« Karnak Lifetime Achievement Award | Main | Torture via Starvation by Mugabe »

June 11, 2005

Comments

"I suspect corporations will end up being sued before HR policies are refined to deal with the potential for abuse in that environment (anyone know of an example where a corporation has been forced, publicly, to deal with this?)."

On what grounds? The First Amendment doesn't protect anyone's right to not be fired over religious issues, so long as it's not a government doing it. People and businesses have every legal right to discriminate on the basis of religion, so long as government is not involved.

I've worked in British companies and some American companies based in the UK, and have - I've been trying to think - not quite never had anyone trying on religious proselytization in the office, but very rarely. (Providing one doesn't count people bringing in Easter eggs or Christmas cards, and I don't. Christmas cards may cloy or irritate but are basically harmless, and Easter eggs are chocolate, which is good.)

The only occasions on which I've heard about employees being harassed on the grounds of religion have been employees of religious institutions (schools, charities) where the employer sometimes demands that employee lifestyle must fit in with the institution's religious ethos. That has always been dodgy territory - I mean, that it's never been and it's still not definite how far an employer is entitled to demand employees have an "appropriate" lifestyle.

The kind of harassment you describe sounds to me very much like workplace bullying, which can certainly be a significant problem, but which is very definitely against the law.

I've seen this kind of thing - evangelical Christians hovering like vultures ready to pick on the vulnerable - but not in the workplace. (Certainly not in any workplace big enough to have HR staff.)

The only instance of workplace evangelism I can remember is when a man left to be a full-time evangelical (I think he was going to work for his church) and told us why - in quite lyrical detail - in his final e-mail.

"People and businesses have every legal right to discriminate on the basis of religion, so long as government is not involved."

I beg to differ. Federal and California law prohibit employers and those offering housing to discriminate on the basis of religion. Religion is right up there with race as one of the protected classes.

As to Edward's post, one wonders why no one ever seems to teach the theological concept of free will anymore. {Sigh}

Gary Farber:

People and businesses have every legal right to discriminate on the basis of religion, so long as government is not involved.

This is 100% wrong for the same reason if you substitute "race" for "religion" in your remark. The Civil Rights Act forbids it in business and housing (also a few other categories, like "national origin" etc.).

And there is a strong parallel in dynamics between the religious harassment in the Air Force Academy and sexual harassment. There is an implied coercion that accompanies the solicitation when the power dynamic is unequal.

"Federal and California law prohibit employers and those offering housing to discriminate on the basis of religion."

You're right. I was being unaccountably forgetful of large swathes of law, ranging from Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barring such discrimination in "public accommodation" to the Fair Housing Act, and a few other laws. My statement was wrong, and yours is right. I can only plead waking-up-brain-dysfunction. Or, of course, I blame the Bush Administration.

Why should it take six years? This is inexcusable. To start with, get rid of the chaplain who deosn't understand the problem.

Rosa has been superintendent for about two years. What was he doing about this problem before it got publicized? If nothing, then replace him too, and any other Academy official, military or civilian, who has been tolerating this.

Finally, treat it as a serious disciplinary offense by cadets. Religious proselytizing is utterly unacceptable in this environment, for any number of reasons. Those who can't accept that should not attend any military academy.

Let me just make one unequivocal statement:

Edward_ is a sinner.

Well, join the club! Why the hell are churches so anti-sinner these days? Every single person in the church is a sinner including the minister and the choir director. (The most likely minions of Satan in the church are the choir directors, in my opinion.) It would be so nice to go to a church where you can participate in the

a) Worship and praise (the singin' part)
b) Listening to the stern admonitions (the sermon, or napping part)
c) Do some praying (the spiritual part)
d) Talk to people that you might not want to invite into your private life (the fellowship part)

without the church seeking to take over every aspect of your life, and having other members "Tsk, Tsk" so often.

Now, certainly the churches started the whole mess by proselytizing (which does increase membership), and then being anti-irreligious. Then the irreligious became anti-religious back in the 60's and 70's. Then the religious became shrilly anti-anti-religious.
And so forth.

Same darn thing happened with liberals and conservatives. Liberals became anti-conservatives, with some very good reasons, in the 60's. Then Rush Limbaugh succeeded in mirroring the conservative=bad into a liberal=bad movement, so what we have now by and large is anti-conservative and anti-liberal factions, as evidenced by much of the public discourse.

But this is just me sayin' and I have a twisted mind and am plagued my moral uncertainty. Plus I think that Nixon was a liberal, and Clinton was a conservative. So perhaps only Gary and bob macmanus will understand what I'm saying.

And I also enjoyed this http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/006955.php>opinion piece that suggests that it might not be so bad to have a liar as President.

"Why should it take six years?"

I'm quite concerned about this issue, so please do not take the following as any sort of apologia.

I think the estimate runs along the lines that to truly clean up the problem, not only will most of the faculty have to be replaced, but that this is a culture that has been increasingly entrenched for many years now, and thus given the way succeeding classes pass along existing culture to the next, even five years from now, when today's freshfolk have graduated, some of the unacceptable culture will still be residual, and it can't be fully eliminated until all residues are gone, and there has been a complete turnover of everyone involved, including cadets, staff, and faculty. That strikes me as more realistic than apologia.

Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa seems to be at least talking the right talk, unlike, say, his #2, academy commandant Brig. Gen. John Weida. Without doubt, attention and pressure on this must be maintained for progress to be made.

In re Bernard Yomtov’s comments:

I have a very poor opinion of military chaplains based on personal experience in the Army as well as in other contexts – Eric Burdon’s “Sky Pilot” just scratches the surface, and I have yet to come across a Father Mulcahy type (not that they don’t exist; mine is a subjective assessment here). Edward’s comments about “the potential for Evangelicals to confuse their religious beliefs with their secular obligations” could be just as valid if “chaplains” was substituted for “Evangelicals.” It is my impression that the primary function of military chaplains is to use religion to justify the actions of the military and its members in pursuit of their primary function. Sure, no problem. Such is the way it works – “Gott mit Uns” blah, blah, blah.

But perhaps the reason that Lt. Gen. Rosa did nothing before this whole thing got publicized is that the actions of the chaplain and other personnel of the born-again persuasion were useful for motivating personnel (perhaps they had a particularly high level of dedication themselves), especially in this time of low morale and recruitment problems? Or perhaps their efforts were initially successful in this respect but subsequently got out of hand or violated the jurisdiction of other faiths (“concerned Jewish civilians,” “the Lutheran chaplain Cpt. Morton”)?

Gary,

Certainly there willbe some "residue" as you put it, for a while. But the bulk of the problem can be cleared up a lot quicker.

Suppose we were talking about blatant racist practices at the Academy. You can bet the culprits would be gone quickly, and rightly so. This ought to be treated the same way.

BTW, whatever happened with the sexual assault scandals? Maybe it's time to just clean house entirely and start over.

Another thing I have been wondering is whether all comment sections of blogs, excluding humor blogs, are essentially humorless?

It seems that most threads end up like this:

I am righteous

No! Thou art not righteous. I am truly righteous!

And so on. I assume that "Something Awful" forums are different, but I'm cheap and don't want to pay membership dues. Where art thou crionna?

Bernard Yomtov,

-“Suppose we were talking about blatant racist practices at the Academy. You can bet the culprits would be gone quickly, and rightly so. This ought to be treated the same way.”

Except that religious belief and its expression serve a purpose in the military and are therefore protected while racist beliefs (the objectification of one’s enemy not withstanding) are not. I would bet that one of the most frequent problems that military personnel bring to their chaplains in time of war is the question of whether their religious faith sanctions the actions of the military and whether one’s participation in these actions is morally defensible on religious grounds (chaplains probably don’t get asked much if God dislikes a particular race or supports their persecution, although with the GWOT such inquiry may be more prevalent). The answer I most often hear chaplains give is a resounding “yes.” There is, however, the issue of degree of religious expression that rejection of racism does not contain (unless blatant implies otherwise), and it looks to me like this might be part of the reason for the flap, Rosa’s response, and may help explain a slowness to clean house.

The sexual assaults that have occurred are partly due to the issue of power imbalance (dmbeaster upthread: “There is an implied coercion that accompanies the solicitation when the power dynamic is unequal.”). This imbalance is to some extent a more general problem in the military as a whole since, for example, female personnel are required to meet lower standards in some areas than their male peers and the cultural biases regarding sex and job performance favor one sex over the other.* Again, this may present barriers to the house cleaning task.

*I first became aware of this in airborne school (which requires a high degree of physical training and discipline: several mile runs every morning and one has to do exactly as they are told all day long on threat of immediate expulsion). The physical standards, at least, were set lower for females. Since the honor associated with earning airborne wings is high, the resentment among some males against females who received the same award while having to perform at a lower standard was proportionate. Had a leveling (not to mean lowering) of standards been applied to training, such resentment or covert dismissal of the achievement of female graduates might have been diffused.

I am not righteous.

With that out of the way: I understand the urge to proselytize. When I think someone I know is about to do something truly damaging to him- or herself, I usually think it over to make sure that I'm not just being an officious jerk, and if on reflection it still seems to me that that person is about to do something truly damaging, I will usually say something about it. Likewise, if I truly believed that someone I knew had embarked on a course of action that would lead to him or her spending eternity in a lake of fire, cut off from the presence of God in which alone we can find lasting happiness, I would say something about that too.

However, I also think that if you are offered a position of responsibility over someone, and if that position of responsibility precludes overt evangelizing, you should either accept that restriction or not accept the position. There is no other honest course of action. This is true when evangelizing is not at issue -- it's why Christian Scientists should not become doctors, and pacifists should not join the army: their religious convictions are at odds with the responsibilities of those positions, and they have to choose. So here.

This doesn't mean that Christians can't serve in the military, obviously. But it does mean that they should refrain from overt evangelizing when it interferes with their military responsibilities. Refraining from overt evangelizing doesn't mean refraining from any evangelizing, either: while I was Christian I didn't do overt evangelizing, on the grounds that it was counterproductive (going up to people and urging conversion usually seemed to make them hostile, as best I could tell.) I therefore thought: my religion is not a secret, and if anyone wants to ask me about it, or argue about it, I will. In the meanwhile, I thought, I will take the advice of the Book of Common Prayer, and 'shew forth the Gospel not only with my lips, but with my life', which has the added bonus that it keeps you honest: either your life is a recommendation for your faith or it is not, and only living well will make it the first, whatever you say. This course of action, arguably the most effective in any case, is always open to officers in the Air Force.

But no one should pressure their subordinates to convert, any more than professors should inflict their religious or political convictions on their students.

otto: I would bet that one of the most frequent problems that military personnel bring to their chaplains in time of war is the question of whether their religious faith sanctions the actions of the military and whether one’s participation in these actions is morally defensible on religious grounds ..... The answer I most often hear chaplains give is a resounding “yes.”

Well, yes. Presumably a chaplain who said anything else to military personnel would find himself an ex-chaplain in short order. ;-)

Actually, what I suppose happens is that ministers of religion who believe their faith binds them to pacifism and non-violence will simply never become military chaplains, because presumably one of the functions of a military chaplain is to make soldiers believe that it's okay with God to kill Christ in the right cause. (Matthew, 25:40)

We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world. Quaker Peace Testimony

...which is, of course, my own evangelizing: and I wouldn't feel right if I didn't add that I apologize to anyone I have offended by the comment above. I am an atheist with a Quaker upbringing, and I am apt to quote that chapter of Matthew at Christians who seem to have forgotten it.

I am not righteous.

I'm shocked. Shocked that the ethicist here would make that statement! It explains the depths we have risen to. ;^)

which is, of course, my own evangelizing

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only hypocrite here. I've sort of pictured myself in the place of Madonna singing "Pappa don't preach". Not a pretty picture :)

Jesurgislac,

-"Actually, what I suppose happens is . . ."

Yes, yes. Good call.

-"because presumably one of the functions of a military chaplain is to make soldiers believe that it's okay with God to kill Christ in the right cause."

"Kill Christ"??? I am tempted to make a crack at the expense of anti-semites about the function of Jewish chaplains, but such humor might be misconstrued. ;)

otto: "Kill Christ"???

Matthew 25:40, various translations: - "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." - "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have adone it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." - "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

A Christian who takes this verse literally - as Quakers do - may come to believe that, quite literally, there is that of God in every one, and what you do to others, you do to Christ.

25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. cite

The function of a soldier is to kill other human beings in the service of his country: it's late and I'm tired: that may explain why it never occurred to me that my comment about "killing Christ" could be taken as a reference to anti-Semitic propaganda. I'm sorry, and again, I apologize to anyone I offended inadvertently with that comment.

Jesurgislac,

Hahahahaha. Though I knew the verse, the literal Quaker interpretation of it to mean killing Christ didn't register. I thought you had made a typo and meant to say "the functions of a military chaplain is to make soldiers believe that it's okay with God to kill [for] Christ." And I certainly didn't think you were being anti-Semetic.

Jes, if only it were that simple. Jesus clearly advises individuals not to use violence to protect themselves, but AFAIK he gives no direction regarding protecting innocent third parties. If a man is about to kill 10 people and the only way I can stop him is by shooting him (and I'm the only one who can stop him), what would Jesus advise me to do?

Also, as sympathetic as I am to the Quakers' position, I don't think it's at all justified to read any Gospel passage as saying anything about the appropriate actions for a state to take, whether concerning war, welfare programs, or what have you. Jesus was addressing individuals, not governments.

Oh, and DaveC, you forgot (e) Share a potluck meal with people who dare not deviate from the standard noodle casserole norm (the carb-and-cheese-overload part).

KenB,

-"what would Jesus advise me to do?"

One could stand in the way of the bullet? ;) I know, the only way to stop him is by shooting him. Remember, Jesus "gives no direction regarding protecting innocent third parties."

Re your second point: St. Augustine? St. Thomas Aquinas?

KenB,

Oh, and who is "innocent"? For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. ;)

Re your second point: St. Augustine? St. Thomas Aquinas?

Sure, later commentators wrote on the subject; but although some of them command a healthy amount of respect in the various Christian communities, none of them are "uniquely authoritative" in the way that the New Testament is. Usually when someone is arguing that Christians ought to take political position X, the first thing s/he'll throw at you is a Gospel quote or three (perhaps followed by a couple of lines from Paul or Pseudo-Paul). These are nearly always instances of over-generalization -- of course Jesus tells us to tend to the poor, for example, but he doesn't tell us to use the power of the government to coerce the entire community into tending to the poor.

Oh, and who is "innocent"?

I'm innocent, I swear! I was nowhere near the place, I was with my friends -- you can ask them, they'll back me up.

I am Spartacus!

KenB,

-"Sure, later commentators wrote on the subject . . . the first thing s/he'll throw at you is a Gospel quote or three . . . but he doesn't tell us to use the power of the government to coerce the entire community into tending to the poor."

Indeed. Usually its three. My kingdom is not of this world.

-"I'm innocent, I swear!"

I believe you! But let Him sort these other 10 people out, jeesh – maybe He can determine their “innocence”? If they believed in Him, they’ll just go to heaven; if they didn’t believe in Him and never were, they’re going to hell anyway; if they didn’t believe in Him but would have later had their life not been cut short, let Him grant them a dispensation due to the circumstances. What business is it of ours? They were going to live forever? ;)

kenB: Jesus was addressing individuals, not governments.

Governments are made up of individuals, always.

If a man is about to kill 10 people and the only way I can stop him is by shooting him (and I'm the only one who can stop him), what would Jesus advise me to do?

I'm pretty sure that nowadays Jesus would have his followers eschew use of firearms and other lethal weapons and instead opt for liberal use of the Taser™.

Verily and indeed I say unto you: Close that italics bracket!

"Governments are made up of individuals, always."

Quite, but the form the individuals put themselves into, and what powers are allocated to them, or taken by them, as a government, vary widely, yes? I'm a non-Christian with no depth of understanding of Christian theology or philosophy, so it is unclear to me whether Jesus favored Fabianism or not, what his tax credit policy was, where he stood on ideal marginal tax rates, and more than a few other issues, to be sure. WWJD about ethanol? Does he prefer Single Transferable Vote to winner-takes-all? Does he prefer that available new bandwidth go to NPR or low-level citizen's radio? And so on.

no one should pressure their subordinates to convert, any more than professors should inflict their religious or political convictions on their students.

Of course that's correct, but I think in the case of the AF Academy (and West Point and Annapolis aso, of course) we ought to go further. The Academy is a stressful and isolating experience, especially for first-year cadets. For a religious majority (or large plurality - I'm not sure which it is) to press their views on members of a minority in this environment is unacceptable, even if the cadets involved are ostensibly equals. It makes it even worse when senior officers at the Academy, acting in their official roles, endorse these beliefs.

This is not only a matter of respecting religious rights, important as that is. Officers who regard their religious views as overriding their duty to the Constitution are dangerous.

Jesus clearly advises individuals not to use violence to protect themselves,

Is this generally accepted Christian doctrine? The Catholic Church doesn't think so

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

This is similar to Jewish thinking which, to my understanding, rejects the "turn the other cheek" notion on the grounds that it is wrong to tolerate an injustice, even if you yourself are the victim.

Bernard: Is this generally accepted Christian doctrine?

The difference between what Jesus says in the gospels and what is generally accepted Christian doctrine can be quite considerable. ;-)

Bernard, remember that it took a long time to clean out most of the racism from the US military. And, in the end, it was done out of necessity (esp. the post-Vietnam military, which couldn't afford racism). When the corruption goes to the top, it won't be cleaned out soon.

Jesus clearly advises individuals not to use violence to protect themselves

Is this generally accepted Christian doctrine?

Well, my use of "clearly" was clearly an overstatement -- there's apparently a decent argument that the cheek-smiting action mentioned in the "turn the other cheek" passage (Matthew 5:39, Luke 6:29) was intened to refer to an insulting act (along the lines of a "slap to the face") rather than a violent act.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad