Monday, May 9, 2016

Ethical Response to Creationist Activities

I am sure you are aware of a growing issue about providing goods and services for people who, for some reason, you don't like.  Whether it's based on religion, sexual orientation, race . . . or any other rationalization, it's basically a form of discrimination and most often, it's illegal.  People like that idiot down in Kentucky - Kim Davis - who refused to do her job and issue marriage licenses for gay couples, the bakery owner - Jack Phillips - who refused to supply a wedding cake for a gay couple, and little kennie ham who is discriminating based on religion when hiring folks for his ark park.  The issue at hand is when and where a business can draw a line . . . plus the very basic question as to whether or not they even have a right to draw such a line.

When it comes to government agencies, the line is drawn for them.  Which is why Davis went to jail when she refused to do her job.  It's why people like public school 'teacher' John Freshwater in Mt Vernon OH and got fired for failing to do his job of teaching science.  When it comes to government agencies, complying with the law makes it fairly simply especially when compared private businesses.  Oh, and yes, I do not put kennie and his ark abortion into the category of private business because he's been asking for state funds to help build and promote his latest ministry.  Once you take tax dollars, the line between private and public shifts quite a bit.  Of course, kennie wants tax money and still be able to discriminate against many of the people who might need a job in Kentucky.  He only seems to care about the people of Kentucky as long as they toe a line he sets.  I do so feel for my neighbors to the South, but they keep letting kennie get away with it, so I don't feel that badly.  I would mention reaping what you sow, but they might get annoyed at me using a Biblical reference to highlight their foolishness.

But private businesses have always had a variety of rules for refusing service.  Many times it's a legal concern, like serving alcohol to someone already intoxicated or selling cigarettes to minors.  In those cases the legal and potential liability concerns need to be considered for a business to refuse service. Dress codes are another one.  I am sure you have seen signs like 'No shoes, No Shirt, No Service'.  This might be casually expressed, but what they are applying is a consistent enforcement of a dress code for their establishment.  As long as they consistently apply it, and not use it as a way of discriminating against certain groups, it's perfectly legal.  There are many, many examples of how to  . . . and the only way to put this . . . legally discriminate against an individual.  I know if I show up at my favorite restaurant without shoes or a shirt, I am not getting in, simple.

So how do you deal with providing the service you are in business to provide when the customer is someone who you  . . . disagree with?  Not providing the service based on your opinion is usually the wrong answer.  It might open you up to varying degrees of legal action, as Jack Phillips discovered. While taking a stand for something you believe in is great in principle, having your stand cost you your business might not be a particularly intelligent thing to do, particular if the point of disagreement isn't a legal basis for refusing service.

The logical part of me says that if you are in business, refusing customers is a pretty foolish way to do business.  But, as I said, to some people want to place their personal religious beliefs ahead of business, like the Kentucky idiot or the bakery owner.  That's all well and good, but don't cry later because you were unwilling to deal with the consequences.  What you need to do is come up with a way that lets you do your business AND maintain your principles.  One business did just that.

As reported on the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) "A Slap on the Wrist for Creationism", RapidWristbands, a premier manufacturer of silicone wristbands, received an order from a Creationist organization for over 100,000 wristbands that said "Debunk Evolution".  Instead refusing the order, which apparently would have aligned with his principles, he took the order and donated the profits from the order to the NSCE, an organization dedicated to defending the integrity of science education against creationist assaults.

What a creative way of maintaining your business while sticking a thumb in the eye of Creationists. I'm certain the Creationist group that ordered the wristbands might object and never place another order with that company, but I don't think CEO Fiyyaz Pirani is going to lose any sleep over it.  In many ways, I would love to hear the reaction of the Creationists.

Now this is nothing but my opinion, but think about it.  If the company had refused the order, I am sure the Creationists would have been appealing to either the court of public opinion, or a more legal venue, about being discriminated against.  But RapidWristbands didn't discriminate, it's the Creationist reaction to what the company's subsequent action is that interests me.  If they announce that they won't be making any future purchases, wouldn't that make them the party doing the exact form of discrimination that they would have been accusing RapidWristbands -- if RapidWristbands hadn't fulfilled that order?  I know, I am reaching a little bit here, but this is not outside of the realm of possibility, even probability?

I mean, isn't that exactly what Kim Davis did?  She refuse to do her job and when held accountable, she claimed religious discrimination.  After all, she had to sign a document for gay people.  Why she might have actually had to converse with them!  Imagine the horror!  So in reality she was guilty of discrimination and deserved to go to jail!  I know they changed the rules to 'accommodate' her newly found religious sensibilities, but was that the right answer?  Accommodation?  Does she have the right to refuse doing her public sector job because of her religious beliefs?  I disagree!

But then I tend to disagree with discrimination in any form.  If she own a rental property and refused to rent to a gay person, she would have more significant legal issues than she had for refusing to do her job.  But again, reaping what you sow.  If Kentuckians are actually displeased with Kim, they will find ways to let her know.  But the more vocal ones seem thrilled with her belated discovery of her religious convictions.  So Kentucky will continue to pay her and allow her escape the consequences of her action, but that's on them.

I don't know what she could have done to deal with this situation more creatively, as did RapidWristbands, but I would like to think an honorable person would have made more of an effort to find an alternative.  In her case, I think I would respected her if she had simply resigned.  Just like I would have respected Jack Phillips (The baker mentioned above) if he had simply fulfilled the order and not let his own religious beliefs justify discrimination.  Any religion that not only permits, but encourages, the discrimination against another human being is not much of a religion, in my opinion. Religious Freedom is not the freedom to discriminate!  And people wonder why I have issues with organized religion.

For me, it's actually quite simple.  If I am against something, I do not do it.  I am against drinking and driving, so I don't do it.  If you do it, then be prepared to face the consequences of your actions!  I am not against abortion, but what that really means to me is that I have never and would never put a woman into the position of having to make such a decision based on an action in which I had a contributing role.  My role is not to force everyone to believe in what I believe in, just like I do not feel that anyone else should be allowed to force me to believe in what they believe in.  You want to be against homosexuality, then do not be a homosexual!  You want to be anti-abortion, then take no actions that results in the need to make that decision for yourself!  You don't want to comply with the law and issue marriage licenses to gay couples, then do not take a job where you have to issue such licenses.  You want to refuse to make cakes for gay couples, then quite making wedding cakes.  Don't preach, don't whine, don't try and use the law to avoid the consequences of your beliefs, simply don't be in a position where you use your beliefs to discriminate.

I hope RapidWristbands business jumps based on this publicity.  I think their response is ethical and one of the most honest responses to this whole question of where do you draw a line.  You draw it in your personal behavior, not in forcing others to toe a particular line you set for yourself.


  1. Sure, Kim Davis had a good way of handling this. Ask the state to make her a stamp, "service and signature rendered as required by law." That is a reasonable religious accommodation, and it makes her point by alluding to Matthew 22:21, for example.

  2. A perfectly reasonable idea, but do you think Kim and her ilk read the whole Bible? They only use the parts they agree with and ignore most of it. Remember she even went so far as to disrupt other clerks signing licenses. Do you think tossing a 'render unto Caesar' would change her tiny little mind?

  3. She said that her signature was the issue. I don't believe that my suggested course wasn't suggested to her by others. It's not a genius idea.

    Presuming that such suggestion was brought forward to her, then it's reasonable to ask why she dismissed it. IMO the signature objection was a sham; thus the stamp suggestion didn't address her true objection, probably gay marriage in general. She simply used her office as a means to thwart it in her county.

    I also suspect that there was some vanity involved. She got a lot of attention for this, and she probably loved it. In her eyes, spending a few days in jail was worth the attention and the fundy cred.

    1. I'm sure there is a book deal in progress :-)