Friday, February 13, 2009

Hiring & Homosexual Behavior

Leiter Reports discusses the APA's Jobs for Philosophers listing, where college job postings are published each year. Charles Hermes of UT Arlington has protested against the APA anti-discrimination policy, which currently allows schools with faith statements to discriminate based upon these institutional commitments so long as they are broadcasted explicitly. The schools of concern include Wheaton College, which has a faith statement disallowing "homosexual behavior" by faculty, staff, or students (please note- not homosexual orientation, as many seem to imply).

I'm confused about what exactly Hermes' argument is. He says at one point, "Members of the APA should either convince the APA to enforce its policy or abandon it." As far as I can tell, however, the APA policy allows for hiring discrimination based on "religious affiliation". Abandoning the policy seems to be what Hermes is arguing for. He describes policies against homosexual behavior as "ethical" standards, so perhaps he's trying to distinguish this from "religious" standards. To do so seems to fail to understand the nature of religious life, however.

In any case, a matter of concern for those of you at institutions where this is an issue. It's not as if exclusion from a particular job listing will make or break a college, but it is worrisome to see the extent to which such exclusion marginalizes religious groups, keeping them from the open exchange of ideas with those who differ radically from them in terms of foundational assumptions.


  1. I would ask why the APA singles out religious schools. Why don't they just let all schools discriminate based on institutional commitments.

    That's not to say I would like that theoretical APA policy - I just find it odd. I know some schools think not hiring homosexuals is a divine imperative of sorts, but then - others think that excluding blacks is a divine imperative. What is the logic of indulging one school and not the other? And what if that did happen - what if a religious school said that it refused to hire "the sons of Ham". How do you think the APA would react?

    I think I'm probably making a bigger deal out of this then it ends up being in practice, but I do think it's important to think about how and for whom they apply rules like this.

  2. Reread your post. Your statement that "it is worrisome to see the extent to which such exclusion marginalizes religious groups, keeping them from the open exchange of ideas with those who differ radically from them in terms of foundational assumptions" confused me.

    Don't you see the extreme irony in that? Yes, this would marginalize religious groups... but only religious groups who themselves marginalize homosexual behavior, keeping practitioners of homosexual behavior from the open exchange of ideas with those who differ radically from them in terms of foundational assumptions.

    Marginalization isn't really the issue. Some things in life are indeed marginal. The issue is the "foundational assumptions" that you cite that decides what is marginal. My point is simply that when you hold certain foundational assumptions, you're blind to what you yourself marginalize because you don't categorize it as marginalization.

    Also just read the actual APA non-discrimination policy. It seems that they only allow exceptions for religious affliation at religious schools, and they specifically say that is not to be construed as allowing for discrimination on the basis of the other things that the APA lists. Now you're right to point out that they only list "orientation" and not "behavior", but the point is, a behavior is not a religious affiliation - and affiliation is the only thing that APA allows for. If a practicing homosexual, let's call him Gene R., affiliates with the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, it seems to me that Wheaton College can't refuse him on that basis alone and be in accordance with APA standards. Your position seems to swing on the supposition that meaningful religious affiliation is dependent on complete agreement and conformity with all of a religion's teachings. Do you really believe that? My understanding was that affiliation was based more on the acceptance of a few basic creedal assumptions. You seem to be assuming that agreement with Wheaton College on those creedal assumptions necessarily leads to the acceptance of Wheaton College's conclusions on other issues.

    That's not to say Wheaton shouldn't have it's own ethical standards and enforce them - I just don't see how that's logically consistent with the APA non-discrimination policy, or with a deepseated opposition to marginalization from the exchange of ideas. Certainly it demonstrates Wheaton's interest in not PERSONALLY being marginalized, but it also demonstrates the fact that they don't particularly care if certain others are marginalized - in this case, even others who share Wheaton's own religious affiliation.

    So I wouldn't want to stop Wheaton from enforcing it's ethical standards any more than I would want to stop the APA from enforcing it's ethical standards (and an anti-discrimination policy is nothing if not an ethical standard) - I just want to be clear about what all this means.

    Both the APA and Wheaton are marginalizing others. I don't see how you can take an ethical position without marginalizing others. Isn't that the point?

    Also - thought this might interest you:

    I've only read a small portion of it so far.

  3. I think that the APA, like the government or many other institutions, singles out religious groups because they often represent a stable, explicit tradition of thought that may support some view or another in a reasonably established way. I agree that it might make sense for them to expand the exemption to non-religious institutions, but I think it's a pretty typical practical solution to the question of a pluralist situation like this- that is, you're going to be covering the vast majority of your bases by restricting this to the religions, and I imagine that until they run into significant legal trouble with it, they'll continue to do so. That said, I'm sure that ethnic institutions or all male/female institutions get a pass from them as well. Not sure on that, though.

  4. Certainly I realize that practicing homosexuals are being marginalized in some sense by Wheaton's rules; I wouldn't want to assert that ethical norms do otherwise. I don't see how this negates any concern about religious marginalization, however. Those who are upset with APA over this have every right to be concerned about marginalization of sexually active homosexuals.

    As to religious affiliation and how this has to do with ethical norms, a denominational affiliation isn't quite a perfect example for Wheaton, as there are certain Christian denominations that would not be welcome in Wheaton staff positions. Really, so long as Wheaton is a non-denominational school and religious based upon its own stipulations, what it lays down for community boundaries should be what determines the religious affiliation appropriate for the school. These boundaries include some ethical boundaries that are religious in nature. I think you'd have to read the APA statement rather rigidly to understand "religious affiliation" as simply amounting to a small list of creedal statements. What affiliation means for different religious groups varies widely from one group to another.

  5. I've read the first page of the Williams article... I think pieces about him are always interesting, and this one seems pretty good as far as it goes. I think it makes a mistake in considering Williams as a liberal with his hands tied the way it does. Williams was never a liberal in the sense that these people are talking about... in the sense, really, that Gene Robinson or KJS is. I think people often misunderstand his views on homosexuality as a signal that he is a straightforward liberal. The article also seems to imply that the conservatives have rejected Williams, or even worse, that the conservatives began this whole schism. This blame should fall squarely in the lap of Robinson and those who elected him. Anglicans who rejected Robinson's election did so based upon the precedent of previous Lambeth resolutions. They also did not form the GAFCON conference because they gave up on Williams- many of them went to both GAFCON and Lambeth, in fact. Those who didn't go to Lambeth largely didn't because Williams refused to invite bishops from their church, and they chose to stand in solidarity with those bishops (whether they made the right decision or not, I won't say, but my point is that they haven't simply rejected Williams).

    The funny thing about Williams is that a very many people from both ends of the spectrum respect him immensely and find him very frustrating. I think this article is good, but it isn't balanced in the right way. It's reading him too completely through his sexual politics... really it's reading Anglicanism as a whole too completely through its sexual politics... and I think that's where it makes a misjudgment.

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  8. Interesting - I got the impression from the article that Robinson and his crowd read Williams as a liberal with his hands tied, but the article portrayed him as much deeper than that.

    What I liked best was the passage - maybe it was later in the article - that talked about how Williams said that if being Christian means anything it means being comfortable with being patient and talking things through and waiting for an answer - not rushing to judgement. I don't know, from the portions that I read I didn't get the picture of him as a straight liberal, and I saw him as being very contemplative and fair and understanding of both sides - I really appreciated him after reading what of it I did read.

    I want to make sure I'm clear - I'm 100% fine with what Wheaton is doing. I just want to be frank about what I think the implications are, and I want to be clear that the right to freely associate is as much a right for the APA as it is for Wheaton. I doubt that the APA wants to shut anyone out of open debate - I think that's what's motivating the anti-discrimination policy and the exception, after all. Anyway, the important thing is this just seems like some guy whining on a blog about it (the guy you cite - not your blog). It seems like the APA and Wheaton and everyone else is quite happy with the consensus.

    As for Robinson - I still think what you're saying about him is colored by your own perspective. And that's fine - I just want you to be aware of that. For example, you say: "This blame should fall squarely in the lap of Robinson and those who elected him". But think about that for a second. Put yourself in Robinson's shoes. You are a homosexual, you feel like that is how God made you, and so you live your life as a homosexual without shame and you pursue of a life of service in the Church. And you are comfortable with that, personally - and more importantly, you are confident that God is comfortable with that. Now - of course, not everyone is comfortable with that. So you really probably shouldn't stir the pot or aspire to anything major, or live out the calling to be a bishop that you feel - because it might make some people upset. No, Evan. It doesn't work like that. It's like the housewife in the 50s who doesn't get a job because she doesn't want to make her husband angry. Or like a slave who doesn't run away because it would upset the master. I know those SEEM like ridiculous comparisons, but they only seem ridiculous to you because you think that you're not really imposing on Gene Robinson when you say it's wrong of him to pursue his God given calling - the he should just tell God "sorry - I can't serve you how you want me to because it would upset people."

    Now I don't know if he has a calling from God or not - I can't read his thoughts or know his motivation. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he does feel a calling. If that's really the case, then he isn't to blame at all - Rowan Williams and the rest of the Anglican Communion that are keeping him from doing God's will are to blame, not him. They are the affront to God's will, not him... from his perspective.

    And that's my point. The accuracy of your position is 100% grounded in your perspective and your perspective alone. You assume that you and the Anglican communion can speak well enough for God, but that doesn't hold very much currency when Schori and Robinson are assuming the exact same thing you are.

    And I don't have a problem that you assume that. I don't see how you can be a consistent theologians without having "foundational asusmptions". Elucidating "foundational assumptions" is the point of what you're called to do. I just think it's important to remember that that's what Robinson feels he is called to do too. And from your perspective it looks like he's mucking everything up and making things messy - but from his perspective the Anglican communion was pretty mucked up and messy when he got there. And he probably feels like he's doing God's work by trying to fix that.

    I guess my point is simply that until someone decisively knows the mind of God - which none of us do - until that time, "blame" in disputes like this will always boil down to your own perspective.

    And that's not to say that the morals that are involved here are "relativist" (that boogey-man of the 20th century). Quite the opposite. The REASON why this is so contentious is that Gene Robinson and Bishop Akinola (to take two extremes) both claim the exact same evidence for their respective truths. It's the OPPOSITE of relativism. If Robinson and Akinola claimed DIFFERENT, relative, moral foundations this would be easy to be over and done with. But neither men are relativists. They're just in disagreement over their essentially common foundational assumption.

  9. Thank you for reassuring me that I was indeed speaking from my perspective. Again, I wouldn't want to say anything different. If we're talking about the nuts and bolts of who caused the schism, however (and that's what I was referring to from the article), then we do have a rather straightforward paper trail of canonical structure that Robinson's election contradicted. That, I think, can be argued quite reasonably without recourse to basic theological perspectives. That's why, after all, Rowan Williams didn't invite Robinson to the Lambeth Conference... now, in that sense perhaps Williams' and Robinson's own perspectives differed- Williams was waiting on the work of the Spirit in the church while Robinson thought that the Spirit said "move". But again, the question of who started a schism can be answered by identifying actual schismatic acts, and Robinson bears the most fault in this case on a canonical level. That's an assertion that I think can be made objectively rather than from perspective, whether or not he ends up being a prophet who is leading the way.

  10. Stunning argument! I guess Martin Luther King has only himself to blame for ending up in jail, as does Rosa Parks. That lady knew the rules!!!!!

    To a certain extent, they absolutely do have themselves to blame - that was the point of civil disobedience, right? And in that technical sense, I'll step back and concede the argument.

    But I do think it seems a little unsatisfying if we leave it at that. I think you know why it seems unsatisfying (because a legal issue has been settled, but not a moral one) - but I don't claim solid evidence on the moral question, so I'll drop it here.

  11. One other thing - he doesn't have to be a "prophet leading the way". He's probably just a regular old bishop who's been called to be a regular old bishop.

  12. The question was about the source of the schism. Yes, Robinson broke the rules like MLK or Parks, and there were consequences. That's all letter of the law stuff, as you seem to recognize.

    But you made the reference to the civil rights movement to bring up the ambiguity of the spirit of the law, and to defend or at least entertain a defense for an action like Robinson's.

    Of course, the African bishops who broke the letter of the law by crossing diocesan boundaries to minister to congregations in the U.S. could also be defended by reference to MLK and Parks. While they were breaking the rules, they were doing so for the sake of a more humane and Gospel-centered spirit upon which the law should be based. They were a witness for the spirit of the law, and in this witness they were at odds with the letter.

    I get a little tired of the current struggle over homosexuality being related to the civil rights movement or the abolitionist movement. The people we're talking about are not restricting the rights of homosexuals, saying that they are less than human, condemning them to hell, or refusing to enter into loving relationships with them. Their argument against the moral goodness of homosexual behavior is indeed a moral one, and is indeed based on a particular understanding of the Gospel. Anyone is free to bring up the tentative nature of interpretation and the fact that Robinson sees his own work as a Gospel imperative as well. Congratulations! You've recognized the ambiguities of any hermeneutical question. If you don't think I recognized this nuance from the beginning, then I'm dissapointed in you, Daniel. If you know that I already know all of this, then pick a damn side on the moral issue, or learn to "drop it" earlier on in the conversation.

  13. I did hestitate to use the Civil Rights analogy because I'm not quite sure personally how comparable they are. I have some sense that homosexuality is as involuntary as skin color - so I have some sense that they're comparable, but I can't say for sure.

    But what the Civil Rights point is good at pointing out is the inadequacy of making such a big issue over a legal violation that really doesn't speak to the underlying issue. Rosa Parks wasn't jailed because of the deep offense of sitting down on a bus. That was what she was charged with, but the infraction itself was NOT what divided the country - the deeper moral meaning of the infraction was.

    People are putting too much weight on that. Yes, Robinson is guilty of a legal infraction (or I guess, the people who appointed him are guilty). But is the consequence of that legal infraction really outright schism? Clearly it's not - because there wasn't a schism when Schori became a bishop. So the infraction of not meeting all the qualifications isn't the schismatic problem - because neither of them met the qualifications. Just like the act of sitting down in an open seat, although it was a legal infraction, wasn't what sparked the Civil Rights movement.

    My problem is that you gloss over your assumptions so easily and then make your case against Robinson sound much more conclusive than it would sound if you had stated your assumptions.

    And yes - the African bishops coming over is another good analogy. And people who demonize them for that should look a little deeper than just the letter of the law.

    Remember - Robinson came into this exchange because you took an article that I thought was supposed to be very charitable to Williams and read into it that they were saying he was 100% pro-gay-clergy. That's a conflict that you brought to the table and responded to by saying "But Robinson started it", without including any nuance or statement of assumptions.

    My initial response to your quote was quite receptive to the Wheaton statement of faith, a little curious about how well it actually matches up to the APA exception for "religious affiliation" (you brought in a denominational question which I also never raised), and a confirmation that I think Wheaton and schools like it should post on APA but that the exception for religious schools is a little ironic (but, as you point out and I agree with, practical).

    This did not start with my throwing out the moral foundations of the Anglican Communion - and the only reason why it got to Robinson is that I wanted a little more clarity on what exactly it was that people were REALLY arguing about (hint - it wasn't his legal infraction).