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A group of unhappy professional academic philosophers have submitted a petition to the American Philosophical Association. What are they up in arms about? The opening paragraph of the petition tells it all:

Many colleges and universities require faculty, students, and staff to follow certain ‘ethical’ standards which prohibit engaging in homosexual acts. Among these institutions are Azusa Pacific University, Belmont University, Bethal College, Biola University, Calvin College, Malone College, Pepperdine University, Westmont College, and Wheaton College. All of these institutions advertised in ‘Jobs for Philosophers’ between 2006-2009. Further, none of these institutions were listed as censured institutions.

The petition calls on the APA either to “(1) enforce its policy and prohibit institutions that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation from advertising in ‘Jobs for Philosophers’ or [to] (2) clearly mark institutions with these policies as institutions that violate our anti-discrimination policy.” One can assume that “marking” these institutions would be to censure them.

But there is a counter-petition signed by a number of notable philosophers, including Alasdair McIntyre Alvin Plantinga, Germain Grisez, Robert P. George, John M. Finnis Roger Scruton, and many others. The petition argue:

Institutions can require their faculty to agree to abide by ethical standards that forbid homosexual acts while not ipso facto discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The conceptual distinction between a certain kind of act and a disposition to perform that kind of act is one that no philosopher would fail to acknowledge in other ethical contexts. We fail to see why it should be ignored in this one.

And then they turn the tables on the original petitioners accusing them of advocating a policy that itself would discriminate against religious institutions:
But the policy recommended attempts to segregate and penalize religious institutions for abiding by their long-standing and coherent ethical norms. Moreover, this policy would foster an environment that would encourage discrimination against philosophers whose religious, political, or philosophical convictions lead them to disapprove of homosexual acts.

The battle, as they say, is joined.

Let there be no doubt, the line of argument presented in the original petition is not one that can be “marked” off as a mere quibble among philosophers and the academic guild. This is the shape of the political debate to come. We are headed for an irreconcilable clash between the “rights” claimed by the gay lobby and religious freedom. Don’t think for a second that the gay lobby will be satisfied until religious institutions are “segregated” and “penalized.” The difference will be that those who will do the “segregating” and the “penalizing’ will do with the full backing and enforcement of the law.



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