Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The case of the Christian would-be foster parents

The case of the Christian couple who lost their court case (brought by Christian Legal Centre) over their right to discriminate against homosexuals is interesting.

The couple want to foster children, but a condition of being a foster parent is that one not discriminate against homosexuals by e.g. telling children that a gay lifestyle is morally wrong. That's exactly what these prospective parents wanted to do.

The reaction of the couple's lawyer is that the verdict represents "intolerance of religious belief".

I think that if people believe homosexuality is morally wrong, and believe children should be taught that, then it is their right to lobby parliament, etc to get the law changed (and the rules re foster parents).

But the view, not that the law or the rules re fostering themselves be changed, but that certain individuals should be exempt on religious grounds, strikes me as unjustified.

This couple were denied the right to foster not on the grounds that they are Christians but on the grounds that they hold bigoted views likely to harm children in their care. Plenty of Christians aren't bigoted in this way. So there's no objection to them fostering. It's not the Christianity that's the obstacle. It's the bigotry (which happens to be religiously motivated)

That it's okay to bar non-religiously motivated bigots from fostering, but religiously motivated bigots should be exempt from such a rule, seems to me perverse. Unless it can be shown that there's something special about the religious that means that the rules that apply to everyone else needn't apply to them.

Perhaps that is what this couple think? But then I wonder what this same couple, who also happen to be black, would say about members of a hypothetical religious group that wanted to teach children that black people are morally inferior, or can justifiably be used as slaves, similarly insisting that they are discriminating on religious grounds? Should the fact that these people's racial bigotry is religiously motivated mean that they, too, should be exempt from the rules concerning discrimination that apply to everyone else?

Of course not. And I doubt this couple would say otherwise. Which rather undermines their case for exemption from anti-bigotry rules or laws on specifically religious grounds.

I don't doubt some will say, "But what a shame that children in need of a home should have to go without these loving and caring parents". I don't doubt that this couple are (otherwise) loving and caring. But of course this is irrelevant so far as specifically exempting Christians is concerned. It would just be a case for exempting all loving and caring parents who hold homophobic views. Perhaps such a case can be made. But it's got nothing to do with making exemptions on the basis of religion.

POSTSCRIPT

Of course plenty of Christians would agree with the above. But many don't, and perhaps the most common complaint is that in effect we are saying the rights of homosexuals trump those of the religious. Indeed: "The courts are effectively ruling that Christians are not protected by indirect discrimination laws." (Christian Today website).

This is confused. Consider a political party that, as a consequence of their fascist ideology, publicly discriminated against black people. Members would be barred from fostering too. But now what if they said, "But what of the right to hold and promote political views? That's a basic democratic right. Don't we have such a right? And why should that right be trumped by the rights of black people? Why, when such rights come into conflict, should our right be one that gives way? The rights of members of political organizations such as our own are clearly not being protected by indirect discrimination laws. We demand our rights!"

Obviously, the right to hold and promote political views is, and should be, upheld. But that right doesn't extend to racist political views. At that point, certain laws and rules (including re fostering) kick in. Such political racists are not, in any sense, being unfairly discriminated against. Nor are their political rights being trampled. It is, frankly, ridiculous to claim otherwise. Ditto the suggestion that the rights of the religious are being trampled by this judicial decision.

121 comments:

Jim Moore said...

You said: "I don't doubt that this couple are (otherwise) loving and caring."

I strongly disagree. Any person that chooses in this day and age to parade and defend their anti-homosexual bigotry in a courtroom is unlikely to be loving and caring in the sense you use it.

They are proud of their hate for homosexuals but sneakingly try to disguise it by claiming that is their religion.

This is a good result as it means that in the future there won't be either (a) one more dead kid who suicides because they are homosexual and hate themselves, or (b) one less anti-homosexual bigot in the world because they weren't brought up by other anti-homosexual bigots.

There should be no tolerance shown for unjustifiable anti-humane intolerance if you want to eradicate it.

Pastor Kevin Jud said...

Would it be illegal to teach a foster child that the Bible is God's Word?

Stephen Law said...

Pastor Kevin. No not illegal. It's not the law we are talking about here but rules governing who can foster. Teaching the Bible is God's Word and must be obeyed alongside an interpretation of it on which homosexuality is wrong would be a problem, yes.

Asterix said...

'It's not the Christianity that's the obstacle.'

This assumes that Christianity can be separated from an ethical content. The problem here is that you have a religious/ethical system which has, historically, both been a central part of our society and which continues to be an important element within it. Major forms of religion (Catholicism, most evangelicals and pentecostals, as well as Orthodox Judaism and Islam) believe (roughly put) that homosexual activity is wrong. Taken at face value (and from what I have seen of the legal comment on this, there is good reason not to take the reports at face value) the Johns' case does exclude these groups from participation in an important area of public life. So the real philosophical question here is the political one: how do you deal with minority views and groups in society assuming that one wishes to avoid the tyranny of the majority and the exclusion of socially and culturally important groups?

Stephen Law said...

"This assumes that Christianity can be separated from an ethical content."

No it doesn't. Unless you assume Christianity cannot be separated from homophobic content. In which case the objection will be to (part of) Christianity, yes.

"So the real philosophical question here is the political one: how do you deal with minority views and groups in society assuming that one wishes to avoid the tyranny of the majority and the exclusion of socially and culturally important groups?"

You don't allow minority groups to be promote bigotry and intolerance. That is not imposing "tyranny of the majority", whether it's directed at religious or non-religious groups. Or, if it's "tyranny of the majority" when applied to religious groups, why not when applied to non-religious groups.

I think your answer is: because this homophobic brand of Christianity is "culturally important", in the sense that it's been around and influential a long time. But then so has institutional racism. That's no argument for exempting institutional racists from such rules and legislation, is it?

But perhaps that's not what you mean by "culturally important"? If not, what do you mean? In what sense, if any, are bigoted forms of Christianity "culturally important" - to the extent that anti-discrimination laws and rules that apply to everyone else should not apply to such bigoted Christians?

Stephen Law said...

PS

"exclusion of socially and culturally important groups".

No one is excluding such groups from political debate, from a voice in the public sphere, etc. etc. The only "exclusion" that's going in is they are not allowed to e.g. discriminate against homosexuals. But then this rule applies to everyone equally.

Pastor Kevin Jud said...

Christianity is based on the teachings of the Bible;salvation through Jesus Christ along with teachings of morality including the opposition to sexual immorality including homosexuality. Forbidding Bible believing Christians from being foster parents is a ruling against Christianity.
"Teaching the Bible is God's Word and must be obeyed alongside an interpretation of it on which homosexuality is wrong would be a problem, yes"

This is the traditional teaching of the Bible that has been observed for close to 2,000 years. So it seems the court is saying it is OK to be Christian as long as you don't believe what Christians have believed.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Pastor Kevin

Many contemporary Christians, perhaps a majority in this country, consider such homophobic views morally repugnant. Are you saying they aren't really Christians, then?

If so, well good luck with convincing them! If not, then you are admitting one can be a Christian without being homophobic, and also that what is objected to is not Christianity per se but homophobia.

But suppose homophobia was actually a necessary condition of being Christian. Well then it is true that no true Christian is permitted to be a foster parent, and indeed it would be a *part of* their Christianity, thus understood, that was an obstacle to their being foster parents. i.e. the homophobic part. And quite right too, I think.

Remember, no one is saying it's not permissible to be a Christian or even a homophobic one. It's just not permissable to be homophobic and a foster parent, or to actively discriminate against the actively homosexual. Believe what you like about homosexuals. It's a free country.

Asterix said...

'Unless you assume Christianity cannot be separated from homophobic content. In which case the objection will be to (part of) Christianity, yes.'

Since teaching against homosexual activity is part of many religions, you do object to those religions. (So if not Christianity simpliciter, then Catholicism, Islam Orthodox Judaism etc are 'the obstacle'.) Not surprising, but good to be clearer about this than you were in the original posting.

On your other points, it isn't clearly true that, 'You don't allow minority groups to be promote bigotry and intolerance.' There are all sorts of things that we allow people to do that we don't approve of: the question here is where do we draw the line in terms of state intervention. Plausibly, this is going to be a matter of balancing harms. For example, ideally, I wouldn't want to see any child fostered by a member of the Conservative Party. However, I'm not going to push this as a piece of suggested legislation (partly on the ground that I'm aware of how decent people disagree with my own political prejudices and partly because harm done to a child by exposure to this political viewpoint might be outweighed by other benefits). I haven't seen as yet any serious consideration of (eg) the balance of harms/benefits which would result if (on the basis of this judgment) far fewer people from a West Indian or Pakistani background were able to foster. On 'cultural importance' I simply meant this: politics in modern societies is in part about living with disagreements on moral questions. Excluding one member of the BNP from a pub is one thing; excluding many citizens from large parts of public life is another. The effects of doing so requires more philosophical thought than you have given it. In particular, to do so is to introduce a homogeneity into society that Mill attacked under the heading of the 'tyranny of the majority'. He was in favour of diversity of opinion and life. Are you?

Asterix said...

Before the trenches are dug too deeply on this one, perhaps it's worth reading:

http://blog.drake-comms.co.uk/2011/02/28/misplaced-outrage-over-high-court-ban-on-christian-foster-parents/

If correct, no principles have been established here beyond the (not implausible) decision that councils can take into account a fosterer's views on homosexuality. (Of course, that leaves open how councils should do this, but then (I'd hope) we're into the messy balancing of harms/benefits that I'd support and that wouldn't clearly result in the exclusion of religious believers simply on the ground that they hold unfashionable moral beliefs.)

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Asterix

“Since teaching against homosexual activity is part of many religions, you do object to those religions?”

If it really were an essential part of those religions, then of course I would objection to those religions, or more accurately – to parts of them. But of course homophobia isn’t an essential part of those religions according to very many of the people who subscribe to them. Many are as disgusted by homophobia as I am.

“I haven't seen as yet any serious consideration of (eg) the balance of harms/benefits which would result if (on the basis of this judgment) far fewer people from a West Indian or Pakistani background were able to foster.”

Of course there can be a case for introducing exemptions to laws and rules. I don’t deny that. But the exemptions must be *justified*. That’s the key point.

So I agree that there might be reasons for make exemptions re adoption rules if this resulted in a very serious harm to many children. For example, if all children of couples from country X are awful racists who insist on passing their racism on to children in their care, but there are very many orphans from country X here who need foster parents, and who are (i) likely to end up awful racists anyway, and (ii) deemed to be in great need of parents of the same cultural background, well then perhaps a case might be made for saying that the no-bigotry rule should be dropped in the case of parents from country X for the benefit of those children.

However, note (i) even in this case it’s debatable whether the exemption should be made, and, more importantly, (ii) to my knowledge, no one has suggested anything remotely like this in the case of these Christian parents.

In their case, the exemption is claimed solely on the basis of religious conscience. The parents should be immune because while they are bigots, they are religious bigots. Now that’s not good enough justification. Or if you think it is, explain why.

“Am I in favour of diversity of opinion and life. Yep.” In the sense that I favour freedom of thought and expression. But no one is preventing these Christians from expressing their views in public. No one is stuffing socks in their mouths. They are just being prevented from fostering children.

For good reason, I think.

Stephen Law said...

Just seen your lat post Asterix - thanks very much for the clarification. I am afraid I entirely fell for the huge fib told by the Christian Legal Centre.

You say: "the exclusion of religious believers simply on the ground that they hold unfashionable moral beliefs"

Well, no one is suggesting that, surely!

Asterix said...

'Of course there can be a case for introducing exemptions to laws and rules. I don’t deny that. But the exemptions must be *justified*. That’s the key point.'

I think this is precisely the wrong way round. It is the introducton of constraints on freedom of action that require justification, not the exemptions from those constraints. So until clear justification is provided for stopping people from doing something, they should be allowed to do it.

Your use of 'homophobia' and 'bigotry' turns this question into a much clearer issue than it really is. For example, many people would regard promiscuous sex -homosexual or heterosexual- as wrong. So if a foster parent told their child only to have sex within a committed relationship, would that harm the child? Compare that to (say) the Catholic position on homosexuality which (roughly) would be to say that all of us wrestle with our sexual desires all of our lives, that we are all made in the image of God and are loved by him, but that sexual activity can legitimately only take place within marriage, how much more harmful is that? (We might disagree with both or either of these views, but are they (particularly the latter) clearly on a par with (eg) teaching children that all members of a particular ethnic group are less than human -which should (I suspect we'd agree!) rule out a role as foster parent.

As I suggested before, the real philosophical question here is how we live with diversity of (moral) belief in society.

Pastor Kevin Jud said...

Thank you for response Mr. Law,

"Many contemporary Christians, perhaps a majority in this country, consider such homophobic views morally repugnant. Are you saying they aren't really Christians, then?"

From my experience in the U.S. it seems that people that deny the Bible's teaching on sexual immorality also tend to permit the denial of the truth of other Biblical teachings including, the virgin birth of Jesus, Jesus' miracles and Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Denial of these teachings empties Christianity and you are left with a philosophy of "being nice". It is no longer Christianity because it is no longer about Christ.

"But suppose homophobia was actually a necessary condition of being Christian. Well then it is true that no true Christian is permitted to be a foster parent, and indeed it would be a *part of* their Christianity, thus understood, that was an obstacle to their being foster parents. i.e. the homophobic part. And quite right too, I think."

So to be a foster parent in Canada, you can believe in the Bible as long as you don't believe in the parts the government has decided are objectionable?

You like to use the term homophobic. Is believing that some activity is sinful mean that one has an unreasoning fear and antipathy toward those people? We are all sinners in need of a savior. No one gets to hold the high ground on obedience to God; we all struggle with temptation.

Asterix said...

'You say: "the exclusion of religious believers simply on the ground that they hold unfashionable moral beliefs"

Well, no one is suggesting that, surely!'

Well, yes, I think they are! I can't claim to speak for all religious groups/Christians, but I'll speak for myself as a (struggling) orthodox Catholic. My view -reflected in the teachings of the Church- is pretty much as outlined in my previous comment: I don't hate or fear homosexuals. I'm too well aware of my own failings even to feel particularly critical of them. But I do hold to the teaching that sexual activity outside marriage is wrong. Now I'm sophisticated enough to know this view isn't widely held at the moment in the UK. I also know that not so many years ago, it was the near universal view in the UK. I also know (shall we say) of the fragility of all philosophical arguments in ethics, particularly in the area of applied ethics. But I'm faced with people who insist on their absolute certainty that homosexual activity -and sometimes rather frenetic homosexual activity- is fine in an area which (absent revelation) just doesn't seem susceptible to that degree of certainty.

If the Johns' case had been accurately reported, then we'd have been faced with the exclusion of a view about sexual activity on rather thin intellectual grounds: it is unfashionable rather than clearly wrong. And I'd distinguish that from the view (which I'm sure some do hold, although I've never come across this amongst Christians I know) that there is something worthless and despicable about homosexuals per se. That I'd agree would almost certainly provide grounds for exclusion as foster parents.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Asterix

"the introducton of constraints on freedom of action that require justification,"

Well my piece was about whether religious exemptions were justified, but you have changed the subject now to what constraints on freedom there should be, period.

The law not to discriminate against homosexuals is justifiable, I'd say. But as I explained at the outset, by all means argue the contrary view if you wish.

My point was that, rather than objecting to, say, this rule or law per se, but instead insisting that though the rule or law might bind others, you should be exempt *because you are religious* is certainly not justified.

Asterix said...

'“Am I in favour of diversity of opinion and life. Yep.” In the sense that I favour freedom of thought and expression.'

But not freedom of the 'experiments in living' that Mill himself considered as an essential part of a progressive society?

Stephen Law said...

Pastor Keven - Canada?

If you want to discriminate against others, that's ok if you can justify it. Otherwise it's bigotry.

I have not seen any good justification for discriminating against homosexuals.

I am afraid I don't consider "It says so in my religious book" a good justification. I suspect we'll disagree about that.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Stephen, I think Pastor Jud thought you were in Canada because I alerted him to this post. In any event, I doubt whether there would be much difference between the treatment of English and Canadian law on this case.

I also thought both you and the Pastor would be interested in this recent Canadian case where parents lost custody of their children for teaching them racist beliefs: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2010/02/11/mb-neo-nazi-custody-kids-winnipeg.html

Asterix said...

'Well my piece was about whether religious exemptions were justified, but you have changed the subject now to what constraints on freedom there should be, period.'

Well, not going to quibble over whether or not I've changed the subject: it all seems pretty relevant to me!

The substance of the case you were considering -whether Christians should be allowed to foster- seems to me to be centrally about where society should constrain and where it shouldn't. (And there I claim that the burden of proof is on those who constrain.) You approach this problem through the issue of religious exemptions. (And here I claim: 1) that it is important not to lose sight of the overriding principles of liberty in action (so we're back to the general issue of liberty); and 2) that exemptions might be justified in terms of harm/benefit (and this required more thought than you'd given it).

You might, I suppose, answer 2) by suggesting that there is a burden of proof is on those (such as me) who are even asking for thought to be given to an exemption. But this is a burden I think relatively easily discharged by the sort of issues I've already raised: the exclusion of large numbers of ethnic minorities and otherwise responsible citizens.

Religions are just too socially important to be excluded from the public sphere: whether their inclusion is effected by exemption or by a revision of the primary rules is perhaps of secondary importance.

Stephen Law said...

"this is a burden I think relatively easily discharged by the sort of issues I've already raised: the exclusion of large numbers of ethnic minorities and otherwise responsible citizens"

But again, that was not the reason given for exempting this couple, which is what we were discussing. The reason given was - they're religious!

And in any case, the fact a majority of homophobes are members of ethnic minorities is not a reason for exempting on religious grounds but exempting on ethnic grounds. If it's a justification for exempting them at all (which I doubt, and which you have not established yet). It's, say, black people who should be exempt. Not, I'm afraid, Christians.

"Religions are just too socially important to be excluded from the public sphere"

Er, no one is requiring religions be exempt from the public sphere! Certainly not me. Or the BHA.

The Atheist Missionary said...

I should have also included this link to a story describing the appeal result in the Manitoba Nazi parenting case: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/story/2010/12/14/man-child-custody-neo-nazi-appeal-denied.html

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for the link Atheist Missionary - very disturbing story. Not sure what I think about that sort of case.

Pastor Kevin Jud said...

Mr. Law,
Sorry about the confusion as to where you are located. I was responding to a link from Atheist Missionary and so I assumed Canada.
You know us Americans can't tell the difference between Canada and the UK except perhaps accents, hockey and donuts ;-).

"If you want to discriminate against others, that's ok if you can justify it. Otherwise it's bigotry."

To say that there are behaviors that are wrong in the eyes of God is not discrimination. We all struggle with temptation to do wrong.

"I am afraid I don't consider "It says so in my religious book" a good justification. I suspect we'll disagree about that."

Christians are people of the Book. We do not get to mold and shape the Bible to fit our understandings, but rather be molded and shaped by the message of law and Gospel in the Bible. This is a message of salvation and of humble service and love to one another. In dealing with each other we are called to love one another, but that does not negate God's commands.
I'm sure we will disagree on this. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss this with you.
Again, sorry for confusing you with a Canadian.

Asterix said...

'But again, that was not the reason given for exempting this couple, which is what we were discussing. The reason given was - they're religious!'

Well, one can always ask for a reason why one should accept a reason! You ask: why should we accept 'they're religious' as a reason. I have given you some reasons.

I think one root of the muddle here is that you assume that religion is essentially a (erroneous) ideology rather than a form of life with both ethical and social implications. So, roughly, if we translated 'I'm religious' as 'I've got ethical beliefs which (although you don't agree them) are rooted in well considered ethical traditions and to which many, many members of society belong' the call for exemption on religious grounds because more comprehensible. (In a way that it wouldn't if it was simply an ideology: 'I should be exempt because I've got a belief.')

In general, I think you're mistaking my explanation of the reason 'I'm religious' for a change in reasons.

Asterix said...

'Er, no one is requiring religions be exempt [Asterix: s/b 'excluded'] from the public sphere! Certainly not me. Or the BHA.'

It depends on what you mean by the public sphere. Certainly you seem to be suggesting that certain sorts of religious believers (ie those who disapprove of homosexual activity) be excluded from fostering. (If you're not, others are.)Even if you wouldn't count that as an exclusion from the public sphere, it is certainly an exclusion, and one with important public implications.

Anonymous said...

I'm fine with this, if it is applied across the board. Are other religious groups that reject homosexuality similarly treated? Muslims, and others?

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for the various comments. Asterix says:

"So, roughly, if we translated 'I'm religious' as 'I've got ethical beliefs which (although you don't agree them) are rooted in well considered ethical traditions and to which many, many members of society belong' the call for exemption on religious grounds because more comprehensible."

No. Partly you are trading on the ambiguity in "Well considered". If "well considered" means "considered a lot" than I grant that homophobia of some religious people is "well considered" but then so is their highly oppresive sexism.

On the other hand, if "well considered" means "has got some intellectual credibility" then such homophobic and sexist attitudes are not well-considered. They are, objectively, intellectually discredited. The fact that people fail to recognize this does not mean it is not true. Or that it's really just a matter of current intellectual fashion. Any more so than in the case of slavery, which was also religiously justified.

Now explain why religous bigots should be exempt but others not. After all, the bigotry of the KKK is "well considered" in the former sense. And, given the religious roots of their attitudes to black people, it may even qualify as "religious". So would you say that preventing KKK members from adopting back kids would be "unfair discrimination against the religious". Would exempt KKK members from anti-discrimination legislation?

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Pastor Kevin - I wasn't upset about being called Canadian (I'd be proud!). Just got confused as to what you meant....

Asterix said...

'On the other hand, if "well considered" means "has got some intellectual credibility" then such homophobic and sexist attitudes are not well-considered. They are, objectively, intellectually discredited.'

Sorry, Stephen. This is just empty bombast. Firstly, you need to bear in mind that the task here is not that of proving that that homosexual activity is wrong: it is proving that disapproval of homosexual activity is wrong -and should thus be extirpated. I haven't seen a single argument which would come near to such a standard, and quite clearly there is a need here for a reminder of the sort of general warnings against assumptions of infallibility that you find in Mill. Secondly, it is intellectually dishonest to claim that 'objectively' arguments against homosexuality are disproved. If you could find philosophical agreement on what counted as objective proof in philosophical ethics, you might have a chance of arguing this. But, as you know, there is no one methodology in ethics which is accepted in the world of philosophical ethics, let alone outside it. Let's, for example, take a leaf out of virtue epistemology and look for epistemic versions of Aristotle's wise man: would Scruton accept your assertion that disapproval of homosexual activity has been objectively proved wrong? Would MacIntyre? Would Haldane? Would Finnis? Thirdly -and I take this to be a development of the second point on methodology- one of the commonest arguments used in modern Catholic theology against homosexual activity is based on a) complementarity; and b) sensibility: roughly, seeing the world aright means seeing it in heterosexual terms. (You'll find such an approach throughout von Balthasar's work and John Paul II's Theology of the Body.) Now the link between how one sees the world generally and sexual sensibility is not one that's made exclusively by Catholicism: it's one that's made in numbers of non-Christian mythologies and (at random) D H Lawrence. (Off the top of my head, Freud, Jung and Irigaray also spring to mind.) But if we are talking about how we are perceive the world, we are talking about the practice of reason giving in aisthesis (perception). If so, your claims of clear 'objective' proof that disapproval of homosexuality is wrong become even more tendentious: objectively prove to me that Bacon is a better painter than Hockney; or that Bach is a better composer than Beethoven? Or perhaps more relevantly: that the life of a stockbroker is worse than the life of a philosopher? (And to save us both time, spare me the claim that morality and aesthetics are clearly different things: how one sees the world is as much a moral/ethical matter as how one then acts within it.)

In sum, you claim more than has been shown. 1) To ban the experiment in living that is orthodox Christian ethics, you need to prove that disapproval of homosexual activity is wrong. 2) That standard of proof is difficult to meet in many ethical cases: it is clearly not met in the case of disapproval of homosexuality. This is evidenced by (eg): a) disagreement with your position amongst your philosophical peers; b) the nature of a prominent argument within the religious tradition which, as a question of ethical aisthesis, is peculiarly difficult to settle in the clearcut way you claim.

None of this proves that a rational enquiry and debate isn't possible in this area; but it does suggest that this sort of shortwinded dismissal and suppression of a two thousand year old ethical tradition on the basis of a recent change in popular fashion in the West won't wash. This leaves us with the political task of working out how active homosexuals and active orthodox Christians can both coexist within the one society, without either group's being prevented from living out their vision of the good life.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Aterisk

"the task here is not that of proving that that homosexual activity is wrong: it is proving that disapproval of homosexual activity is wrong -and should thus be extirpated."

Well not in any general sense it isn't. I don't think it's wrong for you to say that homosexuality is wrong - to express disapproval - if that's what you believe. I vigorously would defend your right to say it, in fact. The issue is: should foster parents be allowed to tell children that homosexuality is morally wrong IF THEY ARE CHRISTIANS. I.e. should an exception be made for Christians (and perhaps other religious groups)?

Having cleared that up, let's look at the issues:

(i) the question I addressed is not whether anti-discrimination rules laws re homosexuals or adaption are justified per se, but whether we are justified in making an exception for religiously motivated discriminators. Now your response, at the moment, seems to be: yes.

However, your justification seems to be: (i) because the religious have a tradition of discriminating in this way which they deem intellectually credible, and (ii) because the justification for such rules and laws is in any case weak (a mere matter of "fashion").

I fail to see the relevance of (i). After all, they had long traditions of sexism, racism and slave ownership too which they deemed intellectually credible. Should we make exceptions there too, then?

re (ii) - you are here attacking the basic thought that there really is anything wrong with actively discriminating against homosexuals in the way some religious people would like to. This intolerance of such discrimination is, in reality, little more than a current intellectual fashion.

Well, if that's your view, you will easily be able to refute the standard argument against discrimination of this sort, which is:

Discrimination is permissible only if it is justified - by identifying some morally relevant difference between those one wishes to discriminate against and the rest. Sometimes it is justified - there's a good reason why we don't let children drive or vote, or provide breast-cancer screening for men. However, there is no morally relevant difference between men and women, or white people and black, that justifies witholding the vote from the latter (though of course Christians have historically maintained that there is).

So my question to you is: do you accept the basic principle that discriminating against people (particularly in ways that will impact badly on their lives, e.g. not offering them hotel rooms or other services, "educating" foster children that they are sinners, etc.) without being able to justify that discrimination, is wrong, and should in fact be prevented by the state?

If you accept this basic principle, then what, actually, is the justification for discriminating against homosexuals in this way? What is the morally relevant difference between them and us that means they can be treated as second class citizens by the rest of us?

Stephen Law said...

PS

re "it is clearly not met in the case of disapproval of homosexuality. This is evidenced by (eg): a) disagreement with your position amongst your philosophical peers"

I am not aware of even one philosopher, anywhere in the world, among the many thousands, that believes discrimination against homosexuals is morally justified WHO IS NOT RELIGIOUS. And in fact even among the religious, very many would, and indeed, do, vigorously condemn such discrimination.

The only philosophers on the face of the planet who contest the issue are, to my knowledge, somewhat conservative religious types.

That fact should give you pause for thought.

PPS for "homosexual" read "actively homosexual".

Stephen Law said...

PPPS

I said: "what, actually, is the justification for discriminating against homosexuals in this way?"

Can you come up with an actual, clear and unambiguous justification?

Anonymous said...

"...a two thousand year old ethical tradition..."

Hrmmm - can't remember where I read this:

"The most absurd customs and the most ridiculous ceremonies are everywhere excused by an appeal to the phrase, but that's tradition. This is exactly what indigenous natives in Africa said when Missionaries asked them why they eat grasshoppers and devour their body lice. That's the tradition."

Is that truelly an explanation?

Asterix said...

‘The issue is: should foster parents be allowed to tell children that homosexuality is morally wrong IF THEY ARE CHRISTIANS. I.e. should an exception be made for Christians (and perhaps other religious groups)?’

Agreed: although this issue clearly stands against the background of wider questions of religious participation in public life. It also avoid the even closer question of whether your way of stating the issue (‘should an exception be made…’) places the burden of proof unfairly on the religious rather than the alternative question: ‘Should foster parents of proven competence be excluded from fostering simply because they disapprove of homosexual activity?’ However, to push the argument on, I’ll accept the wording.

‘your justification seems to be: (i) because the religious have a tradition of discriminating in this way which they deem intellectually credible, and (ii) because the justification for such rules and laws is in any case weak (a mere matter of "fashion").’

You’re muddling issues of discrimination here with issues of which form of upbringing will most benefit a child. (Discrimination is the favouring of the interests of one group over another. Here we have a disagreement about the nature of interests.) Any carer for a child has to present some sort of moral guidance. A religious parent who tells the child that homosexual activity is wrong is not discriminating against that child. (It may, according to your lights, be harming that child, but that is a different issue and, even if it were accepted that it does not follow without argument that a parent’s giving of wrong views harms a child. Much eg would depend on how those views were presented.) So the question here is: does the state have sufficient evidence of harm to exclude religious believers from fostering? That I think is the correct way of stating the burden of proof: it is on those who would exclude swathes of normal citizens from public activities such as fostering to justify their actions. (As you note yourself: ‘…the basic principle that discriminating against people …without being able to justify that discrimination, is wrong’.) But let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that the burden is on those who would argue for exemptions for the religious (so that being religious allows you to give certain ethical advice that the non-religious can’t). Then (as I suggested in earlier postings) we’re again into assessment of harms and benefits: and I’d suggest that the burden of proof (ie harm if the religious aren’t included) is quickly discharged (eg) by the self-evident fact that the pool of fosterers will be substantially reduced by the exclusion of the religious. (We’re then left –and as I noted in a previous post, I think this is the actual legal situation- with the messy concrete assessment of harms and benefits in individual cases, with no automatic assumptions being made that orthodox Christians (etc) are automatically to be excluded.)

To sum up: on the substantive issue of whether religious believers who disapprove of homosexual activity should be excluded from fostering, I answer that the burden of proof is on those who would argue they should; on the narrower question of, given (for the sake of argument) they are to be excluded unless an exemption is given, then the exemption should be given on broadly utilitarian grounds.

Asterix said...

'The only philosophers on the face of the planet who contest the issue are, to my knowledge, somewhat conservative religious types.

'That fact should give you pause for thought.'

It merely suggests that a philosopher who thought carefully about the issues and came to accept the importance of religion and disapprove of homosexual activity would be (certainly on your definition) 'a somewhat conservative religious type': it says nothing about the irrationality or rationality of their beliefs. It does, however, suggest that your claim that such disapproval is 'objectively, intellectually discredited' is ill-judged.

Asterix said...

'...what, actually, is the justification for discriminating against homosexuals in this way? What is the morally relevant difference between them and us that means they can be treated as second class citizens by the rest of us?'

I don't think that homosexuals should be discriminated against. I think that they should be able to lead their lives according to their own lights. Neither do I think that orthodox Christians/Muslims/Jews etc should be discriminated against: they too should be able to lead their lives according to their own lights. Where these principles clash, they should be pragmatically adjusted to cause the least substantive inconvenience to both sides rather than assuming the rights of active homosexuals always trump those of active members of religions.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Steven,

I accept the basic principle that it is perfectly fine to teach children that certain immoral behaviors are wrong. This is because action is separate from personage. A person who suffers from same-sex attraction is not necessarily the same as a person committing homosexual acts. Someone who struggles w/SSA isn't any better or worse than I, but someone acting upon it is committing sin (just as one acting upon opposite sex attraction in an ungodly manner -e.g. adultery- is). The orthodox Christian belief is that all men are sinful by nature and often tempted to act upon it. It's not that one person's naturally more evil than another, but that the moral quality of their actions vary, making the "bigotry" charge against Christians quite intellectually bankrupt.

Your argument comparing it to racism shows a failure to recognize this distinction. The sheer absurdity of that kind of argumentation is easily demonstrated if applied to another legal, yet religiously immoral behavior: drunkenness. Certainly, some people are more susceptible by way of genetics to the effects of alcohol addiction than others. This in and of itself doesn't make them any better or worse in the eyes of God. Nonetheless, giving in to the temptation to over-imbibe is sinful action no matter who you are (just as a sexually immoral act is sinful regardless of the "orientation" of the ones committing it). While human laws often do allow drunkenness in some contexts, Bible-believing Christians universally teach that drunkenness is immoral.

This would lead to some bizarre conclusions if the popular liberal arguments were applied: Are we going to start labeling the teaching that drunkenness is sinful as "discrimination" against alcoholics? Am I suddenly "bigoted" against people who won't exercise self-control when I tell my daughter that God isn't pleased when people get smashed? To loosely quote St. Augustine, "love the sinner, hate the sin." I don't teach my children God's injunctions against sin out of some deep-rooted hatred for alcoholics/homosexuals/adulterers/etc, but because their behaviors are wrong according to the teachings of God.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for the comment J.C."I accept the basic principle that it is perfectly fine to teach children that certain immoral behaviors are wrong. This is because action is separate from personage.... making the "bigotry" charge against Christians quite intellectually bankrupt."

This doesn't get you off the hook re bigotry. Suppose I discriminate not against racial Jews, but religious, practicing Jews, whom I consider engaging in morally disgusting practices, won't let them into my restaurant, teach my foster children the same, etc. I make a distinction between the action and the person, loving the sinner, while hating the sin (as I see it).

Does this get me off the charge of bigotry?

Also, the analogy with drunkenness is faulty as drunkenness is objectively a problem re self-control, health, well-being, well-being of others, crime, etc. Whereas homosexuality is not. Or if you think it is, provide the argument.

Stephen Law said...

re conservatives religious philosophers defending homophobia - this you say suggests "that your claim that such disapproval is 'objectively, intellectually discredited' is ill-judged."

This is preposterous! Does the fact that 130 million Americans, some smarter than you are I, many college educated, and some with PhD's in relevant sciences, believe the entire universe is 6k years old show that the view that that belief is "objectively intellectually discredited' is ill-judged?! Clearly not!

You are making the mistake of thinking that if some smart and educated people believe something, then it can't be that obviously wrong. That's a *particularly* foolish assumption to make when it comes to conservative religious folk!

Also remember that less than 15% of prof philosophers globally are even theists, let alone theists wedded to such conservative, bigoted views. Such thinkers constitute a tiny minority of professional philosophical opinion. There's no "big debate" among philosophers about whether such discrimination is morally justified. It would misleading to suggest there was.

Stephen Law said...

Asterix, yet again you say "So the question here is: does the state have sufficient evidence of harm to exclude religious believers from fostering?"

No one is arguing that religious believers should be prevented from fostering, especially not because they are religious believers. Note how you endlessly twist the terms of the debate.

The issue is whether religious people who discriminate against (active) homosexuals by e.g. refusing them a hotel room, telling gay children that being actively gay is sinful, telling non-gay children that active homosexuals are sinful, etc. thus perpetuating a damaging homophobic culture, should be exempt BECAUSE THEY ARE RELIGIOUS.

I still have not seen any justification for this.

Argue if you like that we shouldn't bar a large section of the public from fostering for holding such views. But then that's an argument not for exempting the religious, but for not having the rule in the first place. Why should the rule be in place but ONLY THE RELIGIOUS be exempt?

Also, just how many homophobic religious folk are there? More than there are, say, white working class racists? Have you done a poll? If there are "too many" such religious homophobes for us to reasonably exclude from fostering, then perhaps there are too many white working class racists to exclude from fostering too? If so, shall we exempt them too? But not, say, back racists? Or middle class racists? As there are probably far fewer of them? Can't you see how ridiculous this all is?!!

What exactly is the justification for having anti discriminatory policies re hotel rooms, fostering and so on, but making an exemption for only religiously homophobic people?

Stephen Law said...

Why, in other words, should we deem religious bigots "special", introducing an exemption just for them?

Stephen Law said...

Asterix, you said you object to the fact that "the rights of active homosexuals always trump those of active members of religions".

But when people are bigots and they are prevented from acting in a bigoted fashion to the detriment of others, *that is not an infringement of their rights*, religious or otherwise. Nor is it deemed so in the case of sexism and racism. So why in this case?

The fact is, this is not a "rights" issue at all. It is a privileges issue. The religious want special privileges - to be exempt from laws and rules binding everyone else.

Stephen Law said...

PS When I say "the religious" I mean some of course. Plenty, perhaps majority, would have nothing to do with defending such homophobic attitudes.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Stephen,

@Suppose I discriminate not against racial Jews, but religious, practicing Jews, whom I consider engaging in morally disgusting practices, won't let them into my restaurant, teach my foster children the same, etc.

Pardon, but when did this become a discussion about red-herrings like barring people from places of business? We're talking about parents teaching children that some action that someone does is sinful, which you're labeling as "discrimination." Something being practiced by Jews doesn't automatically constitute bigotry to think it wrong. To your attempt at a reverse-Godwin's law, Judaists deny that Jesus is the Son of God, which practice is sinful by the standards of the Christian faith. Are you suggesting that we Christian parents are "bigoted" for telling our children that such a notion is wrong? Or perhaps you'd call the Jewish parents bigots for having similar sentiments about our views? Clearly, your charges of "bigotry" are rather misaimed and incoherent.


@drunkenness is objectively a problem re self-control, health, well-being, well-being of others, crime, etc.

I wasn't referring to drunk driving or brawling and such, but drunkenness of any sort, including in one's own home, even if it "doesn't bother anyone else." It is generally permitted by law, yet is forbidden by biblical teaching. Even if there were a way to completely mitigate its tertiary effects on health and such, it would still be unscriptural. Such an argument would also apply to any number of bad behaviors (lust, blasphemy, adultery, coveteousness, gossip...).

So if I teach my children that those latter behaviors are wrong, am I now "discriminating" against smut vendors? Perhaps I'll be charged with "materialist-phobia?" Maybe I'm just a "bigot" against busy-bodies? If it's not bigotry to teach against those practices, then why does it suddenly become bigotry when we're talking about homosexual practices?

By the rather confusing standards you hold for what constitutes bigotry, it would be difficult to make any moral truth claims whatsoever without being labeled a bigot. Case in point, if you consider "discrimination" to include teaching that someone's actions are wrong, then if you teach your children that my opposition to homosexuality is wrong, by the very standard you're employing, this would make your own instruction a display of bigotry.

So to your question, "Why should the rule be in place but ONLY THE RELIGIOUS be exempt?"

I counter, "If parents teaching against what a religion deems to be sinful sexual practices (such as adultery) isn't a violation of anti-discrimination laws, then why should teaching against homosexual practices be exempt?"

Stephen Law said...

Thanks J.C.

You are quite right that foster parents merely teaching children that, say, eating lemon bon bons is morally wrong is not for them to engage in discrimination or bigotry. Nor would it be much of an obstacle to them fostering.

However, this case is different. I think there is reason to doubt whether parents who teach children that engaging in homosexual sex is always wrong ought to be permitted to foster. And I think they are guilty of promoting bigotry. Here’s why.

Some children – around 10% - are almost entirely gay. They are innately drawn sexually to the same sex rather than the opposite sex, in whom they have little or no sexual interest. Now suppose such a male child goes to foster parents who teach him that while a sexual desire in him for females is perfectly natural, god-given, and OK to act on in the right circumstances (e.g. marriage), a sexual desire for males is unnatural, disordered and under no circumstances whatsoever morally acceptable to act on. Not only that, but a lifetime’s commitment to engaging in that kind of relationship with another human being, loving or not, would be a moral abomination.

This, I think, would be very bad for the child. There is nothing morally wrong with same sex relationships per se, and to teach this child such attitudes would be likely to cause him a lifetime of guilt, frustration, self-loathing and loneliness – denying him opportunity to have a a fulfilled sexual relationship with another human being. Hence I would have very serious reservations about allowing such parents to foster.

In much the same way that I would have serious reservations about parents who teach girls that their desire for a career, financial independence, and for equal status to men is unnatural, disordered and never to be acted on (while acceptable in men of course). Women should get behind the sink where God wants them. Again, I’d consider the fostering of such attitudes very damaging to children.

In neither case is this merely an instance of telling children that certain behaviour is wrong. It’s disingenuous of you to suggest otherwise.

I’d also consider both these sets of parents bigots guilty of encouraging bigoted attitudes. In both cases, children’s lives are likely to be restricted and even ruined by the promotion of such attitudes.

Bigots can be well intentioned of course. No doubt some slave owners genuinely thought slavery was in the best interests of black people, were kind and compassionate towards their slaves, etc. That doesn’t mean they weren’t bigots. It’s also bigoted, I think, to tell gay children that while others may enjoy fulfilled sexual relationships, they cannot, and that their desires are unnatural and disordered.

You say: ""If parents teaching against what a religion deems to be sinful sexual practices (such as adultery) isn't a violation of anti-discrimination laws, then why should teaching against homosexual practices be exempt?"

Because (i) adultery is (usually) wrong, but homosexuality isn't, and (ii) teaching children adultery is wrong doesn't involve imposing a life-blighting sentence on a minority of children, branding them as "disordered" and causing many to lead lonely, frustrated and miserable lives.

Stephen Law said...

ps I am not here suggesting parents should not be allowed to teach such attitudes. Just suggesting that it's not an unreasonable condition to place on foster parents.

Asterix said...

[Asterix, yet again you say "So the question here is: does the state have sufficient evidence of harm to exclude religious believers from fostering?"

No one is arguing that religious believers should be prevented from fostering, especially not because they are religious believers. Note how you endlessly twist the terms of the debate.]


The substantive question raised by the Johns' case is: Should religious believers (who disapprove of homosexual activity) be allowed to foster? You have chosen to approach this substantive issue via the question: Why should religous believers (who...etc) be excluded from a prohibition on the ground simply that they are religious?

1) We need to be clear that, as far as the Johns' case was argued, we are talking about positive law here, and the reasoning in that case is the reasoning dictated by that legal process. Accordingly, I suspect that the best answer to your 'exemption' question is: This is the path that the Johns' barrister (clearly wrongly) thought would carry most weight in positive law. To assess this point is a question of English legal procedure and is not, in itself, a philosophical question.

2) So we turn to what is a philosophical question: Should the Johns (as religious believers etc) be allowed to foster? (The substantive moral question.) If we answer that they should, then we are back to seeking out the best way of achieving this outcome in court (where, again, the question becomes one of legal effectiveness, not philosophy).

3) But let's sideline all that, and take, for the sake of argument, your question: Why should religous believers (who..etc) be excluded from a prohibition on the ground simply that they are religious?

Now I have given you a straight answer to this (although, as I have said before, I do not think this is the central philosophical issue). My answer is: because, roughly, on a utilitarian calculus, the benefits of such an exemption outweigh the harms. Now, of course, as a consequentialist argument, there then has to be a debate about what, in fact, those consequences are. But the fact is that religion and religious believers are neither a minority nor socially marginal, and their exclusion would have consequences that, say, excluding members of the BNP wouldn't. Not even to consider the consequences of excluding religious believers (who disapprove of homosexual activity) from fostering (even if the mechanism behind this exclusion is a failure to grant an exemption) is frankly inexplicable. (The best guess I can come up with is that it is the result of wishful thinking: you wish religion had no major place in society and you therefore act as though,in fact, it hasn't.)

Anonymous said...

Could the wishful thinking argument be applied the other way as well?

You wish for religion to have a major place in society and you therefore act as though, in fact, it should.

Of course historically it has had - rightly or wrongly...

Asterix said...

@ Anonymous
'You wish for religion to have a major place in society and you therefore act as though, in fact, it should.'

71% of the population describe themselves as Christian in the last UK census. Head of State, Christian. Prime Minister, Christian. Whatever decline in religious adherence lies behind such headline facts, it's a long way until Christianity (let alone religion in general) becomes a negligible social force, to be disregarded as we might disregard (say) the League of Empire Loyalists.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Asterix, you say:

"Not even to consider the consequences of excluding religious believers (who disapprove of homosexual activity) from fostering (even if the mechanism behind this exclusion is a failure to grant an exemption) is frankly inexplicable. (The best guess I can come up with is that it is the result of wishful thinking: you wish religion had no major place in society and you therefore act as though,in fact, it hasn't.)"

Well I am very happy to consider the consequence and have been in fact, so this is a baffling comment. I also accepted that sometimes there should be exemptions from rules and laws.

All I have done is reject your particular justification for exempting specifically the religious re rules about homophobic foster carers.

I can see no good reason why specifically the religious should be exempted, but no one else.

Your argument, if I have understod it, seems to be "but lots of religious people will be excluded from fostering as a consequence of this rule".

I don't even know if this is true. But suppose it is. Fact is a lot of non-religious people will also be excluded (it's by no means only the religious who are homophobic). So why should we exempt the religious bigots and not the non-religious bigots? They too constitute a significant proportion of society. In fact, they are probably mostly poorly educated working class from certain fairly tightly defined geographical regions (sorry, but it's true). Why are certain religious communities to be exempted, but not these other communities?

You have not come up with a decent answer to this question. That's not my "bias". It's just a fact!

There is the further issue of whether we should let foster parents tell gay children in their care that their sexual desires are perverted and disordered and must never be acted on, that to act on them would be a sin, and that to do so unrepentently over a life time would be a moral abomination. This is very damaging - leading in many cases to lives of loneliness, guilt, frustration, etc. and to a culture in which people feel they must lie, deceive, etc. I certainly would not expose my children to such people for any length of time. You would need to show that the harm done by excluding show bigoted carers outweighs the harm that they will do to children. Which I doubt you can.

But in nay case, even if you could you haven't explained why only the religious bigots should be exempt, not the large number of non-religious bigots, who will also be "excluded".

Stephen Law said...

"The presence of a substantial minority of world class philosophers who hold a particular view is surely enough to establish that a view is not 'objectively, intellectually discredited'. "

Like I said, this is a ludicrous argument. It would establish that the view that the universe is 6k years old is not 'objectively, intellectually discredited". For there are indeed some world-class scientists who defend it.

Every religion has its conservative wings within whose ranks can be found handful of otherwise respectable intellectual folk to whom the faithful point and say to themselves, "Hey look they believe it so it can't be a *complete* load of twaddle can it?"

This is true of Young Earth Creationism, those who insist the Koran contains miraculous scientific knowledge, those who suppose Christian Science works, and so on and so on. If this is the best you can do you're in deep trouble.

And remember they are a tiny minority, not a "substantial minority". They may even by a minority in religious circles (which are themselves but a small minority - less than 15% are even theists of some sort). Do not forget that outside of such religious circles literally *no one* (certainly that I am aware of) out of many, many thousands of professional philosophers, would defend the view that discriminating against or morally condemning active homosexuals is morally justified. A very striking fact given that philosophers tend otherwise to be highly fickle, diverse in their opinions and notoriously unwedded to social fashions. If you want to count heads, I suggest you start by counting them.

Stephen Law said...

PS

Incidentally Asterix - do you think that, at the time slavery was abolished, it was "objectively, intellectually discredited"?

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Stephen,

@Some children – around 10% - are almost entirely gay.

That claim itself really has no solid basis. The attempts to isolate the "gay gene" etc have proven woefully flawed. The fact that even identical twins who are so close genetically sometimes come out with opposite sexual attractions flies right in the face of the innate homosexuality theory.


@I’d also consider both these sets of parents bigots guilty of encouraging bigoted attitudes

But since I've already established that Christian parents are decrying homosexual behavior, your charge is mere equivocation. Since bigotry isn't synonymous with fostering some allegedy harmful attitude, you also haven't been able to get around the fact that the standards of what constitutes bigotry that you're applying to Christians would also make you a bigot if applied to you.


@In neither case is this merely an instance of telling children that certain behaviour is wrong. It’s disingenuous of you to suggest otherwise.

I would contend that teaching against homosexual practices is what's best for the children regardless of their propensities, and can do great good in the long run with children who do suffer with tendencies towards SSA. If can discourage them from nurturing those desires, going down that path altogether, or could help them pull away from a sinful lifestyle that displeases God.

So your ad hominems prove as fallacious as ever: how am I being "disingenuous" for not buying into your views that Christian teaching is "damaging" to children?


@Again, I’d consider the fostering of such attitudes very damaging to children.

The place of courts is to administer justice, not enforce your fancies on what you think children should be protected from.


@Because (i) adultery is (usually) wrong, but homosexuality isn't
...
@There is nothing morally wrong with same sex relationships per se

But there is something wrong with homosexual relationships per the Christian worldview; the assertion that there's "nothing morally wrong" is merely your opinion. Are you suggesting that the ultimate standard of what Christian foster parents are allowed to teach on sexuality is rooted in your opinions on the subject?


@(ii) teaching children adultery is wrong doesn't involve imposing a life-blighting sentence

Nor do the commandments against homosexuality, especially in the Christian worldview where the end of continuing such depraved practices is God's judgment. So, your legally-irrelevant opinions on the rightness/wrongness of certain practices and the unfounded notion of children being "damaged" aside, if parents teaching against sinful sexual practices isn't a violation of anti-discrimination laws, then why should teaching against homosexual practices be exempt?

Stephen Law said...

[APOLOGIES FOR DOUBLE POSTING]

Hi P.J. My central argument is that there's no good case for specifically exempting *religious* people from rules on fostering that prohibit foster parents from teaching children that same sex desire is perverted and disordered, always wrong to act on, etc. (actually it seems such rules don't even exist, but let's suppose they do for the sake of argument).

Correct me if I am wrong, but you don't even seem to be interested in challenging the point about exemption - you're just denying that foster parents should be placed under any such rule, *period*. Is that right?

Like I said right at the beginning, in the article itself, you are certainly free to argue that. Happy to have that conversation with you.

However, if I am right (i) about some children being innately gay (nb even this may not be a nec. condition for drawing the conclusion that follows - I could probably drop it), (ii) that the moral condemnation of homosexuality and stigmatizing of same sex desire not being morally justified, and (iii) about the serious, life-blighting harm done to children by parents promoting such attitudes, then there's a good case for saying both that your attitudes are bigoted and that they might justify the state preventing you from fostering.

At this point you're attacking (i) to (iii). This isn't really much of a surprise of course.

Maybe we should start with (i). Can you explain a bit more your case for denying "Some children – around 10% - are almost entirely gay"? Be interested to hear more details before I explain why I disagree.

Stephen Law said...

Asterisk, would you be happy for PJ to foster your children (if you have them)?

Stephen Law said...

Asterix I meant - sorry

Stephen Law said...

PS actually my use of "innately gay" is sloppy, isn't? There are genetic factors, other pre-natal factors, but also post-natal environmental factors that may play a significant role.

What's particularly relevant I guess is the extent to which sexual preference is in some cases (about 10% I think) very strongly for the same sex, hardly if at all for the opposite sex. Moreover in many cases this is not something over which subjects themselves have much control. Praying to God, attaching large weights to their privates, etc has little lasting effect. They're stuck with their preference.

To tell children in this situation that they are disordered, perverted, etc. their preferences are disgusting, that they will burn in hell for eternity of they give in to those urges without repenting, etc. is, I think, unacceptable from foster parents.

However it would still be unacceptable, I think, (if not potentially quite so damaging) if the child was bi-sexual or had some control over his or her sexual preferences.

It's also unacceptable I think that foster parents be encouraging such attitudes towards homosexuals in heterosexual children.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@My central argument is that there's no good case for specifically exempting *religious* people from rules

My central counter is that there's no justifiable reason to apply anti-discrimination laws to parents teaching against homosexual behavior in the first place. The problem is not that they're making an exception for religious people, they are making an exception for religious people -condemning their impartation of their values to their children (in the form of condemning a specific behavior) with no justifiable basis for doing so. No reasonable case can be made for parents condemning perverse sexual practices, but suddenly an exception is made when it's Christian parents teaching against homosexuality. That's nothing more than special-interest-based "justice."


@Can you explain a bit more your....

I already gave it: no concrete evidence for homosexuality as some immutable trait.


@(ii) that the moral condemnation of homosexuality and stigmatizing of same sex desire not being morally justified

Which premise is derived from your opinions, not an objective source of morality. On a personal basis, the word of God, being far superior to your opinions, condemns such behavior, and thus teaching against homosexuality is morally justified to a Christian.


@life-blighting harm done to children by parents promoting such attitudes

But seeing as the evidence for immutably innate homosexuality is non-existent, there's no basis for concluding that any actual harm is necessarily brought about at all by condemning the behavior. One could just as easily assert that your anti-Christian rhetoric is morally unjustified and does harm to children, thus the standards you employ upon others, when applied to you, would again wind up condemning you as a bigot.

Lacking real evidence, the argument against Christians teaching their values to children is essentially based upon spin-doctoring and equivocation: It's just taking one of many Christian teachings (which are not discriminatory where persons are concerned, and include commands against many types of hererosexual acts as well), arbitrarily labeling one of them as "bigotry/discrimination/harmful/intolerant/whatever" so that force of law can be applied against it because it offends some pet political lobby by speaking out against their favorite sin.

If we were speaking of actual racism, I'd likely agree with you about the fitness of foster parents (yes, even if it was for "religious" reasons). But this isn't about some genetic trait like skin color, it's about behavior. Notably, even a disorder or genetic propensity towards some action doesn't necessarily justify it. I'm not being bigoted against kleptomaniacs telling my kids that stealing is wrong, even if you argue that it would make kleptomaniacs feel bad or you personally think that stealing is okay. Yes, I know stealing is illegal, that's beside the issue: its legal status, possible genetic disposition towards it, how you feel about it, or how my saying it makes children feel are irrelevant to the point: It is not bigotry to speak against committing sin.

Stephen Law said...

Hi P.J. You say: “My central counter is that there's no justifiable reason to apply anti-discrimination laws to parents teaching against homosexual behavior in the first place.”

OK, that’s not what my post was about of course but yes let’s talk about that.

So let’s do one thing at a time. I suggested that some children are “almost entirely gay”. I also used the word “innate”. That was sloppy and not very clear, and in fact my argument may not even require any of this as a premise. But let me clarify a bit. I am suggesting that some children will have a same sex preference that is very strong – they will have little or not interest in the opposite sex, and this preference will usually remain unchanged throughout their lifetime. The preference may be wholly or partly (i) genetic, (ii) innate – i.e. prenatally fixed, if not by genetic make-up, or (iii) post-natally fixed, e.g. by exposure to certain hormones or chemicals after birth, exposure to certain kinds of experience, etc. It doesn’t really matter for my purposes.

So I do not require that there be a “gay gene”. Even the suggestion that the preference is innate does not require that. So your claim that there is no “gay gene”, even if true, is irrelevant (and is even irrelevant to the "It's innate" claim).

Second, you now mention immutability - unchangability. But I am not suggesting this trait is entirely immutable. Skin colour isn’t either. Michael Jackson changed his. Some black people spontaneously change colour. Perhaps the technology that allowed Jackson to become white will one day become cheap and widely available, that doesn’t mean that (i) skin colour isn’t genetic, (ii) skin colour isn’t innate, (iii) skin colour is something it is, after all, ok to discriminate on the basis of (iv) those who discriminated against black people would no longer be bigots. One day, sex-change procedures may exist that entirely change the sex of a person (as happens with some other species –e.g. frogs). Again the future availability of such procedures doesn’t mean sex isn’t innate, largely genetically determined, etc.

Your argument about some monozygotic twins not sharing the same sexual preference (though note that actually significantly more do than would be expected if sexual preference were fully independent of genetic make up) does not establish that (i) that sexual preference is not innate (pre-natal but non-genetic factors may play a part – look it up on wiki), (ii) is not partially, even largely, genetically determined, (iii) or even, not, in some people, entirely genetically determined (though I am certainly not defending the view that it is).

So all your arguments to date seem almost entirely irrelevant to the point that some people have such a strong and largely unchanging same sex preference (in fact your arguments don’t even show this is not innate!). Which is really all I need.

There’s also much evidence that some humans, even if not “immutably” gay, do indeed retain a very strong same sex preference throughout their lifetime. In fact this is true of many other species. Check out the research on sheep for example, which reveals that about 8 percent of rams will consistently choose to mount another ram even if ewes are more easily available. They are just not interested in the ewes at all. There’s also growing evidence of a biological basis for this preference, perhaps even an innate biological basis (though none of this matters for my purposes).

Asterix said...

'Like I said, this is a ludicrous argument. It would establish that the view that the universe is 6k years old is not 'objectively, intellectually discredited". For there are indeed some world-class scientists who defend it.'

I think it's simply factually incorrect to suggest that the status of Finnis, MacIntyre, Scruton and Haldane (the names I mentioned)within academic philosophy is on a par with physicists who believe the earth is 6000 years old. (Could you name even one Russell group physicist who does?) Moreover, I can't imagine how a cosmologist would do physics on such a basis. The philosophers I mentioned, however, all have made substantial academic reputations in germane fields to the present question. (So it's not analogous to some bizarre hobby unrelated to their field of expertise.) Moreover, their judgements on homosexuality emerge quite naturally from those views. (Eg: given Scruton's views on respect for tradition and the importance of sexual sensibility in creating a world view, it would be odd if he wasn't suspicious of homosexual activity.)

Beyond this, I'd want to make sure I didn't close myself off from intellectual challenge. (So, to answer one of your questions, of course the fact that a majority of philosophers etc don't disapprove of homosexuality gives me pause for thought.) To declare that the arguments of reputable philosophers are 'objectively, intellectually discredited', that they are only held by 'conservative, religious types' who are analogous to believers in a 6000 year old earth does not strike me, in general, as a plausible recipe for good thinking.

Stephen Law said...

Asterix you said:

"I think it's simply factually incorrect to suggest that the status of Finnis, MacIntyre, Scruton and Haldane (the names I mentioned)within academic philosophy is on a par with physicists who believe the earth is 6000 years old. (Could you name even one Russell group physicist who does?"

Yes sure no problem. Here are a couple to begin with. Prof Andy Macintosh, Prof of Thermodynamics and Combustion at Leeds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_McIntosh_%28professor%29

Prof Stuart Burgess, Professor of Design and Nature, and Head of Mechanical Engineering at Bristol University (though unlike MacIntosh he's perhaps not strictly a "physicist").

Like I said, yours is a ludicrous argument. But of course it is terribly popular with a certain sort of religious type whose main source of solace is to point to professors like Burgess and Macintosh and say, "But look at these eminent and respectable thinkers at Russell group universities - they believe the universe is 6k years old so I can't be that stupid, can I?" Yes they can. Never underestimate the power of religion to get smart people to believe stupid (or obviously bigoted) things.

You might like to read this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/dec/27/post845

Asterix said...

'Incidentally Asterix - do you think that, at the time slavery was abolished, it was "objectively, intellectually discredited"?'

Yes, that's a good question! I'd want to be more precise about it though. Do I think that the African slave trade was an abomination? Yes. Do I think that abolishing it, say, at a particular time and in a particular way in a particular country was a good idea? Don't know. Give me the specific instance and I'll think about. Do I think that Aristotle's argument for slavery has intellectual merit? Yes, I do, although it certainly wouldn't justify the African slave trade. (And is complicated by the fact that he regards wage labour as form of limited slavery.)

This is analogous to my objection to your 'objectively, intellectually discredited' claim about the present area: it's just too baggy to be more than fighting talk.

'Asterisk, would you be happy for PJ to foster your children (if you have them)?'

I'd want a much more detailed assessment of the harms and benefits before I could answer that. (What if the only alternative was a state orphanage?) I doubt if any natural parent could be totally happy with
any foster parent. (And it's precisely this realism and pragmatism that would be lacking in automatically rejecting as fosterers religious believers who disapprove of homosexual activity. (Although I don't think the Johns' case actually does this.))

Asterix said...

'Yes sure no problem. Here are a couple to begin with.'

Ha! Serves me right for being reckless!! Thanks for a fascinating read. So I have to distinguish: the physicists' work on young earth creation is not germane to their (acknowledged) expertise in the fields of applied physics; as noted in my previous posting Finnis' etc work on homosexuality is germane to his acknowledged expertise on (in his case) natural law theory. It is not ludicrous to take take account of acknowledged experts in their own field. (Although it is to take account of work outside it.)

Remember that I am not arguing that the existence of experts proves an argument, merely that it undermines your claim that they are 'objectively, intellectually discredited'.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks Asterix

I said:

'Asterix, would you be happy for PJ to foster your children (if you have them)?'

You replied: I'd want a much more detailed assessment of the harms and benefits before I could answer that.

I now add: so you just want, in each case, a general utilitarian calculation rather than any strict rules? Possibly that is what exists and actually I wouldn't object to it. My point was: if there are going to be rules re foster parents (e.g. no racist bigots), let's not have unjustified exemptions for the religious or any other group for that matter - any exemption must be justified. I have yet to see a good justification for exempting specifically the religious in specifically this case.

However, has it occurred to you that such a general utilitarian calculation might produce the verdict that while bigotry is a problem, religiously-justified bigotry might, in some cases, be rather more of a problem?

I would worry about my kids being sent to someone who taught them that homosexuals are disordered disgusting and what they do is morally wrong - in their opinion.

But I'd worry even more if this foster parent then added "And that's what GOD says, who will punish them for all eternity in hell!"

The addition of a powerful religious dimension and underpinning to the bigotry may in some cases actually make the discrimination all the more sinister, insidious and potentially damaging.

Perhaps you'd agree?

Asterix said...

'Fact is a lot of non-religious people will also be excluded (it's by no means only the religious who are homophobic). So why should we exempt the religious bigots and not the non-religious bigots?'

I've given you a consequentialist argument for an exemption -so of course, I'm going to give you again consequentialist answers here: the exclusion of religious believers from fostering will have greater consequences than the exclusion of others. So you ask: Why not include all bigots as fosterers? And again I answer: the consequences are different. Note that, in principle, that is a good answer (unless you deny the validity of a consequentialist approach). So then the question comes down to: What in fact are the consequences: a) which justify the inclusion of religious believers as fosterers; and b) the exclusion of other bigots. To repeat, as in the case of any consequentialist argument, the final answer to this must await empirical analysis. (You have speculated on the results of this in some of your postings, but it’s a very long way from a parent’s disapproval of certain activities to a proof of harm.)

Absent such empirical research, anything else that is said is speculative. But the case of Catholic adoption agencies provides a good case study. The effect of refusing to exempt Catholic agencies from equalities legislation was the closure of a number of well functioning adoption agencies (plausibly –but again, this is for empirical study- with harmful consequences). You ask: why should just religious groups be exempted? Answer: here, because it is the exclusion of those groups which is causing the harm. In principle, other groups could argue their case on these grounds. In fact, there were no other agencies besides religious ones which were affected.

I need to stress again that my preferred analysis would be based on the prior question: should religious believers (who disapprove of homosexual activity) be excluded from fostering? (Rather than: ‘Should they be exempt from rules…etc.) From this perspective, the answer on exemptions may well be: because this is the easiest legal fix for a (let’s assume) manifest injustice.

Stephen Law said...

Asterix, you say:

"What in fact are the consequences: a) which justify the inclusion of religious believers as fosterers; and b) the exclusion of other bigots. To repeat, as in the case of any consequentialist argument, the final answer to this must await empirical analysis. (You have speculated on the results of this in some of your postings, but it’s a very long way from a parent’s disapproval of certain activities to a proof of harm.)"

Er, right. I agree that it might be possible to come up with a justification for exempting specifically the religious. I am willing to consider suggestions. But of course, at this point, you haven't provided one!

In short, then, you have provided no justification for exempting specifically the religious. And you are actually now admitting that. You have merely said there might be one. Well yes there *might* be. Or there *might* be one for exempting other groups but not the religious (see previous post) Who knows!

Asterix said...

'The addition of a powerful religious dimension and underpinning to the bigotry may in some cases actually make the discrimination all the more sinister, insidious and potentially damaging.

'Perhaps you'd agree?'

Yes, I would. Equally, the more common religious sense that we are all sinners and yet are unconditionally loved may make any disapproval less damaging. Back to an assessment of actual harms and benefits.

Asterix said...

'Er, right. I agree that it might be possible to come up with a justification for exempting specifically the religious. I am willing to consider suggestions. But of course, at this point, you haven't provided one!'

It is in the nature of consequentialist arguments that they depend upon empirical assessment: I don't think it is quite fair to ask me to carry out the careful sociological investigation that would be needed within the confines of a combox debate! So I content myself with having advanced the enquiry by: a) having pointed out the sort of justification that is possible; b)having pointed out that you haven't clearly taken on board the need for such an investigation; c) have muddied such a consequentialist analysis by loose talk of bigotry and the assumption that disapproval necessarily produces harm; and d) disregarded the fact that excluding religions from works such as fostering, adoption etc, by dint of their (contingent but real) place in our society would plausibly cause greater harm than excluding other groups.

Stephen Law said...

Hi Asterix

"It is in the nature of consequentialist arguments that they depend upon empirical assessment: I don't think it is quite fair to ask me to carry out the careful sociological investigation that would be needed within the confines of a combox debate! So I content myself with having advanced the enquiry by: a) having pointed out the sort of justification that is possible;"

Yes but we knew that at the outset. Keep your eye on the ball - I objected to the suggestion that these prospective foster parents should be exempt from rules re fostering simply BECAUSE THEY ARE RELIGIOUS. The lawyers involved did not attempt to offer any justification for exempting the religious on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis of the sort you are suggesting. They just wanted them exempt for no other reason that that they are religious. That being religious by itself, is irrelevant, is something you have now conceded, I think. You are suggesting only that there might perhaps turn out to be some reason for exempting religious people, not because they are religious per se, but on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis.


You continue " b)having pointed out that you haven't clearly taken on board the need for such an investigation;"

I was always ready to consider such arguments. I just asked what they were. You made some suggestions that didn't work. You retreated to "Well, there, er might be some". I'll happily conede the possibility, but in the absence of any argument there's no case for exempting the religious. Still.

You continue I "c) have muddied such a consequentialist analysis by loose talk of bigotry and the assumption that disapproval necessarily produces harm;"

Nope. Just not true. Actually by going for such a consequentialist calculation for each separate case, you have just dropped the principle that there should be general rules determining who can adopt, rather than defended the position that there should be such rules, but that the religious should be exempt. As I said at the outset, argue there should be no such rules or rules if you like. I am just concerned with the suggestion that there should be but religious people should be exempt just because they are religious.

You continue, "and d) disregarded the fact that excluding religions from works such as fostering, adoption etc, by dint of their (contingent but real) place in our society would plausibly cause greater harm than excluding other groups."

I have considered the very poor case you tried to make and dismissed it as obviously flawed (I explained why too). By all means have another go though.

More general point: My position is, no one should be exempt from the rules that bind everyone else just because they are religious, anymore than just because they are male, female, black white, atheist, blond, own pets, drive a Ford, or anything else for that matter.

Cases for exemption can be made, as I explained to begin with - but by appeal to some morally relevant differences or factors. The morally relevant difference has to be identified and spelt out. Simply saying "But I'm religious! That's enough!" is not good enough. In fact, as it stands, it is nothing more than an unjustified pro-religious bias. Weirdly, many religious people seem not to recognize this.

The lawyers in this case trampled on this principle, insisting that, just because these prospective parents are religious, they should be exempt from the rules that bind everyone else. That's unacceptable. Seems to me you have now actually come round to agreeing with me.

Asterix said...

Bit of a scattergun attack, Stephen. Guess we'll have to leave it to others to assess whether overall that's a fair assessment of what I've argued! But to take a few specific points:

1) 'You are suggesting only that there might perhaps turn out to be some reason for exempting religious people, not because they are religious per se, but on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis.'

I'm not quite sure what a 'per se' consequentialist argument would look like: consequences are always contingently related to their causes. This is rather an objection to consequentialism as a methodology than to my particular use of it.

2) 'Cases for exemption can be made, as I explained to begin with - but by appeal to some morally relevant differences or factors. The morally relevant difference has to be identified and spelt out.'

The morally relevant factor, in consequentialism, is simply that more harm is produced than benefit. Again, you're misinterpreting the nature of a consequentialist challenge.

3) 'I have considered the very poor case you tried to make and dismissed it as obviously flawed (I explained why too). By all means have another go though.'

Punchy, but inaccurate. In any case, to think that the sort of harms that might be caused by the restriction of the operation of religions in society can be settled in this sort of exchange is naive. If Christians and Muslims etc are de facto to be excluded from fostering, if adoption agencies are going to be closed down, then the effects of that -particularly in a society in which participation by religious individuals and organizations has been extremely important- need careful assessment. That needs more than armchair speculation and vague handwaving about 'bigotry'.

4) 'Actually by going for such a consequentialist calculation for each separate case, you have just dropped the principle that there should be general rules determining who can adopt, rather than defended the position that there should be such rules, but that the religious should be exempt.'

I'm not sure what an adoption system that didn't look at and balance the harms/benefits in each case would be like. To give (eg) a) the rule that disapproval of homosexuality would normally rule out fostering plus b) an exemption (grounded on consequentialism) that mere expression of traditional religious views on active homosexuality doesn't exclude people from fostering clearly wouldn't remove the need for individual case assessment.

4) 'Seems to me you have now actually come round to agreeing with me.' Nope.

Anyway, I think we may have reached an impasse.

Stephen Law said...

Sure I get what a consequentialist calculation is. So its harms and benefits only. Whether anyone should be excluded from fostering is determined by harms and benefits.
Whether they are black white religious atheist or whatever is, as such, irrelevant. Hoorah.

Your sketch of a justification for allowing religious homophobes to foster but not other homophobes was that the latter are large group that should not be excluded.

I did explain why that, as it stands, won't work - white working class homophobes should not be excluded either.

It's also questionable how many people would actually be excluded. Not sure how many religious homophobes there are even, are you?

But at least you accept the principle that no one should get preferential treatment just because they are religious (which was what was being suggested in this case, and what I objected to).

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@that’s not what my post was about

It does play into it, e.g. "but on the grounds that they hold bigoted views likely to harm children in their care." I'm not disputing the idea that religion doesn't excuse bigotry, I'm arguing against the mistaken notion of Christian upbringing constitutes bigotry.


@your claim that there is no “gay gene”...is irrelevant

I said "gay gene, etc," i.e. there's no evidence that this is some uncontrollable inborn trait or such.


@you now mention immutability - unchangability

You're taking the term way beyond its meaning in this context. Obviously no human behavior is absolutely immutable. I'm speaking of something someone "can't help but do" without aid of drastic measures like gene-splicing, surgery or forced confinement.


@all your arguments to date seem almost entirely irrelevant to the point that some people have such a strong and largely unchanging same sex preference

But I was never arguing that people don't have a strong and largely unchanging sex preference. Such a thing can be developed by one's own free will over the course of a lifetime and be very strong indeed. I was arguing that the tendency towards homosexual behavior isn't absolutely determined by genetics, nor is said tendency uncontrollable.


@in fact your arguments don’t even show this is not innate!

I don't need to. Arguing for its validity on the basis that I haven't disproven it is an appeal to ignorance.


@pre-natal but non-genetic factors may play a part – look it up on wiki

Wiki as a source...right....


@some humans, even if not “immutably” gay, do indeed retain a very strong same sex preference throughout their lifetime.

Irrelevant even if true. As I indicated above, the Christian teaching isn't about hatred towards those afflicted with SSA, but against the behavior that such an attraction leads to if left unchecked. Hence the comparison of it to racism is rather insipid, as the Christian teaching is not about judgment against people of a certain propensity, but against sinful actions themselves.

To demonstrate the point with a hypothetical example: take a man who suffers from SSA who is also a practicing Christian. He's not really into women, but his faith in God keeps him from letting sinful desires rule his actions. Now let's say at the same time there's a man who is very much a heterosexual, but commits some indiscretion with another man for some reason (e.g. to win a bet). If I were discriminating based upon their respective attractions as national/racial bigots discriminate by heritage, then I'd doubtless try to justify the latter. But that's not the case. The man who is tempted with homosexuality every day but refrains is obeying God, the man who has heterosexual attractions but breaks the commands against unrighteous living is just as guilty as someone who commits it out of strong homosexual tendencies.

It's as I've told you, the issue isn't about hatred towards specific persons. Their respective strengths/weaknesses are irrelevant to determining right from wrong -the same standards apply to both. It's therefore patently absurd to compare it to racism and similar prejudices, which entail judgment based upon who a person is rather than what he/she does.

So the issue is plainly about what actions a person commits, not prejudice towards people of certain tendencies; for in the example above, the persons' preferences were irrelevant, it's their actions that count. Now if you're going to contend that calling an action "sinful" is bigotry just because someone has a preference towards it, that position is plainly indefensible. It could be similarly argued that child molesters have some sort of strong preference towards their sins as well. Strong preferences do not justify immoral behavior, or magically change condemnation thereof into prejudice.

Anonymous said...

Stephen—

A side-ways thought, if you’re interested.

You guys have been musing about contrarian forms of decision making regarding adoption. The law you cited strikes me as heavily deontological, with a high expectation that the outcome will be ‘good.’

How might a law about this issue be worded if it were more heavily weighted toward contrarian ends, with less focus on right behavior? Less like a regulation, maybe? More descriptive than prescriptive?

And are you aware of any laws (written, not pragmatically enforced) that strike you as more heavily contrarian than deontological?

Scott Gray

Stephen Law said...

Hi Scott Ill pass on that for time being as I have enough on my plate with these two...

Stephen Law said...

OK P.J. So you accept that there are people who have a very strong same sex preference - aren't interested much if at all in the opposite sex, and this preference does not vary over their lifetime. (you want to insist, I think, that this preference is something they have freely chosen, however, which is untrue, but hey let's let it pass for the time being)

So let's move onto my suggestion that telling, say, male children/adults who are in this situation - and their peers - that their desire towards males is perverted, disordered, etc. and that to act on them is sinful and abomination (while telling female adult children that such a desire in them towards males is natural, God given, and properly acted on in the right circumstances, e.g. marriage), does them serious, life blighting harm by for example, leading them to lead miserable and lonely lives, casing self-loathing and frustration, causing others to stigmatize and ostracize them, and so on.

Do you deny that this is serious harm? Or do you say, yes it's serious harm, but it would be more harmful still to tell them it's fine and let them sin against god, burn in hell, etc. - so it's a price worth paying. Or something else? I'd like some clarification, please.

Stephen Law said...

Asterix

Right so your principle was indeed, as it stood, wrong, just as I claimed. So now you try a bit of gerrymandering to fix it up.

You say "the physicists' work on young earth creation is not germane to their (acknowledged) expertise in the fields of applied physics" whereas Finnis's on homosexuality is to his work on natural law theory.

Not sure what you mean. You mean his views on homosexuality are related to and draw on natural law theory, on which he is an expert?

Incidentally, who takes natural law theory seriously outside of religious circles? But thermodynamics is just mainstream physics.

However, the key point is these physicists do indeed relate thermodynamics to Young Earth Creationism, using the former to try to support the latter.

So that won't work either. As I say, do not underestimate the power of religion to get smart people to believe obviously false or bigoted things.

But more importantly perhaps, it is just obvious that the existence of people, even acknowledged experts, who reject a theory of view, does not establish that the view has not been objectively discredited.

This is particularly true when it comes to religious conservatives, as I pointed out. I'd expect a handful of well-established religious conservative thinkers to reject pretty much anything that conflicted with their previously held mainstream religious views, even if those views have been objectively discredited. The existence of such individuals is thus not good evidence that those views have not indeed been discredited.

I think it rather shabby that, rather than try to show that the view you want to show is dubious is indeed dubious, you don't bother and just point at a handful of religious conservative intellectuals and say "But they think it dubious, so I'm justified in supposing they have not been shown to be wrong!"

Why don't you actually try and construct an argument?

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@you want to insist, I think, that this preference is something they have freely chosen, however, which is untrue

What's your basis for claiming that it's never freely chosen? Are you able to interrogate (and verify the truth of the claims of) every person suffering from SSA to back such a sweeping generalization?


@for example, leading them to lead miserable and lonely lives

No one said they had to be lonely per se. A person doesn't need to have sex to have friends or live a fulfilling life.


@causing others to stigmatize and ostracize them, and so on.

How would my teaching one child the commandments of the Bible cause others to suddenly ostracize them? That doesn't even make sense.


@casing self-loathing and frustration
...
@Do you deny that this is serious harm?

Claims that teaching against immorality is damaging to children are fanciful at best. There's nothing wrong with feeling bad about bad behavior, or experiencing regret over succumbing to temptation. Those are indeed powerful motivators to do what is right, and which should apply equally to everyone.

Per my example above, let's say a would-be child molester has propensities (perhaps from his own experiences) towards his evil act. I tell him that his notions are disordered and that acting upon his desires those sinful. I'm not doing him harm by speaking against his desire for sin. Sure the feeling isn't going to be pleasant when I tell him, but if the principle that's taught takes root, such a person can avoid that sinful lifestyle, and ultimately live a life that is both better for him and pleasing to God.

So your assertion that it's "harmful" to teach against ingrained tendencies, taken to its logical conclusion, would have to extend to every kind of strong impulse to do something immoral. So yes, of course I'd deny the addled notion that teaching children right from wrong in and of itself does harm.

- J.C.T.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks J.C. Right, so telling a female child sexually drawn to males that her desire is perverted, disordered, never to be acted on etc. etc. thus leading her to lead a lonely, frustrated and miserable life, etc. would not be to cause her any harm her?

Simple yes or no would suffice. But if you say no can you explain why the different answers?

Stephen Law said...

P.J. You said: "What's your basis for claiming that it's never freely chosen?" Well I'm not sure it's never freely chosen but I am pretty sure that *sometimes* it isn't.

If you suppose it always is, on what basis do you make that judgement?

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Of course telling a child that her desires are disordered when they're not is harmful, as it produces a warped mentality and confusion over right and wrong. You socratic question seems to carry a fundamental gender-confusion for a premise, as we were discussing same-sex attraction, not opposite.

@If you suppose it always is, on what basis do you make that judgement?

I didn't say it always was, but merely pointing out the indefensibility of your sweeping generalization.

Stephen Law said...

Thanks P.J. And would causing her to lead a lonely, miserable self-loathing existence do her harm, do you think? Would encouraging others to view her desire as perverted and disordered? Even if you don't call it "harm" would this be a pretty bad thing for her?

Stephen Law said...

Good, so you accept the possibility that some homosexuals might not even have any choice about having a life long same sex attraction.

By the way I was not making a sweeping generalization - merely rejecting one that I thought you might be making (but I wasn't sure).

Anonymous said...

Eek! wrote 'contrarian,' meant 'consequentialist.'

Scott

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@Even if you don't call it "harm"

Ah but I clearly did say that producing confusion about right and wrong is harmful in my last comment.

To demonstrate the rather obvious fallacy behind your questioning, suppose I have two children, one from toddler-hood more inclined to be selfless and share with his siblings, the other inclined to be very selfish, hoarding things just to be mean. To ask entrapping questions along the lines of, "Is it harmful to teach them that what they're doing is wrong?" is a glaring fallacy of oversimplification: That line of questioning presupposes that what both behaviors are equally valid, and that harm being done would apply to one child if to the other. This clearly isn't the case, since if I tell the child who's selfish that what he's doing is wrong, then I certainly am doing him no harm (and in fact, am doing him good); whereas if I told that to the selfless child, it could give him extremely distorted notions of morality. So whether condemnation of a behavior is helpful or harmful heavily depends upon the merit/demerit of the action condemned.

So since the fruit of unchecked SSA is immoral, then it isn't harmful/bad/etc to teach against the sinful practice it breeds; and because opposite sex attraction isn't perverted if its fulfillment is within marriage, then it would be harmful to teach against that.

Stephen Law said...

"Ah but I clearly did say that producing confusion about right and wrong is harmful in my last comment."

But that's not what I asked. Teaching the girl such things about her sexual desire would likely cause her frustration, and/or loneliness (due to lack of fulfilled loving, sexual relationship) self-loathing, encourage others to stigmatize and ostracize her, etc. Now would *that* cause her harm, or at least be a pretty bad thing for this child?

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@Now would *that* cause her harm, or at least be a pretty bad thing for this child?

Let's turn the question around with the example I cited above: By your standards of what constiutes harm, does it cause a person with leanings towards child molestation "harm" when he's made to feel "frustration" and "self-loathing" by being taught that his inclinations are perverse?


@But that's not what I asked.

Of course that statement wasn't: I was addressing a misconceived notion, i.e. your implying that I claimed bad teaching on morality caused no harm. Notably, you also don't seem to grasp that teaching biblical principles to one child doesn't suddenly cause other children to ostracize them, I can't see any basis for that assertion apart from magical thinking.

Stephen Law said...

You seem to be having some difficulty with the question PJ.

Let's have another go. Suppose a female child is taught (perhaps by some weird cult) that it is a perversion, ungodly, disordered for her to ever have sexual desires towards males, and that to act on such desires must always be an abomination, a sin, and will result in eternity in hell if indulged in unrepentently. Suppose that as a not very surprising conseuqnece, she suffers guilt, self-loathing, fear,lifelong loneliness (because lacking a life partner), and stigmatization and ostracization (because those around her are taught the same thing). Would specifically *this* result (nothing else - don't try and change the subject) constitute serious harm to that child, or at least produce serious suffering?

Yes or no?

J.C. Thibodaux said...

You seem to be having difficulty maintaining your case's coherency when your "logic" is applied to more than just the specific scenario you want it to, Stephen. It's an old and obvious ploy to insist upon "yes or no" answers to loaded questions so you can play a card from said stacked deck (in this case, you're completely discounting the context of why a specific behavior is condemned, so you can label the results of teaching against it "harmful" to women in some objective sense that you'll then attempt to apply to men as well). And true to form, you now insinuate that the other side "isn't answering" when they don't fall for the rather obvious trap. That's one straight from the sophist playbook.

It was in fact you who changed the subject & context from homosexual propensity to heterosexual, then asked within the framework of the changed context whether teaching against the fruits of one's propensities is harmful. To demonstrate the absurdity of your asking the question completely out of context, I retortively changed the context to that of one with child-molestation tendencies, and then asked if teaching against one's tendencies in that case is harmful by the definition of the term you're employing.

We both know that a sound answer to my query is equally applicable to yours, and thus destroys the case you're building with your questions (unless of course you support child molestation), no matter how much you want to do the fingers-in-ears-la-la-la. The fact that your line of questioning so easily crumbles under the weight of its own inconsistency from such a simple reductio proves beyond any reasonable doubt that your reasoning can't stand up to any real logical scrutiny. It requires the proverbial blinders to its own ramifications (e.g. one could just as readily condemn teachings against rape on the grounds that it's "harmful" to the rapist by such a myopic methodology), to lend the decontextualized illusion any semblance of credibility. In short, you've been checkmated.

(Hint from sophist playbook: Your next line should be along the lines of, "I see you still can't answer my question....")

Stephen Law said...

Thanks PJ. Well the answer to your question about teaching that that sexual desire towards children is wrong and not to be acted is that, if this resulted in a lifetime's guilt, frustration, self-loathing, etc. is that, YES, this would constitute harm and be pretty bad for the person with powerful desire of that sort.

Similarly the answer to my question about teaching girls that sexual attraction towards males is wrong etc, and that having such an effect, is that YES, that would constitute serious harm too.

In the latter case, that fact alone would, I suggest, justify preventing foster parents from encouraging such attitudes in children. It would justify it whether they were religious (members of some peculiar religion) or not.

So now we come to the nub. Why, if such teaching causes is harm sufficient to justify us stepping in and preventing such teaching in my hypothetical case, is it not sufficient when it comes to similar teaching re same sex attraction or pedophilia?

The answer in the pedophilia example is that the desire, if acted on, causes children great suffering, as is evidenced by all those kids abused and damaged by Catholic priests.

However, children who are actively homosexual don't appear to come to any such harm, or harm each other. They don't, as a result of engaging in sexual relationships with each other, end up miserable, lonely and depressed (certainly no more so than if they had been taught and had accepted that this desire was wrong). They seem perfectly alright, in fact, leading often happy and contented lives. If they do have problems, it tends to come from the attitudes of other people who have been taught homosexuality is wrong - who consequently stigmatize and ostracize, them!

So your analogy with pedophilial tendencies breaks down at this point.

At the end of the day, there IS a pretty good case for preventing foster parents teaching children that same sex desire is perverted, disordered, always wrong to act on, etc., UNLESS, perhaps, it can be shown that the desire is MORALLY WRONG, will lead to an eternity in hell if acted on, etc. That, ultimately, is why you P.J. suppose foster parents should be allowed to encourage such attitudes about same sex desire, if not opposite sex desire. Only the latter is MORALLY WRONG, right?

If so, then the onus is now on you to establish that it is, indeed, morally wrong. Can you?

If you cannot, we shall have pretty good reason to prevent foster parents teaching such stuff.

[apologies for double posting - had to edit]

Hugo said...

10%?

This is the discredited Kinsey figure.

I thought up-to-date figures tended to be about 2 to 2.5%.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@However, children who are actively homosexual don't appear to come to any such harm.
...
@So your analogy with pedophilial tendencies breaks down at this point.

Bit of a stretch: you're comparing those who act to those who are acted upon. But analogies always break down anyway, I was highlighting the absurdity of trying to separate the issue of how much "harm" is done from its context.


@If they have problems, it tends to come from the attitudes of other people who have been taught homosexuality is wrong!

This seems more rooted in wishful thinking for a scapegoat rather than any sort of factual data.


@If so, then the onus is now on you to establish that it is, indeed, morally wrong.

Of course it's morally wrong.

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

While there have been some feeble attempts to justify the practice scripturally in spite of the plainly-stated condemnations therein, an examination of the text in Greek in both the grammatical and social science contexts demonstrates the ineptitude of such skewed exegesis.


@At the end of the day, there IS a pretty good case for preventing foster parents teaching children that same sex desire is perverted

No more than there is for teaching that adultery, pornography, child molestation, bestiality or rape are perverted. As I've already pointed out, suddenly declaring that homosexuality must be some sort of sacred cow is the fallacy of special pleading.


@...you P.J. suppose foster parents should be allowed to encourage such attitudes about same sex desire, if not opposite sex desire. Only the latter is MORALLY WRONG, right?

You have it backwards -the former (same-sex desire) is wrong- and only if nurtured and acted upon. Also, to clarify, while I am strongly for teaching against all evil practices, I don't believe Christian parents should teach children to look down on the person who has tendencies towards SSA, but rather to treat them with compassion and patience, as God treats all of us in our temptations and weaknesses.

Stephen Law said...

"@At the end of the day, there IS a pretty good case for preventing foster parents teaching children that same sex desire is perverted

No more than there is for teaching that adultery, pornography, child molestation, bestiality or rape are perverted."

Nope I just explained that adultery, rape and child molestation cause actual, demonstrable harm to people, whereas engaging in homosexuality does not.

Of course you claim it does cause harm. But your claim that it does is based solely on your assumption that homosexuality is morally wrong. That's not true of the harm cause by child molestation, which is demonstrable to others - the misery caused for example. The "harm" you suppose is caused by engaging in homosexuality, on the other hand, seems to exist entirely in your imagination. Unless you can show that it is morally wrong.

And your case for saying it's wrong. A quote from a Holy Book. Not good enough, I'm afraid. What if someone else's Holy Book tells them the should teach children opposite attraction is depraved, never to be acted on. Should we let them teach that?

Clearly not. So you need to show that you have the right Holy Book. And the right interpretation too - as many Christians reject your reading of it.

In the absence of such a justification it seems we have pretty good reason to prevent you teaching such homophobic stuff to foster kids (given the actual, real, demonstrable harm it does - in contrast to the, for all the rest of us can tell, entirely imaginary harm that engaging in homosexual activity does).

Do you have such a justification?

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@I just explained that adultery, rape and child molestation cause actual, demonstrable harm to people

Red-herring; they're wrong by virtue of being against the commands of God, not how much they hurt other people. Some acts that don't "hurt" other people in some outward sense (e.g. a man and wife cheating w/different partners and each other's consent -"open marriage") are still sexually perverse. It doesn't have to cause harm. Homosexuality doesn't suddenly become a magical exception, so no; you still have no logically viable case against Christian parents imparting Christian teachings.


@The "harm" you suppose is caused by engaging in homosexuality, on the other hand, seems to exist entirely in your imagination.

But I haven't argued against homosexuality at all on the basis of what harm it does, I haven't even brought it up. It appears you're the one stuck in the land of make-believe.


@Unless you can show that it is morally wrong.
...
@And the right interpretation too - as many Christians reject your reading of it.

Already cited my sources, see above.


@Clearly not. So you need to show that you have the right Holy Book.

In terms of what a parent/guardian can teach a child, no I don't. The burden of proof would then be upon you to demonstrate why and by what standard you judge that I have the wrong book.


@What if someone else's Holy Book tells them the should teach children opposite attraction is depraved, never to be acted on. Should we let them teach that?

Of course not, such a dumb hypothetical text (besides apparently having extinction of the human race as a goal) disagrees with the standard of morality taught in scripture. You, on the other hand, could only counter such a one with little more than shifting of the burden of proof.


@In the absence of such a justification it seems we have pretty good reason to prevent you teaching such homophobic stuff to foster kids

Besides hand-waving the firm basis I did give, you employ a rather lame smear: teaching against homosexual practice isn't "homophobic" as it's so often mislabeled, for it neither encourages nor is rooted in fear of homosexuals or homo-sapiens.


@given the actual, real, demonstrable harm it does

Like what? You haven't demonstrated any actual harm, and the logically inept standard of "harm" you've employed thus far could just as easily be applied to child molesters or any other type of pervert.


@in contrast to the, for all the rest of us can tell, entirely imaginary harm that engaging in homosexual activity does

As pointed out above, this wasn't part of my argument at all. Looks the one making appeals to the imaginary is you.


@And your case for saying it's wrong. A quote from a Holy Book. Not good enough, I'm afraid.

And upon what basis do you make such the apparently nonsensical assertion that it's not "good enough"? Good enough for what/whom? You?

Oh and yes, Hugo, you're correct, the 10% figure Stephen cites is bogus.

Stephen Law said...

It's 8% of sheep though, Hugo!

Stephen Law said...

"@I just explained that adultery, rape and child molestation cause actual, demonstrable harm to people

Red-herring; they're wrong by virtue of being against the commands of God, not how much they hurt other people. Some acts that don't "hurt" other people in some outward sense (e.g. a man and wife cheating w/different partners and each other's consent -"open marriage") are still sexually perverse. It doesn't have to cause harm. Homosexuality doesn't suddenly become a magical exception, so no; you still have no logically viable case against Christian parents imparting Christian teachings."

This is very confused PJ. My point is not that things that do no harm aren't wrong. When did I say that?

My point is that causing serious harm to children is something we are within our rights to prevent foster parents doing, unless there's a justification for it.

Foster parents teaching children that same sex desire is disordered, unnatural perverse and if ever acted on sinful, etc. does do kids harm, much the same sort of harm that would be done by telling them opposite sex attraction is disordered, etc.

The only reason you seem to have for saying no harm is done in the former case, though it is done in the latter, is that only same sex attraction is wrong.

We are still waiting for a decent justification for this claim. "It says so in my Holy Book" is not good enough.

You wouldn't accept that from someone waving a different Holy Book in your face.

Stephen Law said...

[apologies for double posting - slight edit]

Right P.J. - so you are not arguing homosexuality does any harm. Just that's wrong. I say that justifying the claim that's it's wrong by saying "But it says so in my Holy Book" is not good enough. You say:

P.J. "And upon what basis do you make such the apparently nonsensical assertion that it's not "good enough"? Good enough for what/whom? You?"

You, when it's someone else's Holy Book.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@This is very confused PJ. My point is not that things that do no harm aren't wrong. When did I say that?

The "this" that's confused I'll take to mean your reasoning. Arguing that something doesn't have to do harm to be wrong isn't the same as arguing against the idea of "what isn't harmful isn't wrong."


@My point is that causing serious harm to children is something we are within our rights to prevent foster parents doing

From a moral standpoint, no, not when the supposed "harm" arises from parents teaching their children against perversion. Also, to argue that the consequences (real or imagined) of an action necessarily establish whether it's right or wrong is logically inept.


@Foster parents teaching children that same sex desire is ...perverse and if ever acted on sinful, etc. does do kids harm, much the same sort of harm that would be done by telling them opposite sex attraction is disordered, etc.

More like the same "harm" we get from discouraging would-be child molesters. Again, you're trying to divorce context in your comparison. Besides the consequence not determining right or wrong anyway, it's ultimately for the child's best to help them avoid committing perverse actions, it's not in their best interests to try and make them avoid something that is morally right and healthy.


@The only reason you seem to have for saying no harm is done in the former case, though it is done in the latter, is that only same sex attraction is wrong.

Do you not know what "former" and "latter" mean? Hint: "former" refers to the one that comes before. I didn't say everything about understanding the commands of God was always pleasant or easy, but it's always far better for the child to obey God than to live a life of sin. The situation is similar to strong medication given a patient for an otherwise terminal illness: the treatment itself often has some harsh effects it's true, but the alternative is far worse for those suffering. Of course it's harmful to give such drugs or treatment to the healthy, but they're not the ones in need of it.


@Great - so engaging in homosexuality does no harm. We are agreed on that!

Talk about your absurd leaps of logic.... Seriously? You don't even understand the difference between choosing not to bring a point up and agreeing with it? Such irrational conclusions derived from lack of evidence demonstrate pretty well why your case is so logically hopeless.


Re:
JCT: Good enough for what/whom? You?"
SL: You, when it's someone else's Holy Book.

But it is my book by virtue of my believing it (not writing it of course). If I accept its teachings, it's obviously already good enough for me. Your argument makes no sense whatsoever.


@You wouldn't accept that from someone waving a different Holy Book in your face.

Why would I? I have a standard by which to judge their book's credibility.


@We are still waiting for a decent justification for this claim. "It says so in my Holy Book" is not good enough.

In terms of what I'm teaching the children I raise, I've already defeated your argument by pointing out that you're simply shifting the burden of proof. So by what right or objective basis can one barge in claiming that my standard for teaching right from wrong to those in my care isn't "good enough?"

Stephen Law said...

I SAID: @This is very confused PJ. My point is not that things that do no harm aren't wrong. When did I say that?

YOU SAID: The "this" that's confused I'll take to mean your reasoning. Arguing that something doesn't have to do harm to be wrong isn't the same as arguing against the idea of "what isn't harmful isn't wrong."

REPLY. Well, yes, that's my point.

Stephen Law said...

YOU SAID: Do you not know what "former" and "latter" mean?

REPLY: yes you are quite right I got them wrong way round. dashed it off in a bit of a hurry.

Stephen Law said...

YOU SAID:

I didn't say everything about understanding the commands of God was always pleasant or easy, but it's always far better for the child to obey God than to live a life of sin. The situation is similar to strong medication given a patient for an otherwise terminal illness: the treatment itself often has some harsh effects it's true, but the alternative is far worse for those suffering. Of course it's harmful to give such drugs or treatment to the healthy, but they're not the ones in need of it.

MY REPLY: Right, so such teaching might cause harm but better to teach it then allow child to live a life of sin.

Except that now the onus is on you to show that a homosexual lifestyle is indeed a life of sin. Otherwise, there's a case for preventing you doing that harm.

Your justification is it says so in your Holy book, which is good enough for you.

Well, great. But what justification does that give is for allowing you to teach stuff that otherwise harms children (like your "strong medication")? None. After all, someone with a different Holy Book demanding different teaching can say the very same thing, can't they. If we accept your justification, we'll now have to accept theirs. Even if their teaching is horribly racist or sexist.

Maybe you'd accept that?

Stephen Law said...

Put it like this PJ. I like your strong medication analogy. Indeed, it nicely illustrates what's wrong with your case.

Yes, indeed, as you say, we shouldn't give powerful medication with harsh and harmful side effects to people with nothing wrong with them. There's a case for preventing foster parents administering such medication. UNLESS, of course, it can be show that there's something seriously wrong with the kids that justifies administering that medical treatment.

So the onus IS indeed now on you to show there's something wrong homosexual inclinations and practices that justifies the administering of your harsh and harmful treatments.

Unless you can do so, we have good reason to prevent you from administering that treatment.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@I got them wrong way round.

No big deal, I just got real curious after the second time.


@now the onus is on you to show that a homosexual lifestyle is indeed a life of sin.
...
@UNLESS, of course, it can be show that there's something seriously wrong with the kids that justifies administering that medical treatment.

Already done in my example from scripture. Which leads us into....


@Well, great. But what justification does that give is for allowing you to teach stuff that otherwise harms children (like your "strong medication")? None.

Really? Why or on what basis isn't it adequate moral justification? I've asked this repeatedly and you've so far provided no satisfactory answers.


@If we accept your justification, we'll now have to accept theirs. Even if their teaching is horribly racist or sexist.

Only if one comes in with the a priori assumption that all religious views are of equal merit or have no basis upon which to judge them. I don't hold to this assumption, but have an objective standard by which to measure the merits of another system. So what you're citing is a weakness in how your paradigm interprets justice, not mine.


@Unless you can do so, we have good reason to prevent you from administering that treatment.

Sorry, children being involved or your imagining I could be doing them harm doesn't magically change the rules of logic. The burden of proof remains unshifted: we do in fact have a basis showing that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. Your not accepting it or citing that there are different beliefs isn't counter-evidence, as neither of those prove incorrectness. When it comes to how we raise children in our care, the onus is upon you to show upon what objective basis the standard of morality that we're employing is wrong. The case in short:

* Our teachings are "strong stuff," but justified if their purpose is moral
* Our standard that we raise our children by says our teachings are moral
* You may disagree with our standard, but dissension doesn't invalidate a belief
* There may be different moral standards, but a variety of beliefs doesn't invalidate any particular one of them
* Logically, the burden of proof therefore still rests with you to objectively show that our moral standard is wrong

Stephen Law said...

PJ YOU SAY: "The burden of proof remains unshifted: we do in fact have a basis showing that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. Your not accepting it or citing that there are different beliefs isn't counter-evidence, as neither of those prove incorrectness. When it comes to how we raise children in our care, the onus is upon you to show upon what objective basis the standard of morality that we're employing is wrong."

I NOW CLARIFY: I don't cite different beliefs as counter evidence to yours. That would be a rubbish argument. I am not even trying to prove the incorrectness of your views.

YOU QUOTED ME THUS: @If we accept your justification, we'll now have to accept theirs. Even if their teaching is horribly racist or sexist.

YOUR REPLY: Only if one comes in with the a priori assumption that all religious views are of equal merit or have no basis upon which to judge them. I don't hold to this assumption, but have an objective standard by which to measure the merits of another system.

AGAIN I CLARIFY. I don't assume any such thing, P.J. I simply ask, if your religious views are indeed right and theirs wrong, that you show this (after all, anyone can just *assert* they have an "objective standard", can't they).

Otherwise, what reason have we to allow you to administer your "harmful medicine", but not allow them to administer theirs?

Stephen Law said...

In short PJ, you need to justify your particular version of Christianity - on which those with homosexual inclinations are held to be disordered, perverted, etc.) - before we might reasonably allow you, as a foster parent, to engage in the moral equivalent of administering chemotherapy to a child that has absolutely nothing wrong with them (to use your own analogy!)

Good luck with that, because even very many Christians reject your version of Christianity.

Stephen Law said...

Sorry that last post was bit shoddy. This is improved...

In short PJ, you need to justify your particular version of Christianity - on which those with homosexual inclinations are held to be disordered, perverted, etc.) - before we might reasonably allow you, as a foster parent, to engage in the moral equivalent of administering chemotherapy to a child that otherwise appears to have absolutely nothing wrong with them (to use your own analogy!)

Good luck with that, because even very many Christians reject your version of Christianity

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@a child that otherwise appears to have absolutely nothing wrong with them (to use your own analogy!)

That's like saying, "besides the terminal cancer, perfectly healthy," if you're actually following my analogy.


@Otherwise, what reason have we to allow you to administer your "harmful medicine", but not allow them to administer theirs?

1.) I said "strong," not "harmful."
2.) A belief that's objectively immoral isn't medicine in any sense, it's poison.
3.) To your question: because their standards violate what scripture teaches.
4.) I've already pointed out that you don't have a basis to condemn problematic religious claims, but your being unable to condemn some errant system objectively isn't justification for you to condemn mine without objective evidence.


@In short PJ, you need to justify your particular version of Christianity
...
@I simply ask, if your religious views are indeed right and theirs wrong, that you show this

You've already lost on this point...several times. Do you simply not grasp fundamental logic?

I don't have to demonstrate that anyone is right or wrong, because the burden of proof isn't upon me to prove my innocence or the correctness of my beliefs. What kind of idiotic reasoning demands proof of correctness for some moral belief before one can teach it to his children? The burden is upon the accuser (i.e. the one accusing others of immoral standards), not the accused.

You need to provide some objective justification for condemning my beliefs before I need to justify them. You're more or less demanding I prove my innocence when you have no objective basis to claim I'm guilty. Your reasoning requires assuming guilt beforehand, thus the system of "justice" you're advocating is little more than irrationally heavy-handed tyranny (as the hyper-Liberal British justice system has recently displayed). So accuser, since the burden rests upon you to prove my guilt, not me to prove my innocence, where is your objective evidence that I'm guilty of teaching immoral concepts?

Stephen Law said...

"You need to provide some objective justification for condemning my beliefs before I need to justify them."

What I saying is that there's a good, prima facie case for thinking your beliefs ought not to be taught to children by foster parents if they result in significant harm to those children.

Now, prima facie, harm is indeed caused. Children end up thinking of themselves as perverted, disgusting and disordered, they end up stigmatized by others, ostracized, guilt-ridden, and so on.

Given the prima facie harm your teaching causes, there's a prima face case for preventing it UNLESS: you can show that the prima facie harm isn't really harm, or, if it is harm, is nevertheless a price worth paying. Its like the result of "harsh", "strong" medicine for a serious illness - e.g. which is justified given the serious illness. E.g. like giving chemotherapy to children with cancer.

Trouble, is, the onus is now on you to show that kids with same sex desire do have something seriously wrong with them - have a moral "illness" if you like - that justifies your administering your moral chemotherapy. You say that their desire is for something morally wrong. So the onus is now on you to show this.

Notice that, in this argument, at no point above do I just assume that teaching homosexuality is wrong is itself wrong. I don't start off by condemning your beliefs. Indeed, I don't yet even condemn them.

I start off by noting the serious negative effects of your moral chemotherapy, and then ask you to explain why that chemotherapy is nevertheless justified - to show that these kids have something wrong with them that requires such treatment. Perhaps they do. But the onus is on you to show that.

Stephen Law said...

PS suggesting that teaching that homosexuality is wrong is like teaching that child molestation is wrong, and that I will happily allow the teaching of the latter, won't do, because child molestation is itself demonstrably very harmful. Much more harmful than any harms caused by teaching that it is wrong. So the latter teaching is indeed justified. I am asking what the justification of the former teaching is.

P.S. pretty sure I got "latter" and "former" the right way round this time.

Stephen Law said...

P.S. PJ you said: "What kind of idiotic reasoning demands proof of correctness for some moral belief before one can teach it to his children?"

Just so we are very clear: I make no such demand! That demand would be ridiculous. Read the above posts to see what my ACTUAL argument is.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@So the latter teaching is indeed justified. I am asking what the justification of the former teaching is.

Already shown from the Bible, which is the basis of morality for Christians. Are you already forgetting?


@What I saying is that there's a good, prima facie case for thinking your beliefs ought not to be taught to children by foster parents if they result in significant harm to those children.

Which depends entirely upon whether the action has moral justification, which I've provided from scripture, thus the burden of proof is now upon you to show some objective basis by which my scriptural beliefs are wrong, which you obviously can't do. Checkmate.


@to show that these kids have something wrong with them that requires such treatment.

As I pointed out above, regardless of your reasons, your demand that I prove the correctness of my beliefs about homosexuality amounts to shifting the burden of proof.


JCT: "What kind of idiotic reasoning demands proof of correctness for some moral belief before one can teach it to his children?"
SL: Just so we are very clear: I make no such demand! That demand would be ridiculous. Read the above posts to see what my ACTUAL argument is.

What I stated is what your actual argument is. Your reasons behind it (e.g. you imagine children are being hurt) are irrelevant and don't change the substance of the argument. You are effectively demanding Christians prove our innocence with regards to the moral quality of our teachings (as a precondition to raising foster children) when you have no objective evidence as to our teaching being morally wrong, thus you are advocating judicial tyranny against Christians.

Stephen Law said...

"What I stated is what your actual argument is. Your reasons behind it (e.g. you imagine children are being hurt) are irrelevant".

No repeatedly choose to ignore my argument. You keep attacking a completely different argument (a rubbish one), and just ignoring the point about prima facie hurt. You must either show I am wrong and there's no hurt, or that the hurt is justified because homosexuality is morally wrong.

You claim you have done the latter: "It says so in my Holy Book!" But that's not an adequate justification. It's not good enough because then we'll have to allow others the same excuse for pushing prima facie hurtful teaching on kids.

Maybe you are right and they are wrong. But you need to show this before we can reasonably allow you to teach prima facie hurtful stuff that results in many kids leading miserable lives.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@You claim you have done the latter: "It says so in my Holy Book!" But that's not an adequate justification.

Yes it is, as it's the entire basis from which Christian morality is derived. I defy you to show one iota of objective justification that it's morally unjust.

@It's not good enough because then we'll have to allow others the same excuse for pushing prima facie hurtful teaching on kids.

I've already defeated this non-sequitur of yours as well:

Only if one comes in with the a priori assumption that all religious views are of equal merit or have no basis upon which to judge them. I don't hold to this assumption, but have an objective standard by which to measure the merits of another system. So what you're citing is a weakness in how your paradigm interprets justice, not mine.

Yet somehow you think your legal philosophy's ineptitude at differentiating good moral teaching from bad constitutes the right to prevent Christian parents from imparting good moral teaching? Such inability to reason is truly astounding.

@You keep attacking a completely different argument (a rubbish one), and just ignoring the point about prima facie hurt.

Because this "prima facie" nonsense is irrelevant as to the substance (or rather lack thereof) to your argument and where the burden of proof rests. The stakes (such as your fancies about children being so hurt and such) don't change the rules of logic: teaching that is morally justified is right; the burden of proof is now upon you then to show how Christian teachings are morally wrong, which you've repeatedly failed to do.

@But you need to show this before we can reasonably allow you....

Again you demand that I prove my innocence concerning moral teachings when you in fact have no case to prove my guilt. Thank you for proving once more that you're simply advocating tyranny.

Stephen Law said...

You say:
PJ you say: "Thank you for proving once more that you're simply advocating tyranny."

I fully defend the right of religious people to teach whatever they want, up to the point where it causes harm, when some measures taken to protect people from some harmful teaching may be justified.

What's tyrannical about that? I would have thought you'd agree (just disagree that your teaching is harmful, right?)

You say:

"The stakes (such as your fancies about children being so hurt and such) don't change the rules of logic: teaching that is morally justified is right; the burden of proof is now upon you then to show how Christian teachings are morally wrong, which you've repeatedly failed to do."

Suppose foster parents want to administer "Harsh" and "strong" medicine - chemotherapy, say - to children who appear to us to have nothing wrong with them.

Should we let them? Is the onus on us to establish the kids are healthy, or on the foster parents to establish they are sick?

The latter, surely.

I am using your own analogy. You yourself said it would be wrong to give such "harsh" medicine to children with nothing wrong with them.

Stephen Law said...

PJ you say: "the burden of proof is now upon you then to show how Christian teachings are morally wrong, which you've repeatedly failed to do."

Just to be clear, I haven't even tried to do this. First, because I don't object to Christian teaching per se. Much of it is very good. I just object to teaching gay children that their inclinations are perverted, disgusting, etc. Second, In any case, I don't need to show that it's false the homosexuality is wrong. My argument doesn't depend on that for the reason I keep explaining and you keep ignoring.

I do need to show that your justification of your moral teaching is no good. But that's easy peasy! Saying "It says so in my Holy Book!" is something even a dangerous religious wacko holding a nutty Holy Book can say. Clearly not good enough.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@What's tyrannical about that? I would have thought you'd agree (just disagree that your teaching is harmful, right?)

Obviously. You're essentially demanding parents prove that their moral teachings aren't harmful when you have no evidence that they are -placing the burden of proof upon the accused aka tyranny.


@Is the onus on us to establish the kids are healthy, or on the foster parents to establish they are sick?

Which I've already established from the moral basis for the Christian faith -the Bible.


@Second, In any case, I don't need to show that it's false the homosexuality is wrong.

Yes you do, since you're asserting that the Christian teaching against it does moral harm, then the burden of proof lies with you, the accuser, to objectively prove that the teaching is immoral. Your lack-of-moral-value-based argument obviously collapses without any evidence of lack-of-moral-value.


@Saying "It says so in my Holy Book!" is something even a dangerous religious wacko holding a nutty Holy Book can say. Clearly not good enough.

Ineptitude at discerning good moral standards from bad isn't an argument. The fact that you have trouble objectively showing some ridiculous standard (e.g. your example of teaching a girl that marrying a man is wrong) to be objectively immoral (a problem which I notably don't have, as I only need cite 1 Timothy 4:1-3) doesn't magically give someone the right to assume Christian moral standards are immoral.

You're essentially arguing that the justice system's lack of ability to weed out wrong standards constitutes the right to demand proof that a standard is "the correct one" before allowing it to be taught to foster children. Analogously, this would be like saying they're justified in forbidding any strong medicine to be administered because they're too stupid to tell the difference between disease and health -even with the diagnosis in hand!

The issue of the justification of moral teachings hinges upon the moral value of the teachings in question, and the default arbiters of morality in child-rearing are the child's parents/guardians, and thus their standards of morality should be assumed adequate unless it can objectively be shown that they aren't. Logic remains unaffected by spin doctoring: burden of proof is still on you to show that the teachings of Christian parents aren't morally sound.


@I do need to show that your justification of your moral teaching is no good.

Exactly; this is where you repeatedly fail. Simply arguing that your logic dictates that you'd have to accept any kind of teaching plainly doesn't demonstrate that the justification for my teachings is invalid.

Stephen Law said...

PJ re your comment: "Yes you do, since you're asserting that the Christian teaching against it does moral harm, then the burden of proof lies with you, the accuser, to objectively prove that the teaching is immoral."

I didn't say "moral harm". I did say "harm". But I don't even need to use that word, if you don't like it.

I am just pointing out that teaching kids stuff that leads them to believe themselves disgusting, perverted, disordered, etc. and leads others to stigmatize and ostracize them, is something we immediately have pretty good reason to restrict foster parents from doing, UNLESS it can be shown that such teaching is necessary "harsh" medicine for some moral illness.

At which point you wave your Holy Book at me and insist it establishes they are indeed morally ill!

Yeh, right, P.J. 'Course it does! Now allow me to pull out my Holy Book that tells me to teach kids that Christians are disordered, disgusting, perverted...

J.C. Thibodaux said...

@'Course it does! Now allow me to pull out my Holy Book that tells me to teach kids that Christians are disordered, disgusting, perverted...

Ironically, the justice system wouldn't raise any objections to the militantly skeptical parents/guardians who actually do teach their children such things about Christians ("brain viruses" anyone?). They of course have no means to as they don't have a standard by which to proclaim such a belief system detrimental any more than they do the biblical view -which only further highlights the double-standard they employ against Christians.

But as I stated, ineptitude at moral discernment isn't a license for tyranny, and wildly fanciful conjectures unsupported by fact about children being "harmed" by scriptural teachings don't magically shift the burden of proof so a parent has to prove their innocence in teaching their belief system.

wombat said...

Just caught the end of this BBC program which gives a little more about the case
BBC Radio 4 "The Report" 24/03/2011

(at the risk of raking over old coals..)

Stephen Law said...

Thanks for links.

PJ what does this mean:

"ineptitude at moral discernment isn't a license for tyranny"

Anonymous said...

It really annoys me when you are accused of being homophobic for hating depravity and debauchery. Male gay sex is a filthy depraved act no matter how you look at it, they are putting their penis into another mans rectum for goodness sake for sinful pleasure and aids and disease are the reward and as they get used to depravity they have to seek further and further depravity for pleasure.
Its natural to be repulsed by such depravity if you have any morals or ehthics. No doubt we are being brainwashed and socially engineered to accept such depravity as normal.