion.

Perhaps a case could be made for an apolitical logic and epistemology - with difficulty.

Hi JB,

Like you, I don't have any--or at least, much of a--problem with homosexuality. Unlike you, however, I think something can be said on the other side.

There are some things to note:

First, don't expect to find an article to persuade you that it's wrong.

Second, I'm not sure that you should even expect to find an article that makes the case against it seem reasonable.

Third, you can read the debate on Prosblogion between Alex Pruss and Christopher Lee, under the thread "Homosexuality and Traditional Christianity", for a nuanced dialectic that reveals the reasoning.

Fourth, if you were a traditional Christian--not a fundamentalist, as people on this website have mistakenly, but all-too-predictably, been called--then you would see the New Testament as having a particular moral authority. This, after all, is where Jesus articulates his views on the how to live life, and where people like St. Paul, who were among the first to live by Jesus' commandments, There, unpacks much of what Jesus says. In the NT, St. Paul unmistakably says things quite critical of homosexuality. It's difficult to dismiss what he says as merely condemning, say, pederasty (as more liberal Christians like Paul Gomes are wont to interpret him), because he seems to have a problem with gay sex acts themselves. Now, if you're going to disagree with St. Paul while also remaining a Christian, you're going to need some particularly compelling reasons to. Not to say these can't be found, but they have to be very compelling.

Fifth, if you take, not just Aristotle, but massive majorities of people around the world now and in the past, seriously, you'll notice that a lot of sex acts are ones that make them uncomfortable (and note that by "people", I have a rather expansive definition; I include not just liberal Americans and Western Europeans as people, but also Africans, Indians, South Americans, Chinese, etc. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I take the vast majority of human organisms to be people. Here I'm just being snarky. Moving on...). Not just gay sex acts, but heterosexual promiscuity, masturbation, bestiality, incest, pederasty, and oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual adults (I'm less sure whether most cultures condemn premarital sex of any sort, but it wouldn't surprise me). You might not take them seriously. But if not, you're going to need a reason why you'll dismiss their intuitions about these things, but you'll treat their intuitions about, say, the wrongness of murder or inequitable distributions of wealth, with seriousness. This becomes all the more pressing if you take a coherentist, reflective equilibrium approach to moral theorizing.

Sixth, assuming you are interested in why so many people around the world and in the past have these intuitions (assuming, of course that you accept my empirical generalization in the first place--if you don't, you're going to need to explain why, say, initiatives for gay marriage are relatively (from a historical perspective) new), and you don't want to just psychologize them away (which psychologization you could do, I note, for any of our moral beliefs), you might find yourself drawn to natural law theory. Natural law theory is a theory that, if true, would make sense of all these intuitions. If you're not familiar with natural law theory, let me know and I'll articulate it in my next post.

I take it that your point is that the APA would be "discriminating" as it sees fit? But I'm not urging that the APA be legally stopped from adopting the petition. I'm urging that it would be _dumb_ and _unprofessional_ of them to adopt the petition. That is, I'm merely urging them not to do so.

Lydia,

That is exactly right. The petitioners are urging the APA to do one thing, you and Francis are urging them to do another, and they cannot do both. This is a straightforward moral (and possibly practical) argument. To claim that anyone is being "persecuted" or that it represents some brand-new "politicization" of philosophy is overwrought and naive.

This is high stakes—bigger than the issue of homosexuality. Over on Leiter's blog a fellow named emjay writes:

“I'm stunned by the blindness of some posters here to the reasons many conservative philosophers have for holding to their convictions. Here's the kind of rationale that led me to embrace a very traditional form of Christian faith several years ago: (1) Belief in a personal god is, at the very least, not irrational….”


A guy named Mark Lance, responding to “emjay” writes: “ Let's consider what is said in that argument. 1 is false. But I'll not argue that anymore than you do.”


So, Mark Lance is telling us, unless I’m missing something that belief in a personal God is indeed "irrational.” Which is to say that anyone who believes in a personal God is irrational. Which is to say that all Christian philosophers are irrational. Or am I missing something here?

Next thing you know Christian Colleges won’t be able to hire Christian philosophers because they hold irrational beliefs, like belief in a personal God and discriminate against the more "rational" atheistic philosophers

Man, philosophy is sure fun!

or that it represents some brand-new "politicization" of philosophy is overwrought and naive.

Well, SNK, one of the reasons I would agree that it represents a further step in the politicization of the profession is because of the extreme importance being placed on doing this by the signers of the petition. I think it shows a stunning lack of perspective. To them, making it harder for philosophers to find jobs by blocking a whole slew of Christian colleges anew (this hasn't been done before or thought necessary before) from publishing ads in the major professional clearinghouse publication for jobs is a case of "let there be justice, though the heavens fall." That kind of hyper-ness over some brand new demand by a progressive agenda _is_ politicization of the profession.

Next thing you know Christian Colleges won’t be able to hire Christian philosophers because they hold irrational beliefs, like belief in a personal God and discriminate against the more "rational" atheistic philosophers

Mmm hmm. You wouldn't happen to be a betting man, would you?

I'd be more impressed with protests of slippery slope if it were not for the suspicion that the protesters were just fine with where it slips to. We just had one pro-APA person admit that the behavioral codes should be illegal, rendering his, "Well gee, the APA is just doing their own thing." pretty laughable.

SNK, leftists have been losing those kinds of bets for decades. The absence of any limiting principle within liberalism is not only well-established as a theoretical point, but is readily observable in practice. Christian organizations are already finding their membership policies under assault on public campuses, effectively banning them in many jurisdictions, and even private schools are not permitted to discriminate on grounds officially labeled irrational (e.g., race) if they are said to provide something like a "public accommodation." Why you think that particular extension of liberal logic fantastical, taking current events as well as past haughty dismissals of their likelihood into consideration, I'm not quite sure.

leftists have been losing those kinds of bets for decades

Somehow I don't think I'll lose this one. Keith was making a bald assertion that Christian colleges will be forcibly prevented from hiring Christian professors on the grounds that Christianity is irrational. Anyone who thinks that the American polity would support such a measure has some very, very odd ideas about the mindset of his opponents, not to mention the public in general.

SNK is right about the grounds. I'm sure they will come up with more subtle grounds to produce the same effect. Thanks for the correction.

"Anyone who thinks that the American polity would support such a measure has some very, very odd ideas about the mindset of his opponents, not to mention the public in general."

This was said, and could still be said, of advocacy for gay marriage. Or, again, for the attack on Christian organizations at public universities. Or the use of non-discrimination policy in Britain to go after Catholic Adoption Services and force them to abandon their specifically Catholic character. What the American (or British, or Polish) public "supports" is not thought to be particularly relevant in any of these cases. Anyone who thinks it is relevant has some very odd ideas about the mindset of the liberal powers that be, not to mention liberals in general.

What exactly is the problem here? The APA anti-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation rather than sexual conduct. Since it is certainly possible to exercise self-control and refrain from sexual conduct however one is sexually oriented, the petition is stupid and ought to be rejected by supporters and opponents of homosexuality alike as an insult to human beings who exercise self-control.

If you want to argue that it's wrong to discriminate against sexual conduct, that's a separate question to which the APA anti-discrimination policy does not speak.

This is actually a simple question. The hard questions are whether the APA anti-discrimination policy should extend to sexual conduct or whether it should remove the sexual orientation clause as well, and that's a matter of reasoned debate.

This was said, and could still be said, of advocacy for gay marriage.

Advocacy for gay marriage is not at all the same as advocating an anti-Christian religious hiring test for Christian educational institutions. That's not even a slippery-slope argument, it's a pure category error. Again, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the actual aims and goals of liberals rather than automatically imputing bad faith and/or an ultimate desire to squash Christianity.

Of course this could be construed as wishful thinking: if advocates of gay marriage were, in fact, scheming toward full-bore State suppression of the Christian religion, that would make them deeply wrong, not to mention illiberal. I'm sure it's more fun and rewarding to argue against such imaginary demons than the advocates of (e.g.) gay marriage as we actually exist.

On topic, if Christian educational institutions are effectively banned by any means in the next fifty years, I will eat my favorite hat. And it's a big hat.

Keith was making a bald assertion that Christian colleges will be forcibly prevented from hiring Christian professors on the grounds that Christianity is irrational. Anyone who thinks that the American polity would support such a measure has some very, very odd ideas about the mindset of his opponents, not to mention the public in general.

Not sure I was making a "bald assertion.'I'm simply suggesting that the moral logic that leads one to declare the belief that "homosexual acts are immoral" is irrational and then conclude that colleges and universities should not be permitted to discriminate on those irrational grounds is really not all that different from discriminating against atheists. After all, "belief in a personal God" is irrational, right? If so, why should a Christian College be able to "discimiinate" in their hiring based on that "irrational" belief (in a personal God) any more than they should be able to discriminate against those who engage in gay sex.

Of course, you could concede that there is nothing irrational about belief in a personal God. But then, you could also concede that there is nothing irrational about believing in the immorality of homosexual acts. But then, if neither belief is "irrational" then why would you want to "censure" or otherwise dictate their hiring practices on these matters?

stillnotking, you don't speak for all liberals. This is why the "familiarize yourself with the actual aims and goals of liberals" rhetoric is useless. If you don't advocate a hiring test for Christians schools, that's very well and good, but says nothing of others who, for example, would want to prohibit Catholic Charities from discriminating against gay staffers for high level positions. It's wonderful that you don't, and yet you don't seem to be aware of "liberals" that do. Hence "familiarize..."

Secondly, the public and official acceptance of of gay "marriage" means that in the eyes of the law, homosexual conduct is legitimate. Anti-discrimination policies mean that public money will be restricted from institutions that discriminate illegitimately in the eyes of the law and will favor institutions with approved conceptions of sexual morality that do not discriminate against homosexual conduct. This is not equal treatment.

The government should get out of the business of funding schools for this reason.

Secondly, the public and official acceptance of of gay "marriage" means that in the eyes of the law, homosexual conduct is legitimate.

Well, yes, absolutely. That is the goal, because liberals believe that homosexual conduct is morally neutral and unworthy of legal censure.

As far as organizational funding, I assume we all agree that public money should not go to groups that discriminate in their hiring practices. The question is whether or not refusal to hire homosexuals constitutes "discrimination", which in turn depends completely on whether or not one agrees with my first paragraph. So this is another straightforward moral argument: either homosexuality is morally neutral, or it is not. All else follows from that. You will note that no grand plots to destroy the Christian religion enter into this analysis at any point. At most, taken to its logical extreme and assuming no compromises by either side, this would mean a denial of public funding to organizations like Catholic Charities.

I do not claim to speak for "all liberals", of course, but I would argue that if a good-faith interpretation of a large political group's actions is tenable, one should not disdain it in favor of a bad-faith interpretation. Of course it's possible that I am totally mistaken and every liberal other than myself harbors a deep-seated desire to eradicate the Christian religion, but I am quite sure that is a less rational interpretation of liberal motives than the one I just outlined.

What exactly is the problem here? The APA anti-discrimination policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation rather than sexual conduct.

The problem is with the APA, not with us. Read the opening sentence: "Many colleges and universities require faculty, students, and staff to follow certain ‘ethical’ standards which prohibit engaging in homosexual acts."

It's got scare quotes around ethical and everything. Then it goes back into "orientation" mode (see? I can do it too). Well which is it? Are they saying that prohibiting homosexual acts is fine as long as you do not discriminate against orientation? That the APA would be fine with potential applicants signing a statement that if hired they will abide by the school's conduct policy even if it includes a prohibtion of homosexual acts?

These people should also petition to exclude all Catholic schools from the APA. After all, the Church will only consider Catholic males for the priesthood, episcopacy, etc. Isn't a lesbian Satanist, a Jewish transsexual, or a member of any other group just as able as a Catholic male to lift a chalice and host, and do all that other stuff at the altar?

As far as organizational funding, I assume we all agree that public money should not go to groups that discriminate in their hiring practices.

No--we all don't agree. Nor does the law. For DECADES the law has permitted religious social service organizations to make hiring decisions based on religion and still receive public funds. As one guy, who knows what he is talking about (that's me) has put it:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended in 1972, four Charitable Choice laws signed by President Clinton and Supreme Court case law all support the right of faith-based organizations to hire employees based on their religious commitment. (See the Center for Public Justice's Guide to Charitable Choice.)

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/302fssnu.asp?pg=1

In fact, even the Obama administration--having pledged to abolish such "discrimination" has not backed off--having been mugged by the law, and the practical realities on the ground.

stillnotking, your word choice sucks. "Discrimination" is morally neutral. We discriminate all the time, between good and bad choices, between parking spaces, between anything that is different. I realize you are aware of the substance of what we're talking about. It's just annoying. What matters is not *discrimination* but whether such discrimination is unjust. Again, I know you know this, you just use the wrong words.

You will note that no grand plots to destroy the Christian religion enter into this analysis at any point.

Where did this come from? Did I ever mention any "grand plots to destroy the Christian religion?" If not, which is true, why are you saying this to me?

Secondly, I think your understanding of what's at stake is inadequate. Let me spell this out. Everyone pays taxes. Taxes, for many bad reasons and maybe one good one, go to fund schools. If these public monies are restricted from schools with government-disapproved sexual ethics but do go to schools with government-approved sexual ethics, then approved schools get an enormous competitive advantage financially and disapproved schools get shafted since their supporters pay taxes but their schools don't get benefits. Does that make sense?

So I'm not talking about "grand plots to destroy the Christian religion." What I am talking about are attempts to financially undermining Christian schools which is likely to help undermine the Christian religion. Surely you can connect the dots there.

This problem would be solved by eliminating government funding of schools, starting with universities.

The discussion of whether homosexual conduct is morally neutral or not is off-topic, but judging from your comments here you're probably wrong about that as well.

I do not claim to speak for "all liberals", of course, but I would argue that if a good-faith interpretation of a large political group's actions is tenable, one should not disdain it in favor of a bad-faith interpretation. Of course it's possible that I am totally mistaken and every liberal other than myself harbors a deep-seated desire to eradicate the Christian religion, but I am quite sure that is a less rational interpretation of liberal motives than the one I just outlined.

Again, where is this "eradication of the Christian religion" idea coming from? Are you still talking to me or what?

Secondly, even assuming we're talking about liberal eradication of the Christian religion, your argument still sucks because Every Liberal other than yourself doesn't have to "harbor a deep-seated desire to do eradicate the Christian religion" for criticisms of those that do to be legitimate. I'm not even saying that there is such a group. I'm just saying it's stupid to believe that theoretical group must be everyone but yourself for criticisms to be legitimate. Your argument is just an emotional exaggeration.

Lastly, I applaud your desire to use "good-faith" interpretations of large groups. But you err in believing there is only one such large politically liberal group, of which you are representative. There is no such group, but simply a bunch of large and overlapping liberal groups, one of which would seek to compel groups like Catholic Charities to accept acting homosexual staffers on the threat of reductions in taxpayer funding to which they contribute.

I would say that it is _less_ of a restriction for a school to require its faculty to refrain from sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage than for a religiously oriented school to require its faculty to sign a statement of faith--for an evangelical school to hire only evangelicals or a Baptist school to hire Baptists. What is topsy-turvy about the activists' approach here is that they purport not to be trying to outlaw the latter while at the same time trying _at least_ to stigmatize if not to outlaw the former. A Baptist school that hired only Baptists but _didn't_ ask its faculty to refrain from homosexual acts would, all else being equal, presumably not have any trouble with advertising in JFP even under the newly proposed restriction. But that's pretty much senseless, if it's actually anything like academic quality, breadth of exposure of students to varieties of viewpoints and to excellent scholarship, and the like that we are concerned about. Moreover, it's sort of wilfully faux-ignorant to pretend that a school's asking its professors to belong to a certain religious group or to sign a statement of faith is anything other than an attempt to foster a particular religious identity and a particular atmosphere in the school. But a restriction against extramarital sex is not only part and parcel of that same religious identity, it is also a _much less restrictive_, a _much more minimal and obvious_ form of such identity-keeping than the requirement for faculty to sign a detailed statement of faith. It is thus simply absurd to oppose the former as this horrible, earth-staining offense against justice while considering the latter to be a shoulder-shrugging matter of "those weird religious people doing whatever it is that they do."

I cannot quite figure out why liberals who can think of statements of faith as nothing more than mildly regrettable (because restrictive) hiring practices are so foaming-at-the-mouth about much less restrictive hiring practices that require agreeing to an ethical code that large numbers of non-religious people follow anyway.

I do not claim to speak for "all liberals", of course,

No kidding.

SNK, are you really unaware of the widely admitted, even bragged-about, and to some extent successful, liberal goal of making it _illegal_ to "discriminate" against sexually active homosexuals in any way, shape, or form, including (for example) refusing to print their "wedding" invitations? I mean, you must _know_ that this kind of thing is what your fellow liberals are _openly_ up to in town after town, state after state, and even at the federal level. They're trying to pass such an ordinance in my town at this very moment. Perhaps you should come and argue with them: "No, no, this isn't what we liberals are about." I mean, there are huge numbers of liberals all over the country, some of whom have openly commented on this blog, who don't seem to have gotten the memo.

Sage,

Above I wrote about how some liberal intellectuals try to make even the most brilliant (e.g., Francis Beckwith) conservative intellectuals look like nothing. Although the aforementioned intellectuals might not be trying to make them look like nothing, that result could be produced in some cases. In addition, I wrote about Beckwith’s remarkably brilliant writing on the elective abortion issue and other topics. Although I think that there is not any other philosopher in the world that has Beckwith’s abilities on the, for example, elective abortion topic, some seem to give the impression that a person like Beckwith is a joke. Further, I mentioned the growing number of philosophy professors (who are very brilliant I will add) that argue for theism. I noticed that there is an update by Brian Leiter that seems to show that he has a level of understanding in regards to Beckwith’s views on various aspects of science. Maybe this shows that a person like Beckwith will no longer be described in a way that makes him look like nothing. Although I could be wrong, maybe Leiter will no longer put Beckwith in a post categorized as “Merciless rhetorical spankings of fanatics, villains, and ignoramuses, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.)” However, there are people out there that will call pro-lifers words like fanatics even if those pro-lifers use the most sophisticated arguments to articulate their views. It is interesting to look at name calling both historically and sociologically.


I cannot quite figure out why liberals who can think of statements of faith as nothing more than mildly regrettable (because restrictive) hiring practices are so foaming-at-the-mouth about much less restrictive hiring practices that require agreeing to an ethical code that large numbers of non-religious people follow anyway.

Indeed! Or why certain "progressive" faculty at said institutions have no problem with, say, "discriminating" against non-Calvinists (at Calvin College for example--NO ARMINIANS AND CATHOLICS NEED APPLY) but get all squishy on the issue of "discrimination" against homosexuals. In fact, in order to teach at Calvin College you have to promise to send your kids to a Christian Reformed school (I'm assuming that is still the case--correct me if I'm wrong.) So, if you can legally "discriminate" (and receive public money, too, btw) on the basis of a rather narrow confessional commitment, if the administration can tell faculty where to send or not send their kids to school, then why in the hell can't they also "discriminate" on the basis of homosexual practice? (I suspect that homophobiaphobia--the fear of being called a homophobe--has something to do with this. Or maybe simply because the gay lobby mafia is more powerful that the Dutch Calvinist mafia.)

Maybe Nick Wolterstorff or Al Plantinga or Richard Mouw, or all the other former Calvin College philosophers can help us sort THAT one out?

SNK - just fyi: Prof. Leiter, whose (even more than usually) scurrilous attack on Prof. Beckwith provided the occasion for the present post, *does*, in fact want "to destroy the Christian religion" - pretty much by any means necessary.

I knew him, well, back in grad school at the University of Michigan. In fact, I think that I was probably his best friend among the grad students there, at the time. And I also think that (unlike me) he hasn't changed a bit since then.

Which is no great surprise. Failure changes people. Success merely confirms them in their weaknesses.

Anyway, it's perfectly obvious to me that he *still* loathes Christianity "with liver burning hot," and that that's what's driving him, here.

It *certainly* isn't any special solicitude on behalf of the "rights" of gay people. I mean, c'mon! Brian was the only guy I knew who openly regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union! The idea that he takes anything other than an ideologically opportunistic interest in anybody's "rights" is just silly.

Can anyone find out, with documentation, how long this policy of the APA has been on the books? Someone recently verbally told me about twenty years. Can that be? But even if it had been five to ten years, with no such interpretation and application of it, that would be significant for the claim that, hey, this is what it meant all along. I've done a little googling but can't get anything definite.

Prof. Beckwith,

I have one more thing to say about this. As you know, it is important to persevere. Keep up your powerful and very, very significant work that has had a positive impact on A LOT of people. I don’t even want to know (figuratively speaking) the kind of impact people like Brian Leiter are making.

I think the policy has been on the books since 1966. That's what I remember reading on the Leiter thread. Assuming my memory is accurate, I can post a quote, if you'd like.

Strange it is that as religion weakens in the public sphere the hounds increase their attacks, something perhaps about the ease of kicking someone when they are down?
Coincidental with this new found bravery and indignation is an increasingly dreamy, infantile view of government, acted out through an almost physical prostration & self abnegation. Toss in a dash of moral corruption and unrestrained emotionalism and you get virus's like Brian Lieter, a lot of them, and all willing to add the god Force to their own ugly parthenon.

Don't hold your breath waiting for harsh words directed against islam. Courage has it's limits.

For those of you who think the act/orientation distinction successfully shows that these institutions abide by the APA policy, what do you think of the following kind of challenge? (Note that I did not come up with this.)

Suppose that my university (a private, non-religious institution) had a policy that it would hire people of Christian orientation, but only on the condition that they do not perform Christian acts, such as praying to Jesus, wearing crosses, giving presents at Christmas, reading the Bible, or attending church. (Of course, non-Christians do some of these things, too. I read the Bible occasionally and exchange presents at Christmas, though I am not a Christian.) Would you agree this policy does not discriminate against Christians? Would you agree that this policy abides by the APA's non-discrimination policy? Would your answers to those questions change if it turned out that the overwhelming majority of universities adopted such a policy?

Note that I agree that there is a distinction between an orientation and an act, and I recognize that there are some people who manage to live chaste lives rather than enjoy homosexual sex.

Jason Brennan: Good example. Here's my take on it.

As I mentioned earlier, a pet peeve of mine is to make sure the word "discriminate" is used more precisely to mean what it actually means, "distinguish," so that the language doesn't muddle up conversation. We discriminate between anything that is different all the time: what matters is whether such discrimination is _legitimate and just_ or _illegitimate and unjust_.

So in answer to your questions, 1) the private institution's policy does discriminate against Christians, but not unjustly, because a private institution does not owe Christians jobs as a matter of justice.

2) The private institution's policy does _not_ seem to abide by the APA's anti-discrimination policy because religion includes public acts. I'm sure there are some who believe religion ought to be restricted to private, "it's all in your mind" spirituality, but that would not actually be religion, which has always been and will always be both private and public in nature. If the APA's policy prohibited discrimination based on "holding abstract religious beliefs or ideas or doctrines" then your private institution's policy would be fine with respect to the APA's policy.

3) As a matter of justice, it wouldn't matter if the majority of universities adopted anti-Christian policies as long as tax revenue from Christians were not going, against their will, to support those institutions. Those institutions would continue a trend of losing focus, rotting and dying off or becoming vocational schools for i-banking/consulting/etc., and as long as my tax money wasn't going to them and down the toilet, it wouldn't be much of a big deal. This is why I think the government should stop using tax money to fund universities and instead allow people and groups to fund the ones they support voluntarily based on a particular religious/non-religious/philosophical/whatever worldview.

I'm perfectly fine with letting all schools--discrimination policies and all--compete on an even playing field and see who rises to the top.

I would say that if some organization deliberately uses the phrase "does not discriminate on the basis of Christian orientation" rather than "does not discriminate on the basis of being a Christian," the question immediately arises--Why did they use such a strange phrase as "Christian orientation"? A phrase like "Christian orientation" gives the distinct implication that the word "orientation" is doing some work there, so that the phrase is not equivalent to "being a Christian and doing the things that are usually included in society's concept of being a Christian." Hence if some umbrella organization deliberately puts into its policies a requirement that sub-organizations that use its services "not discriminate on the basis of Christian orientation," there is some oddness going on that does indeed appear to allow room for the sub-organization that treats Christianity as not essentially including Christian acts.

Moreover, it is well-known that there is controversy over whether "being homosexual" includes _of its essence_ engaging in homosexual acts. There have been whole books written by people who find themselves with a homosexual orientation but have determined that acting upon it would be wrong and now live chaste lives. This is widely known. Hence a phrase like "sexual orientation" positively invites the act/orientation distinction, and even a phrase like "being homosexual" is ambiguous given the existence of the controversy over whether homosexual acts are in some sense of the essence of "being homosexual."

I would also point out that this policy has been in place for _at least_ ten years (that much I have been able to chase down) and has never been applied to penalize institutions in the way the signatories to the petition want it to be applied. This is relevant to the question of whether it "meant that all along" and it makes it quite clear that the move by the activists who have signed this petition is indeed a _new_ move rather than simply "applying" the policy already in place.

@ Jason (or whoever) -

Good question. But how about this for an example?

If "sexual orientation" is anything but a euphemism for "sexual orientation that we like," then we need to face up to the possibility that zoophilia and pedophilia are also sexual orientations, just as hetero and homo are. (That is, some people are sexually attracted to, get sexual gratification from, etc., only (non-human) animals or children, respectively.) This is at any rate an empirical possibility. Let us stipulate its truth, for the sake of argument -- and because it seems plausible. I'll focus on zoophilia in what follows, so as to avoid the complication that active pedophiles commit statutory rape: their behavior is illegal.

Now, if the orientation/act distinction does *not* bear the weight of the argument at issue, then the consequence seems obvious: The APA non-discrimination statement, along with the rejection of the orientation/act distinction, entails that active (and out of the closet) zoophiles cannot be discriminated against in hiring by institutions whose code of conduct prohibits sex with non-human animals.

[Aside: please note that I am not drawing a moral equivalence between homosexuality, or for that matter heterosexuality, and zoophilia.]

So the obvious question is this: Do those who wish to enforce the APA code, while denying a relevant orientation/act distinction, accept the proposition that any college or university that has a code of conduct ruling out active zoophiles unjustly discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation? And do they therefore wish to forbid such institutions from advertising in the APA?

"If this is liberalism, I hate to think what fascism is like."

If (considering how we use the word 'liberal') you've seen one, you've seen the other.

"If this is liberalism, I hate to think what fascism is like."

So, you think there's significant moral similarity between
1) a bunch of people in a private professional organization signing a petition demanding that the organization either enforce its standards or remove them, and
2) Mussolini and Hitler's governments in the 1930s?

Or, you think 1 is so morally appalling that 2 is unthinkable, since 2 must be worse?

I find this bizarre.

If liberalism designates a set of actual principles, as opposed to doing what whoever the left likes at the moment would prefer, then liberalism is not on the side of the petition.

I've slammed conservative politicians for doing whatever moneyed interests want regardless of principle. The same thing happens to leftists, who have too much power in academic circles for their own sobriety.

I suppose it would be possible to have a set of principles that included "We should never have anything to do with any organization that does not wholeheartedly approve of homosexuality as normal and treat it as such in all its doings."

But I do note that the "let there be justice though the heavens fall" principles of the Left are ever-evolving. How many even among self-styled leftists thirty years ago would have held the above to be a principle? And it never, ever bothers them. If you say, "How can it be so incredibly horrible by the natural light not to approve of homosexual 'marriage' when no one even on _your_ side of the political aisle had ever seriously advocated such a thing just twenty years ago?" they just shrug it off.

But I don't know if this point is at all what you mean to be getting at.

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