Letter - A pastor’s dilemma


“My son wants to marry his partner,” the woman said.

The pastor sipped from the teacup she’d handed him. Eight years ago she’d told him her son was gay.

“Help him change,” he’d advised her then. “Look into conversion therapy programs.”

He grimaced, recalling the next time he’d visited the woman. Her eyes were red, and she shuddered as she described the electric shock treatments, the nausea-producing drugs given simultaneously with homoerotic stimuli. After her son left the program, he’d felt more alone and alienated than before he started it. He’d even considered suicide.

“Pray for him,” He’d told her then. “Love the sinner but hate the sin.” The words rang hollow now.

Like many Walla Walla area pastors and priests, he’d denounced gay marriage from the pulpit.

“It threatens traditional marriages,” he’d thundered. “Gay sexual behavior is a lifestyle choice, rooted in a depraved desire to experiment.”

But after studying the research, he now believed that sexual preference was biological, hard-wired in our brains. Conversion therapy programs not only didn’t work, they could cause irreparable harm.

Conversion therapy had been denounced by every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S.

The pastor rubbed the bridge of his nose. How could he admit he was rethinking his beliefs? Church congregations loved unity; they hated conflict. The sheep looked to the shepherd for guidance, and he’d been eager to give it. Like other pastors, he liked to be in control.

Lately he’d been questioning a core Christian belief, that only people who accept Jesus can know God and go to heaven. But would a loving God abandon most of the world’s population?

No, he’d concluded. 1 John 4:12 says if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us.

What if — he winced, for this thought was blasphemous — what if our religious beliefs don’t matter? What if God wants all people to work together to make the world better, Christians alongside atheists, Jews alongside Muslims?

Why, there would be no need for church hierarchies. He could be out of a job.

The woman was looking at him expectantly.

He cleared his throat and said, “Give him your blessing. Tell him you’ll welcome his partner as a beloved son-in-law. Tell him I’d be honored to perform the ceremony.”

Martin McCaw

Walla Walla



chicoli says...

There is nothing more cruel and callous than to chastise anyone because of their sexual orientation. On the contrary, gay people should be respected for their incredible courage to live in a society where there are insensitive, emotionally hardened people who seek refuge in religion to justify their repugnant hatred of others.

The more rabid they are about their anti gay "convictions", the more you have to wonder about their own covert homosexuality!

Posted 13 February 2014, 9:24 p.m. Suggest removal

PeggyJoy says...

Amen, Paco.

Posted 14 February 2014, 7:56 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

There is nothing more cruel and callous than to chastise anyone because of their sexual orientation . . . . or their sincere religious beliefs.

Posted 14 February 2014, 11:49 a.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

You weren't paying attention. Sexual orientation is hard wired into the individual; religious beliefs are entirely a matter of choice.

Posted 14 February 2014, 2:01 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

I disagree with you on both points.

Sexual predilections may be hard-wired for some and not for others; I don't think science has established the issue conclusively, as was made clear if anybody had read past the headlines on the study findings released a couple of days ago. But ACTING on sexual predilections is a choice. For example, I hope we won't give pedophiles a pass even if it turns out their preference for five-year olds is hard-wired.

Religious beliefs may not be hard-wired, but I'd hesitate to call a belief inculcated since childhood or arrived at as a presumed revelation a "choice." As an atheist, I don't feel like I have a "choice" to believe in a deity, and I'm sure a believer doesn't feel a "choice" to disbelieve. And it may turn out that the need to have absolute answers to unanswerable questions IS hard-wired into some people, and not others.

Posted 16 February 2014, 6:50 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

Word play. You say that science hasn't established "conclusively" that sexual orientation is hard wired, but even if it is, assert that acting on the hard wired orientation is a matter of choice. Most of us have a hard wired need to breathe, and all of us who are alive act on that choice. Your "acting" on the hard wired sexual orientation is, sadly, the last refuge of a bigot and, as spread across our society, the source of so many suicides among young gay men..

Yet, you claim that a religious belief inculcated from childhood is almost not a choice. Doesn't the person with their religious belief "choose" to act on that belief.

No, your reply is merely playing with language so as not to concede the point that religious belief is clearly a choice, while no responsible professional today believes that you can make a gay man straight.

Posted 17 February 2014, 7:33 a.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

That "God fearing" republican Michelle Bachman, had a business with her husband scamming patients with a so called "christian counseling" with a gay-to-straight therapy, no better than aversive snake oil in your cock. They not only received tax exempt status for the "christian" part, but bilked Medicaid from thousand of dollars.

Mrs. and Mr. Bachman ( so called Dr.) seemed to have one love-hate relationship with the IRS (habitual in conservatives circles), and another one with the Government sponsored Medicaid! They just loved the sin, but also loved the sinner! Ah, hypocrisy!

Posted 17 February 2014, 11:19 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Good grief! Where in what I said do you find any wish to make a gay man straight? I have no such wish. I really don't care who is sexually attracted to, sleeps with or marries whom, as long as they're both adults and acting without duress.

You know, you implied you wanted to discuss things reasonably and civilly. My comment on what science says was just that: a statement of the extent to which science has, so far, determined anything about this issue. I brought it up because you did, as if whether or not sexual orientation was 'hard-wired' made any difference. To me, it doesn't. I don't care why some adults want to sleep with others of their own sex. To me, it is simply their business, not the State's. Like most other things in life are not the business of the State.

The fact that your response to what I said is to accuse me of bigotry suggests your commitment to 'understanding' has a way to go. A real long way.

Posted 17 February 2014, 9:22 p.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

Well, it is not as simple as some adults wanting to sleep with others of their own sex...and shack away all night long? No, my friend. That is in fact the stereotype out there. It has to do with loving each other with the same fervor, respect and romanticism as heterosexual partners. If this is understood, then, yes it is this simple!

Posted 17 February 2014, 9:52 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

In your original response after mentioning that gays can choose not to act on their "gayness" (the old, why do they have to be so "gay"), you made the classic gay-to-pedophile leap, ala Vladimir Putin.

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck . . . I think I "understand " just fine.

Posted 18 February 2014, 2:58 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Some people do find it difficult to think logically about issues they feel very emotional about, and resent anybody else even trying. That seems to be true of you.

I was challenging your "hard-wired" argument, because I think it is both scientifically unproven and irrelevant to whether or not gay people should have various rights and privileges. The reference to pedophiles was in aid of the argument about irrelevancy; it establishes the irrefutable point that we do not base public policies around sex on whether or not a particular desire is thought to be "hard-wired", but instead we still treat acting on the desire as a choice. Many years ago, I could have made the point by referring to adulterers instead of pedophiles. There's plenty of sociobiological science suggesting that men, in particular, and possibly women too MAY be hard-wired to make fidelity and monogamy a challenge. Yet the law in the past, and most spouses today, nevertheless don't give anyone a pass on philandering on that basis. Neither the point about pedophiles nor the point about adulterers logically implies that gay people are either.

You may think you "understand" just fine, but you are nevertheless mistaken. Birds on the brain, perhaps.

Being primarily a libertarian, I do not approve of the State meddling in anybody's business unless to protect the rights of individuals who are unable to protect themselves. Meddling just on the basis that it is good for "society" or "the community" is something I rarely think is justified. So I approve of laws making acting on pedophilic desires illegal and disapprove of laws that make acting on gay desires or adulterous desires illegal. And that's whether the desires are hard-wired or not. I don't care. Why you do is a mystery to me. What happens to your argument if science eventually decides it isn't hard-wired? Do gay rights evaporate?

Being a libertarian also means I don't think it is my place to castigate others because I think they hew to irrational ideas about deities. If those irrational ideas threaten other individuals' rights , as for instance Al Qaeda, then the deity-worshippers must be stopped, but as Winston Churchill once said, "If you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite."

Of course, being approved of by someone else is not a "right" in my book. If some religious people disapprove of gays, that is, in fact, their right and people who try to interfere with that right are the ones who need to be stopped. Likewise, if gays disapprove of the religious, that's their right, too. But what's the point of them castigating each other? I was being sarcastic in quoting Paco that there's nothing more cruel or callous, but there certainly is nothing more pointless.

Posted 19 February 2014, 2:04 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

You've resorted to condescension to try to defend your initial silly post.

There's a lot of distance between it not being "conclusively" established that sexual orientation is hard wired - your initial position - to your current "scientifically unproven." I do, however, admire your ability to change your contentions as needed to defend your evolving position.

I also admire your ability to say that in years gone by you could have referred to adulterers instead of pedophiles, without ever noticing that our society has moved on and largely decriminalized adultery, just as our society is evolving on the issue of gay rights.

What's odd, however, is that I don't recall people with sincerely held religious beliefs refusing to serve adulterers. One would think that adultery - clearly a matter of choice - would be the greater offense to the religious.

No, the whole gay rights/religious beliefs kerfuffle just seems to be prejudice hiding behind a holy face. No one is asking the sincerely religious to become gay; we are asking them not to discriminate in the provision of goods and services in their businesses.

Posted 19 February 2014, 3:55 p.m. Suggest removal

downhillracer says...

The libertarian "platform" is fraudulent at best.

The error of libertarianism lies not in championing liberty, but in championing liberty to the exclusion of all other values. Libertarians hold that individual liberty should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of other values or causes. Compassion, justice, civic responsibility, honesty, decency, humility, respect, and even survival of the poor, weak, and vulnerable -- all are to take a back seat.

Ayn Rand and her musings are bound for the dust heap of history, and not a minute too soon. Attempts to justify discrimination based on religious pretense is discrimination, just the same, and just as unconstitutional.

Don't like same-sex marriage? Don't get one.

Posted 19 February 2014, 4:07 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

The faults of libertarianism are exactly why I used qualifiers like 'primarily' and 'rarely' in my post. Anyway, defenders of compassion and other values you list (usually at someone else's expense) are in ample supply right now, while defenders of liberty are rare.

The Constitution says nothing about private discrimination like that of the florist a few months ago who didn't want to provide services for a gay marriage. It would never have occurred to the Constitution's authors to try to control what people did in their private lives. Their whole focus was on protecting people FROM the State. So it protects only against State discriminatory action.

Posted 19 February 2014, 9:08 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...


Until something is scientifically proven, it has not been conclusively established, so there's actually NO difference between my two contentions. But you also manage to completely miss my point, which is that it is irrelevant to what rights gay people should have -- which, since you are clearly unable to grasp it from what I've written, includes in my view the right to marry. It's telling that you can't even acknowledge someone is on the same side as you on a policy issue just because they arrive at it in a way you don't understand or don't approve of.

Although I'm an atheist, I do share with religious people a lack of interest in letting my views be dictated by whatever society has evolved to. Societies have 'evolved' into too many grotesquely obnoxious views to have that be an appropriate standard for anyone to use as a base their ethical positions. Democracy may be the least evil of all ways to decide many things, but what is ethical will never be decided by majority vote -- only what is legal can be decided that way.

Yes, in times past people DID refuse to serve adulterers. In fact, unless it's changed in the last six years or so, in the US military, you can still be courtmartialed for it.

You seem to believe that anyone who claims to oppose gay rights on the basis of religion MUST be using religion as a pretext. Your powers of divination must be extremely keen if you can read people's deepest hearts, minds and, if they exist, souls, when you probably don't even know their names. And your knowledge of theology must be extraordinary or your direct line to God very clear, if you pretend to know exactly what each religion REALLY holds on such issues. Why not just assume people actually believe what they say and argue from there, instead of rutting in paranoid imaginings of what they really mean? Are you afraid your arguments are too weak?

Posted 19 February 2014, 8:55 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

So many words which you try to reinforce with ad hominem attacks. You may claim to be on the same page as I am, however you express yourself much like the traditional gay basher. Frankly, I don't care if you're an atheist, or a libertarian, or a Zoroastrian - you seem to think these various belief systems you have excuse your (shifting) positions.

To your claims - there's a huge difference between not "conclusively" proven and "unproven." Not "conclusively" proven tends to suggest (at least to the impartial reader) substantial but not certain proof; "unproven" suggests a striking lack of evidence. Play your word games, but impartial readers can tell the difference.

And I completely understand your point - you don't like gays acting like gays. That's EXACTLY my point. You appear to want gays to stay tightly hidden in the closet, so as not to upset anyone who (to use your favorite word) "chooses" to be upset. My view is that the closet is what is killing our young gays and shame on you for preferring suicides to acceptance.

Finally, I claim no power of divination - rather the simple power of listening, reasoning and evaluating. I commend it to you.

Posted 19 February 2014, 9:37 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

You keep inventing straw-men to argue against. Again, where in what I said do you get the idea I want gays in the closet? From having gay housemates and friends in college to the gay wedding I'll be attending in June, and years of supporting and working with gay friends, colleagues and clients in between, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the "EXACT" point you made is EXACTLY the opposite of what I clearly said: No one has a right not to be offended by anyone else's life choices, unless they are a direct interference with one's own. That applies to gay people and to religious people.

Apparently the fact that I am prepared to defend the rights of religious people to live their beliefs within their own lives makes me anti-gay in your view, even though I'm equally prepared to defend the rights of gays to live their loves within their own lives. You, on the other hand, insist that the religious must not just let gays live their lives, but also must grant them "acceptance", which I take to mean moral approval, not just legal rights. You go so far as to insist that if a religious person's views don't meet your approval, they aren't even sincere, but merely a pretense for some other obviously evil motive.

Maybe you could understand the point if we talked about pot, instead. Do you understand how someone could agree that pot should be legalized, and yet disapprove of smoking pot, and not wish to personally go to a pot-smoking doctor or use a pot-smoking electrician? Maybe not. I've talked to some pot-smokers who go ballistic if anyone expresses the view that it could be harmful. Like you, they insist not only on legal rights, but moral approbation. (The only difference here is that I DO disapprove of pot-smoking, while I don't disapprove of gay relationships - not that you will believe that.)

Posted 20 February 2014, 10:16 a.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

The only request I've made of the sincerely religious in this thread is that they not discriminate against gays if they offer goods and services through public businesses. Anything beyond that - including particularly "moral approval" -is your attempt to put words in my mouth which you can then refute.

As for the rest of your reply, I have no idea what "No one has a right not to be offended by anyone else's life choices, unless they are a direct interference with one's own" means. The sentence doesn't make sense and even if it did there are words in there that you can play with - e.g., what is a "direct interference" - to make it in any way a statement that can be responded to.

So far as I can see, you insist on (1) choosing to believe that sexual orientation in gays is not hard wired, (2) arguing that even if it is, a gay can (perhaps in your view should) not act on that hard wired sexual orientation, and (3) defending the right of the sincerely religious to discriminate against gays in the provision of goods and services through otherwise public businesses. That strikes me as the societal approach we've had toward the gay community for the last 60 years or so. To me, the current wave of change is long over due and most welcome.

Posted 20 February 2014, 10:48 a.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

Amen, brother...let justice roll on like like a river , righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Posted 20 February 2014, 1:37 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Request or demand? Request - fine with me, I'll join you. Demand, can't agree. 1) I believe nothing about whether it's hardwired. I think it's irrelevant. 2) Of course they CAN. No, of course they shouldn't have to. 3) True, if by "public" businesses you mean private businesses. If by public you mean the Post Office or the Smithsonian, False.

Posted 20 February 2014, 3:52 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

There you go playing games with words.

A private "business" would be one that required an application for membership, a review of that membership by a membership committee and approval or disapproval of the application - like a country club, not like Costco. A public business opens its doors to the public - like a florist shop in the Tri-Cities.

Clearly, you want to defend the rights of the religious who run public (as I've defined it) businesses to discriminate against gays - that's where you and I part company, and where your position continues to support the oppression of a minority. Call it what you will, I call it bigotry.

Finally, I'm not dense - spare yourself typing the personal attacks - I'm just unwilling to accept your sophistry in the defense of the indefensible.

Posted 20 February 2014, 8:09 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

I would call it bigotry to say that religious people should have to choose between earning a living or declining to enable and facilitate conduct their religion disapproves of. Better that the religious should be banned from all self-employment (or perhaps ALL employment?) than that a gay person should have to choose a different florist. By all means, call that "ending oppression."

Posted 21 February 2014, 1:14 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

So, what does your religious person do if they run a convenience store and a mid 20'sh male with eye shadow, earrings and a somewhat effeminate bearing comes in by himself to buy condoms? (Please don't dodge the question by asserting a religious store owner wouldn't sell condoms.) Does your religious person profile the young man and refuse to sell him condoms? On what basis?

Can a gas station attendant in M-F refuse to pump gas if two men kiss in their car while waiting for him?

Do you draw any line or is it just a profiling free-for-all and damned the consequences to others?

Posted 21 February 2014, 3:10 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Response below.

Posted 22 February 2014, 6:20 a.m. Suggest removal

downhillracer says...

Mr/Ms PearlY (short for 'pearly white?), if you disapprove of "pot smoking", then don't do it. Otherwise, try being concerned about your own space, not that of others. Trust me: no one is seeking your "approval". For anything.

Posted 20 February 2014, 2:17 p.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

In Nigeria they also have the sincere religious believe that gay people should be stoned to death. I wonder what the reaction of those "puritans" would be, if in the future it is discovered that Jesus was gay!
After all he was always palling around with 12 other guys.

Posted 14 February 2014, 9:10 p.m. Suggest removal

VinoTinto says...

Love the sinner, hate the sin and leave the judging to god!!!

Posted 14 February 2014, 12:45 p.m. Suggest removal

Chas says...

Burning witches is a sincere religious belief. Many sects themselves practice shunning.

I judge how different faiths and sects treat their women, the sick, disabled, elderly. I regard the "prosperity" doctrines as heretical to Christianity.

I think heaven and hell are the quality of people we choose to share our time among. YOLO

Posted 14 February 2014, 1:51 p.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

Churchill also said "If you have to LOVE a man, it cost nothing to be polite"...Oops, sorry...that was Oscar Wilde!

Libertarian believes are for narcissistic, egotistic people who are loners and fiercely independent. I see nothing wrong with that...as long as they maintain their stance and stay away from trying to pitch and bat at the same time!

Posted 19 February 2014, 5:21 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

"Churchill also said "If you have to LOVE a man, it cost nothing to be polite"...Oops, sorry...that was Oscar Wilde!"

That was truly funny! Thanks.

Posted 19 February 2014, 9:11 p.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

Sorry but I couldn't resist...

Oscar Wilde also said..."The only way to resist to temptation is to yield to it...I can resist everything but temptation"

Posted 20 February 2014, 10:30 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

NewInWW, you asked above whether a business owner would be free to profile a condom-buyer and on what basis. First, my concepts of liberty include tolerating that other people will use their liberties in ways I don't like. I don't have to BE gay to believe that gay people should have the liberty of intimate relationships with whomever they want. You agree with me on that, although you insist I don't mean what I say. Likewise, I don't have to WANT to discriminate against gays to believe that a business owner's liberties include the liberty to decide whom to serve in that business.

So the answer is that I believe a business owner should be free to sell his/her goods and services to whomever he/she wants, unless the State has invested State powers or privileges in that business, like granting a special monopoly or restricted license, or unless the business is uniquely positioned to interfere with some group's constitutional rights, or unless the business provides a vital service (hospital care, for instance).

There's no special State power invested in floral arrangers, so if one florist refuses to serve someone, it's just a competitive opening for another florist. But there is in taxi services or firearms dealers or ambulatory surgical centers (where the state limits the numbers of licenses available); if a taxi driver refuses to serve some group it may not be possible for another cab driver to easily fill that need. Mutual agreements to discriminate should be treated as unlawful monopolistic actions, especially if they burden some group's constitutional rights (as when hotel owners conspired to exclude blacks in the South, effectively restricting their right to travel, or if news vendors conspired to refuse to sell newspapers to some group or lawyers conspired to withhold legal services from some group).

The basis for this view is that none of us is entitled to COMPEL the benefit of someone else's existence/talents/skills. Say Betty is a skilled floral arranger. Do I have a right to demand that Betty arrange flowers for me? No. She may prefer to drive cabs, or only arrange Christmas wreaths while I don't celebrate it, or only work for people who wear blue while I wear green. It's her life and her decision to withhold her services from me leaves me no worse off than if she didn't exist at all. To claim otherwise is to say that merely because Betty exists, I have a claim on her time and talents even against her own wishes. This deprives her of her humanity and makes her my slave or my tool. I ask you: On what basis?

I don't like that some people would use this liberty to withhold services from others on repugnant grounds. But I have no right to demand that they use their lives to cater to my wishes or my needs. You disagree and there are principled grounds for doing so which you may subscribe to, especially in some religions. So be it.

Posted 22 February 2014, 8:05 a.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

Holly caramba! After reading Pearl's letter my head is spinning as if I had been playing a shell game with several different sets of shells! Let me try to understand the jist of it all, as debated by Pearl.

The central issue is of the whole letter is LIBERTY as a social organizer. Betty the florist( not a slave for anyone) has the liberty to select her clients, also to exclude gays. She represents the citizens at large. Arguably, and based on these Libertarian principles, anyone in society could do that. Ah...but there are exemptions such as monopolistic actions, where Government could step in to "regulate" their enterprises. I'm so glad Pearl suggest recognition for this possibility. I still believe hypothetical "Betty", as a member of a democratic, egalitarian society is out of line.

The question remains if talented Betty really exist! She might not, if a "conspiring" high power law firm takes her to the cleaners for violating citizens rights. If that happens, so be it!

Posted 22 February 2014, 11:05 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

En ingles, tengo que decirte que no te entiendo. Talvez transladado?

Posted 22 February 2014, 8:06 p.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

Oh no? I was just using one set of shells, Pearl!

"talvez transladado?"...No ,no, no..."esta bien traducido?" es mucho mejor!

Caramba, Pearl!

Posted 24 February 2014, 11:10 a.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

Once again you set up a straw man. Of course we can't compel Betty to be a florist if she has her heart set on driving a cab. No one is making any such contention.

However, if Betty has opened a floral business catering to the general public, then she should serve the general public and not be permitted lawfully to discriminate against anyone for any of the silly reasons you mentioned or more, likely, because a potential customer is gay, or perhaps part of a mixed race couple, or for other not so innocent reasons for discrimination.

Would you also defend Betty's right not to serve blacks or latinos if she claimed a religious basis for that position?

Posted 22 February 2014, 3:13 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

But WHY can't we compel Betty to be a florist even if she'd rather drive a cab? Do you generously grant her that liberty based on some principled position or is just pragmatism - that it's too hard to enforce?

Some social philosophies have contended that, if it's for the "good of society", indeed people should be compelled to pursue careers they don't choose. I take it you don't approve of that, but why not?

You say Betty has opened a floral business "catering to the general public" and therefore can't be allowed to discriminate for "silly reasons." What is the principle of liberty that allows her to refuse to serve anybody at all, but does not allow her to choose whom to serve?

Actually, right now Betty legally CAN discriminate on any grounds she chooses except a few specified by law. So she can refuse to serve people wearing green, or because she thinks they're ugly (as long as that's not a pretense for racial animus), or because they're chewing gum or wear a perfume she doesn't like or insist on coming to her store at 3 AM and she'd rather sleep then. You're saying she should not be permitted lawfully to do that because, to you, those reasons are silly. I'm saying that, regardless of how silly her reasons are, they're HER reasons and it's HER work so, with a few exceptions as I've noted, it should be HER choice. If her reasons are based on her religious views, then the US Constitution demands that they be given special protection, but even if they aren't, if we recognize Betty as a full human being and not merely a tool of society, we should tolerate them, even if we don't like or approve of them.

Just curious: Would you defend Betty's right not to serve whites if she claimed her grandfather had been lynched and a cross had been burned on her lawn as a child, and it made her fearful or angry to be around whites? Or would you hew to the harsh line that if she felt that way, she shouldn't have a business or work in one? If those reasons aren't silly, what if they are merely pretexts and she just hates whites? Would we need to psychoanalyze everybody to make sure that their reasons are ones we sympathize with?

And somehow I just KNOW you'd defend Betty's right to ban people carrying firearms from coming into her business, even if her reason is that she simply hates people who carry them.

Posted 22 February 2014, 4 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

You didn't answer my question concerning whether you would defend Betty's right to discriminate against blacks or latinos on "religious" grounds. I gather you would.

In fact you apparently would defend her right not to serve the mentally or physically challenged, or war veterans, or new mothers, or ugly people, or teenagers, or people who are overweight, or people who are armed, and so on, so long as she claimed it was religiously motivated. Correct?

Posted 22 February 2014, 4:55 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Not quite correct. I would defend her right not to serve anybody she didn't want to serve for any reason, religious or not, in her own business, with the exceptions I previously noted. Morally, I would find her choices as to any of the classifications you mentioned repugnant, and if I knew she did that, I certainly wouldn't patronize her establishment, but I don't own her, nor does anyone else. We therefore don't have a right to commandeer her services against her own wishes.

Now your turn: As I asked before, on what MORAL PRINCIPLE do you distinguish between society's right to order an individual to serve people she doesn't want to serve, which you support, and a society's right to order an individual into some socially beneficial employment she doesn't want to enter, which you say you don't support?

And if you would allow someone to refuse to serve an armed person or a person who insists on being served at 3 AM, what is the moral principle that guides you in deciding when they can and can't refuse service, other than the social majority's sensibilities of the moment?

Posted 22 February 2014, 5:46 p.m. Suggest removal

chicoli says...

Almost all businesses that come to mind must have some sort "code of conduct" forbidding discriminatory behaviors to customers. I believe it is required for licensing and bonding, or for membership on professional organizations. Am I correct?

Posted 22 February 2014, 6:34 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Required for licensing and bonding, no. For membership in professional organizations, some.

Posted 22 February 2014, 8:03 p.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

I don't know what you would call a "moral principle" so I'll just explain my reasoning and you can label it anything you wish.

My analysis is based on an individual-societal cost benefit analysis. In evaluating any particular act, one must weigh the costs and benefits to both the affected individual(s) as well as the costs and benefits to society as a whole.

In the case of compelling Betty to be a florist (or any more critical line of work, say, cancer researcher) the cost to her is enormous and the benefit to society is speculative. Society would be depriving her of the right to live her life as she chooses, for the questionable benefit of obtaining her services in a line of work she doesn't want. The results are likely to be poor, it would require draconian measures to compel her compliance, and the loss of her individual freedom would be enormous. The costs to both Betty and society far outweigh the benefits.

Conversely, allowing Betty, having chosen to open a business to the public, to discriminate on the basis of fixed* personal characteristics, "benefits" only Betty, and harms both the group(s) she's targeted with her bigotry as well as society as a whole. Prohibiting such discrimination deprives Betty only of her venal desire to be a bigot, while assuring society as a whole that its members will not be deprived of respect and dignity based solely on what they are. The costs to Betty (she can't act on her bigotry) and society (it must enforce the ban on discrimination) are far outweighed by the benefits resulting from a more civil, just and peaceful society.

If being denied her desire to act on her bigotry is too much for Betty to stomach, she is free to pursue some other line of work. In short, society establishes the framework in which Betty does or doesn't open a shop, and Betty is free to decide what she wants to do.

Of course, Betty in establishing her business is free to set her hours (there goes your 3am issue) and how she expects her customers to conduct themselves while in her establishment - shoes, shirts, no guns, etc. - so long as she doesn't use her hours or expected conduct as a proxy for her bigotry.

You, while discussing these issues, ignore the interests of society and elevate the rights of the individual to virtually unassailable heights. I take a more balanced approach.

*I struggle a bit with obesity - which, over time, is a changeable personal characteristic. I think I settle on a policy of non-discrimination, unless the person's obesity directly affects the delivery of the goods or services.

Posted 23 February 2014, 9:15 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Thank you for the thoughtful response. Our differences seem to arise from the inclusion in my cost-benefit analysis of some costs and benefits that you omit, and some different weights.

For instance, you place a very low weight on the cost to Betty, suggesting she is “free to pursue some other line of work.” But in fact, if no business is allowed to tolerate her bigotry and she is unable to open her own business, she may well become effectively unable to earn a living. This would be OK with me if it were simply because no one chooses to patronize a bigot, but when it is enforced by law, I think that punishment is too severe.

You also place a low weight on the emotional cost to Betty, characterizing it as “only” a “venal desire to be a bigot.” But most people go into business to do business, not to turn away customers, so the motive to do so can be assumed to be important to the businessperson. And just because you and I consider that desire repugnant doesn’t mean that Betty considers it trivial, or that we are in any position to judge accurately what it means to her. (You didn’t respond to my question about a Betty who finds it repugnant to serve whites for strong emotional reasons, for instance, but it serves as an example of the powerful grounds, however irrational, that people may have for their feelings.)

Some people who used to say that a prostitute couldn’t be raped (or a wife raped by her husband) because the act was one they routinely engaged in. The difference, of course, is between consent and coercion. Even on such trivialities as flower arranging, coercion should always give us pause. It is always a cost to society when we must use it, not just because of the infringement on liberty or the direct enforcement costs, but when it’s based on group membership, because it increases the “us vs. them” tribalist tendencies of all human societies.

It is also a cost to Betty and to society if she is forced by law to conceal her bigotry in order to earn a living. (You recognize it as a severe cost to gays that they were forced to conceal their true selves, live a lie, engage in constant hypocrisy, in order to survive. I would consider it a cost to Betty too, even though I have no sympathy for her “true self.”) It is also a cost to her and to society because it does not give her as many opportunities to confront the true meaning of her bigotry and perhaps grow out of it, but allows it to fester in secret, which I think is more dangerous to her and to society.

IMO, you also place too much weight on the putative benefits to society. You say that “its members will not be deprived of respect and dignity.” But that’s not true. Betty’s feelings will not be any different, whether they are overt or hidden.

(Part two below)

Posted 24 February 2014, 11:04 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

You may consider it a benefit that people will not KNOW they are despised. I consider that a cost. I WANT to know who despises me. From a practical standpoint, if someone despises me for who I am, I want to be able to judge whether their bigotry will impair their ability to serve me well. I may not care if my grocer is a misogynist, but I sure would like to know if my auto mechanic, doctor or lawyer is. If they are required by law to conceal their beliefs, as opposed to choosing to conceal them, I would be concerned they’re likely to take it out on me some other way. Most people can live more easily with their own choices than with coercion.

And again, from a societal perspective, if I don’t know someone is a bigot, I can’t try to convince them otherwise. You allude to the civil rights movement. I was there for part of that, and most of the women’s movement, and a major part of their effectiveness was not, as you think, the passage of laws, but the moral appeal to people’s better selves.

Finally, you overstate the “respect and dignity” benefit. A gay person who finds out Betty doesn’t want to do his flower arranging because he’s gay hasn’t been deprived of any dignity. He’s just learned Betty is homophobic and he needs to find a different florist. Both are trivial costs. There are plenty of people who won’t like us for any number of reasons, and there are plenty of florists.

So I'm not ignoring the interests of society, I view them differently.

Posted 24 February 2014, 11:05 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

It is almost like we as a society are scared to let things run its coarse, afraid to see if this "style" of thoughts will be more prevalent than one of which we approve!
It is kind of like "we must force you change your views so you can live like "I" want you to live! "

Posted 23 February 2014, 10:16 a.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Using your same vein of thought: What is right and what is wrong in a Pastor or a Justice of the Peace refusing to perform a same sex marriage? He/She is basing this stance on his/her religious belief as well as what the churches board and denomination dictates. If a Pastor/Judge is taking a stance on their moral beliefs, and you don't like these beliefs, don't go to his Church or don't ask him to perform at your wedding.

In my opinion it is the same thoughts as having many channels on your TV. If you dont like something don't watch it. Change to something that is to your liking. Enough of these like minded watchers will dictate the scope of what is on the channel next time. Just change the channel! And don't tell me what is right for me to watch according to your beliefs.

If "Betty" at the Flower shop is offending too many people, she will go out of business soon. If Betty's stance on this issue is well received by her patrons she will succeed in her business. It is as simple as that! You/We/I have no right to tell her how to run it, just go somewhere else that is to your liking.

Posted 23 February 2014, 10:29 a.m. Suggest removal

NewInWW says...

I have no issue with a pastor refusing to marry a gay couple if that is the position of the church he or she represents; if it's personal, it seems to me the pastor should follow the teachings of the church and perform the ceremony.

I don't think a public official, such as a judge or justice of the peace, has any right to refuse to discharge his or her duties based on personal beliefs.

Finally, if we took this entire conversation back to the civil rights era, your position - let each business decide for itself who it will serve - would have brought the march toward civil rights for blacks to a screeching halt. That's not a result I would have wanted to see.

Posted 23 February 2014, 2:58 p.m. Suggest removal

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