Church & State II: Discrimination

English: Schopfheim: Catholic Church Deutsch: ...

In the United States, the American’s with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their disabilities. Unless, apparently, the institution doing the discrimination is a church.

A disabled woman who was teaching at a religious school was fired and filed a claim under this act. The rather clever reply by the lawyers was to rely on the ministerial exception clause.

This clause was originally intended to grant religious groups the liberty to discriminate in their hiring (and firing) practices so as to allow them to act in accord with the doctrines of their faith.  To use the obvious example, the Catholic Church is allowed an exemption to practice gender discrimination based on its doctrine that only men can be priests.

On the face of it, it seems blindingly obvious that this exception was not intended to allow religious groups to simply fire people with impunity in regards to the anti-discrimination laws. While the application of the law is certainly a matter of interest, what I find more interesting is the exception itself.

On the one hand, this exception does have a certain appeal. After all, history shows that laws can be used to oppress or otherwise mistreat religious groups and one way to afford protection for religious freedom is to provide such “escape mechanisms” in laws that might be misused. Given that freedom of belief and freedom from oppression seem to be legitimate and worthwhile freedoms, this sort of exception has some merit.

On the other hand, there is the obvious concern that the mere fact that something is a religious belief should not be grounds for allowing an exception to the general law. In the case of this specific law, if churches can simply apply the exception when they fire people, churches would be effectively immune to anti-discrimination laws. This would allow them the freedom to engage in actions that seem to clearly be immoral (such as firing people on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or any other quality) and otherwise illegal merely because they are religious groups.

It might be countered that religious groups must have the liberty to hire and fire as they wish, otherwise religious freedom is in danger.  However, handing religious groups a license to discriminate hardly seems to be a necessary step in preserving religious liberty and, as such, this sort of broad exception seems to be morally unjustified.

There is also the obvious concern that while the right to religious freedom is worth considering, there are other rights as well. In the case of hiring and firing, it would seem that people have the moral (and legal) right not to be discriminated against and it does not seem obvious that the right to religious freedom should simply trump other rights.

For example, suppose a devout group of Thugee established a church of Kali in the United States and argued that religious freedom gave them the right to be exempt from the laws forbidding murder and theft. This, obviously enough, would be regarded as absurd. After all, the right not to be robbed and murdered outweighs the right of religious freedom.

As another example, suppose that a religious group that practiced polygamy claimed an exception based on religious views. This would, obviously enough, be denied. In fact, polygamy is illegal (although apparently sometimes tolerated). As such, religious freedom would once again not trump the law.

As a third example, suppose that a religious group wanted to hire or fire people in ways that violated  anti-discrimination laws. This, oddly enough, seems to be okay. However, the obvious question must be asked: why should religious groups be given an exception here? The answer seems to be that they should not, unless we wish to allow them the other exceptions.

Another point of concern is, obviously enough, why religious groups should get such exceptions. After all, there are other groups that hold discriminatory views (racist groups, for example) and it would seem to be, well, discrimination not to allow these groups to discriminate based on their beliefs. After all, these people are no doubt as sincere and devoted in their beliefs as religious folk and it seems rather difficult to prove that their is a magical something about religious beliefs that entitle religious groups to special exemptions that are denied to other groups.

Of course, if a religious group could prove that they have got it right when it comes to their desired exemptions, then that would be another matter. For example, if Catholics could prove that just as only women can biologically be mothers only men can be metaphysically priests, then they would be justly exempt from the law regarding gender discrimination in the case of priests.

Doing this should be easy enough. When a religious group claims a special exemption, all that needs to be done is for their deity to show up and sign the appropriate form after establishing his/her/its divine identity. For the religious groups who have the true view, this should present no problem. Naturally, groups whose deity fails to make an appearance (or that fails to send a suitably divine or infernal non-human agent, such as an angel) must be regarded as having gotten things wrong and thus would not be entitled to an exception. After all, a group that cannot prove that its  exemption from the law is justified should not be allowed that exemption. Obviously, referring to made up beliefs does not count as justification.

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29 Comments.

  1. It is a generally accepted principle that one basic human right can not be used to destroy another basic human right, a judicious balance needs to be found. Article 30 of the UNDHR says…

    “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

    See… http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    So the rights of freedom of belief (and non-belief) are covered in Article 18, and rights in Article 23(2) provide for …

    “Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.”

    With regards to the specific case you mention, IMO there is not enough detail to make a judgement. If the protection to terminate employment was justified purely on preservation of religious rights, when in fact it was to terminate a handicapped person (and on that fact aone) that seems entirely unethical and unbalanced. It also seems entirely non-Christian! Hence why I would not jump to judgement without more detail.

    But, with that all said, the UNDHR does not have jurisdiction in the USA, or just about anywhere else, and that is a shame. Just think of a world that had freedom of belief, expression, and other basic human rights. A world of nations that are accountable in the International Courts of Justice to their compliance under the UNDHR. It’s almost impossible to conceive of such a utopia!

  2. BTW… Are you arguing in the later part of your article that the RC Church should be obliged to ordinate women irrespective of their reasons for arguing it should not? Or that Judaism and Islamic religions should be banned from conducting circumcision? I think that would be a group of people asserting their beliefs onto others, in a way that was unreasonable/intolerable.

    People who want to be ministers of a Church have that opportunity in Christian denominations other than RC. You may not agree that the RC metaphysical argument for why it should be a male only tradition valid, but it is not without some reason to be so trivially dismissed (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1577) Also circumcision is not only conducted for religious reasons, it is a personal hygiene issue for many parents decisions.

    There is a balance though that is clearly overdone in some cases, i,e., there are somethings a society should not condone, e.g., the historical Hindu (in some communities) ritual of Sati/Suttee.

    IMO, as a principle of balance, we should not be asked by any religion to conduct any intolerant act that we would not be willing to be also tolerated on ourselves – per the ethic of reciprocity/golden rule/categorical imperative (that is quite universal in mainstream world religions). If you check the formation of the UNDHR, and specifically the involvement of the Catholic Philosopher Jacques Maritain, you will note this principle was a foundational aspect ( http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maritain/ )

    As such, I think it is more complex than saying Secular Humanism values, as articulated in 21st century USA, trump all traditional values. There needs to be judicial consideration of the balance of rights, and mutual tolerance by all.

  3. See…

    The fact that an agreement could be achieved across cultures on several practical concepts was “enough,” he wrote, “to enable a great task to be undertaken.” More serious, the philosophers realized, would be the problems of arriving at a common understanding of what the principles meant, of reconciling tensions among the various rights, of integrating new rights, and of incorporating new applications. In that connection, Maritain pointed out that if the document were not to be a mere hodgepodge of ideas, it would need a tuning fork or “key” according to which the rights could be harmonized. Everything depends, he said, on “the ultimate value whereon those rights depend and in terms of which they are integrated by mutual limitations.”

    Source: http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9804/articles/udhr.html

  4. The ‘Catholic Church’ is not the church of Rome alone.

  5. “…right to religious freedom”

    It is not clear what freedom has to do with the discussion. Religion, or a least the catholic religion, is composed of laws, canons and papal dictates. There is no liberty in religion. The rules for religious membership are strict to enter the church, and even stricter to leave the church. How could there ever be a “right to religious freedom” as the definitions of religion and freedom contradict each other, unless one interprets “right to religious freedom” as meaning “freedom from religion.”

  6. Martin,

    Good points. One challenge in ethics is handling conflicting rights. One stock way to deal with this is to go with a utilitarian approach (that is, which right would do more or less harm/good).

  7. Martin,

    I would say that as long as the priestly positions are not paid jobs, then they can do almost anything they wish. However, when the position becomes a job as the state defines, then it would thus seem to fall under the anti-discrimination laws.

    Suppose I own a running shoe store called “Master Male Runner” and claim that running is my religion. Running has a long tradition of gender and age divisions (award categories are by age and gender). Presumably it would be illegal (and wrong) of me to refuse to hire anyone who is not a male runner over 40 (that is the master’s age bracket) on the basis of my faith. After all, I would be discriminating.

    Or, to be much harsher, suppose that I belong to the Church of White Jesus and I refuse to hire blacks as ministers because they are black. Should the state grant me an exemption because I am a sincere and faithful racist? If not, why should the state grant exemptions for sexism? If so, what would prevent people from creating religions to match their prejudices and use them to legally discriminate?

    Or suppose I am just a sincere and conscientious racist and sexist and think that minorities and women should not be allowed to be university professors. Why can I not allow this to guide me on my search committees? After all, I can say this is a matter of conscience. Why should I not be granted the same exemption as other people of conscience? What is special about religion that would grant such exemptions that presumably would be denied the sincere racist?

    Naturally, if God accepts only male priests, then presumably the ordination of females will not stick and they will lack the priestly powers. This would, it seem, warrant such apparent discrimination. After all, it is not discrimination that men cannot be egg donors or surrogate mothers. Presumably if being a priest is a real sort of thing, there would be some empirical test that could be conducted to determine whether or not a person is a priest and whether or not women can be priests. If there is no way to test this, one might suspect that being a priest is just a job and not anything supernatural. After all, priests don’t seem to be able to cast cure (or inflict) light wounds.

    If it is simply a matter of tradition, then defending the practice would seem to be on par with defending race based hiring.

  8. s. wallerstein (amos)

    I’m not a Catholic or even a believer in God, but it seems to me that being a Catholic priest is both a job and not a job.

    I understand that once ordained a priest, a person is still a priest whether he still works as a priest or not, that is, whether he earns his living (his salary) as a priest or not.

    Perhaps the solution would be to hire qualified persons, without allowing gender discrimination, to do most things working priests do (teach catechism, give good “Christian” advise, visit the sick, do the Church bookkeeping, coach the parish football team, etc.) and leave mass and other sacraments up to ordained priests.

    That way, “priestly” jobs would then be open without discrimination to everyone, but only priests would be able to perform sacraments.

    I assume that ordained priests, given their Christian vocation, would be willing to perform Sunday mass without pay or in return for expenses.

  9. s.wallerstein,

    That is a reasonable view. As I see it, people can practice such “private” discrimination all they wish. After all, it is none of our business. To use an analogy, as a professor I am morally and legally obligated to grade based on actual performance rather than personal likes and dislikes. However, I am under no such obligation when it comes to dating. That is, I am and should be free to date based on my own personal preferences even if this means that I am “discriminating”-for example, I’m straight and hence don’t consider men in my dating pool.

  10. Perhaps you need to instrospect more deeply into the nature of being in a religion itself! A religion (or not having one) itself is a positive bias, whether through logic or inheritance.
    Therefore, it also follows that all religions will display a certain type of behaviour which is their own. To cry discrimination is quite silly.
    It is the freedom to discriminate in your choice of religion that your laws seeks to protect while protecting religions at the same time. Not from the practices of the religion itself.
    For then the self-same you would cry tyranny.

  11. I have written a refutation of your article here: http://agenuinepursuit.blogspot.com/2012/02/refutation-of.html I encourage you to check it out, but I will summarize it here, if you don`t have the time.

    Your article relies on three main arguments.
    1) you give three examples of religious practices murder and theft, polygamy, discriminatory hiring practices. you then conclude “why should religious groups be given an exception here? The answer seems to be that they should not, unless we wish to allow them the other exceptions.” This is a clear example of the slippery slope fallacy. It ignores the fact that there are fundamental differences between murder and theft, polygamy, and discriminatory hiring practices. In my refutation, I outline these differences, but it is enough to say that this first argument takes for granted without proof that these religious practices are similar and should be treated the same.
    2) It is then argued that if we grant these exceptions to religious groups we should grant them to other sorts of groups such as racist and running groups. This argument concludes with “it seems rather difficult to prove that their is a magical something about religious beliefs that entitle religious groups to special exemptions that are denied to other groups.” This argument suffers from the same error in reasoning, i.e. taking for granted that there is nothing fundamentally different between religious groups groups, and economic, civic and political groups. In fact, nothing “magical” needs to be shown. There are historical reasons why religious groups are protected including the fact that many of the original immigrants to the U.S. were escaping religious persecution. Political and civic groups are protected in different ways through democratic and other civil rights. The fundamental difference between these different groups however is that while civic, political, and even economic groups often inspire sincere and complete devotion, there is nothing inherent in these groups that demands of its members that the organization`s values be central to the members` lives and take the place of God. As a result, the organizations do not get the same protection. It is important to remember that the exception in the ADA is not granted to individuals but to organizations.
    3) Lastly it is argued that religions should have to prove the metaphysical validity of their claims empirically in order to be entitled to the exception. This is both legally and metaphysically erroneous. In United States v. Ballard it was ruled that it is not the truth of a religious claim but the belief in it that guarantees legal protection. On a metaphysical level, the author`s demand for empirical proof is an example of misplaced standard of proof. Just as it would be logically problematic to apply a deductive standard of proof to an inductive argument, it is inappropriate to apply an inductive standard of proof to a metaphysical argument. This has been a recognized fallacy since Aristotle first proposed it.

    I encourage you to read the full refutation as this post takes a few things for granted which I elaborate on, but I believe both show the fundamental flaws in the author`s reasoning.

  12. @Mike LaBossiere

    My main point is that there needs to be a judicious balancing of rights, i.e., in this specific case the balance of religious freedom, that include the ordination of men only in some religions, is to be balanced with freedom from discrimination in right to work. In the case of RC the people that are within it are doing the paying and choose to be governed by canon law in their membership so to speak. If they don’t like it they can join and Anglican church and be ministers and pay their tithes their. It seems not unreasonable to me whilst the those that are RC’s are agreeable to male only priests. RC women who demand to be ordinated are requiring the religion to change to their (maybe minority) values. That they conform to secular ones is not enough to sway the balance IMO.

    The case is not the same as a person in a noodle shop that advertises for the paid employment of “pretty asian females” only (just trying to find a different example of males and whites for a change). Nor is it the same as permitting the practices of a religion, such Moloch with child sacrifice.

    We allow a patient to see a male or female medical Doctor out of preference after all don’t we?

  13. Ben,

    )1 you give three examples of religious practices murder and theft, polygamy, discriminatory hiring practices. you then conclude “why should religious groups be given an exception here? The answer seems to be that they should not, unless we wish to allow them the other exceptions.” This is a clear example of the slippery slope fallacy. It ignores the fact that there are fundamental differences between murder and theft, polygamy, and discriminatory hiring practices. In my refutation, I outline these differences, but it is enough to say that this first argument takes for granted without proof that these religious practices are similar and should be treated the same.

    It is eminently reasonable to argue that there is a clear distinction between discriminatory hiring practices and murder. I do agree that there could be a principled way to say that we will allow religions exemptions for certain practices but not allow others. For example, we might do this based on a principle of harm: churches are free to do as they will based on doctrine, provided that this doctrine does not cause harm. While this principle would cover murder, it would also cover discrimination. Now, it might be argued that religious exemptions should be granted only for things that are not, for example, felonies but that they can be granted for lesser crimes on the principle that religious rights trump anything under a felony. This would then allow a broad range of things, such as polygamy, prostitution and so on to be practiced by religious groups. Perhaps even speeding (The Church of Jesus of Nascar) would be thus covered.

    I am, of course, willing to accept a suitable relevant difference argument. However, the idea that people should get a free pass on laws that apply to others because they are religious does not seem to suffice. Which takes us to the next point.

    2) It is then argued that if we grant these exceptions to religious groups we should grant them to other sorts of groups such as racist and running groups. This argument concludes with “it seems rather difficult to prove that their is a magical something about religious beliefs that entitle religious groups to special exemptions that are denied to other groups.” This argument suffers from the same error in reasoning, i.e. taking for granted that there is nothing fundamentally different between religious groups groups, and economic, civic and political groups. In fact, nothing “magical” needs to be shown. There are historical reasons why religious groups are protected including the fact that many of the original immigrants to the U.S. were escaping religious persecution. Political and civic groups are protected in different ways through democratic and other civil rights. The fundamental difference between these different groups however is that while civic, political, and even economic groups often inspire sincere and complete devotion, there is nothing inherent in these groups that demands of its members that the organization`s values be central to the members` lives and take the place of God. As a result, the organizations do not get the same protection. It is important to remember that the exception in the ADA is not granted to individuals but to organizations.

    While this is a compelling argument, I must disagree. I do agree that people should be protected from unwarranted persecution and I do regard liberty of conscience and thought to be rather important. However, religion does not seem to be relevantly different from other groups. Contrary to your claim, such groups have demanded that the values be central to their lives and so on. If that centrality is all that is required to qualify a group for exceptions, then there would be plenty of non-religious groups that qualify. Without the assumption of a supernatural foundation, religious beliefs are no different from other belief systems. My running club, despite the devout fanaticism of many members, does not get exemptions from the law. The same should apply to religious groups. They can, like my running club or my gaming group, be adequately protected by the same civil laws that grant me the liberty to run or roll D20s.

    3) Lastly it is argued that religions should have to prove the metaphysical validity of their claims empirically in order to be entitled to the exception. This is both legally and metaphysically erroneous. In United States v. Ballard it was ruled that it is not the truth of a religious claim but the belief in it that guarantees legal protection. On a metaphysical level, the author`s demand for empirical proof is an example of misplaced standard of proof. Just as it would be logically problematic to apply a deductive standard of proof to an inductive argument, it is inappropriate to apply an inductive standard of proof to a metaphysical argument. This has been a recognized fallacy since Aristotle first proposed it.

    I do agree in freedom of belief, as noted above. However, the point at hand is whether or not exemptions should be granted. If I sincerely believe that God has commanded me to drive fast and I found a church, this would not warrant giving me an exemption to the speed limits. Sure, I have the right to believe that, but unless I can show that a divine command has been given granting an exemption, I am just saying that because I believe I should have an exemption I should have one.

    As far as proof goes, it seems perfectly fair to insist on such proof. After all, how hard would it be for God to dispatch a lesser angel to sign some forms? After all, the bible reports all sorts of divine signs-burning bushes, angels talking to people and so on. So, if God could send angels to talk to people way back then, surely He can do the same now.

    Given that God is, well, God, the state should probably change laws to match His will. But since any fool or knave can say “God says X”, we need some reasonable proof that is what God said. Otherwise it could just be some fool or knave desiring to get an exception for his prejudices, biases or desire to commit misdeeds with impunity.

    Now, if you want to say that such claims of faith cannot be tested by any rational means, then I would have to conclude that there are no rational grounds to believe in them.

    I do grant that we give religion special treatment, but this seems to be unwarranted other than on practical grounds, such as appeasing religious power blocks to get their support or keep them from causing trouble because they feel threatened.

    I will say, of course, that I will gladly change my view on the matter in the face of proof. Being omnipotent, God should be able to easily send a sign that would pass epistemic muster and thus convince me and everyone else of the one true faith. To fail to do this and allow such conflict to continue would surely be a wicked thing.

  14. Sorry for typos, let me correct the sentence…

    If they don’t like it, they can join an Anglican church and be ministers and pay their tithes there. It seems not unreasonable to me whilst those that are RC’s are agreeable to male only priests.

  15. s. wallerstein (amos)

    Mike,

    Isn’t the fact that the majority of people are religious a good reason for giving religious groups special treatment?

    Isn’t one of the points of democracy to give the majority of people what they want, without harming the minority or violating their rights?

    If runners were to become a majority group in any democratic country, that would be a good reason to give running clubs special status.

  16. s.wallerstein,

    “Isn’t the fact that the majority of people are religious a good reason for giving religious groups special treatment?”

    While that has some appeal via majority rule, consider the following line of reasoning:

    “Isn’t the fact that the majority of Americans are white a good reason for giving white groups special treatment?”

    That seems a bit problematic.

    While democracies are supposed to follow majority rule, they also are supposed to (as you note) respect the rights of minorities. Or, in this case, women-who are actually a majority. Since most people are women, then it would follow from your principle that they should get special treatment. I’m willing to bet the majority of women oppose this law.

    While having special status would be appealing, it would also seem unfair-while runners are, in fact, awesome, we should not have special rights just because of that. :)

  17. “For example, we might do this based on a principle of harm: churches are free to do as they will based on doctrine, provided that this doctrine does not cause harm. While this principle would cover murder, it would also cover discrimination. Now, it might be argued that religious exemptions should be granted only for things that are not, for example, felonies but that they can be granted for lesser crimes on the principle that religious rights trump anything under a felony. This would then allow a broad range of things, such as polygamy, prostitution and so on to be practiced by religious groups. Perhaps even speeding (The Church of Jesus of Nascar) would be thus covered.”

    In my longer refutation, I offer some potential relevant differences. The first and most relevant difference in my mind is the fact that murder and theft are necessarily done against someone’s will, whereas discriminatory hiring practices are not. This is especially the case in a job like Catholic priests where the candidates know exactly who qualifies (i.e. men) for the job. Now it is not enough to justify discrimination based on full disclosure, it is also necessary to show that the discrimination is justifiable (since all hiring practices are fundamentally discriminatory in the first place the only difference between legal and illegal is whether the discrimination is justifiable). So the question becomes do you actually need to be a man to qualify as a Catholic priest? You argue that the Catholic church would have to prove this metaphysically, but that is not necessary. These jobs are within the context of the religion, therefore even if Catholicism is false, to be a good catholic it is still necessary to follow the rules. Similarly, there is a right way and a wrong way to speak Klingon, it does not matter that there are no actual klingons; there is a right and a wrong way to be a warrior in Dungeons and Dragons, it makes no difference that it’s a fantasy world.

    Even if we take harm as being the relevant difference, if we argue that justifiably discriminatory hiring practices are harmful, then anyone who has ever not gotten a job is owed damages. I believe it has already been shown that discrimination based on sex is justifiable in the case of Catholic priests and so harm is another relevant difference between discriminatory hiring practices and murder.

    “However, religion does not seem to be relevantly different from other groups. Contrary to your claim, such groups have demanded that the values be central to their lives and so on. If that centrality is all that is required to qualify a group for exceptions, then there would be plenty of non-religious groups that qualify. Without the assumption of a supernatural foundation, religious beliefs are no different from other belief systems. My running club, despite the devout fanaticism of many members, does not get exemptions from the law. The same should apply to religious groups. They can, like my running club or my gaming group, be adequately protected by the same civil laws that grant me the liberty to run or roll D20s.”

    Firstly, it is not my claim. I am working with what I understand is the American Supreme Court’s functional definition of a religion (i.e. the centrality of belief taking the place of what God would be to someone else). By saying without a supernatural foundation, religious beliefs are just like any other beliefs is the equivalent of saying “if religious beliefs weren’t religious they would just be beliefs.” While this is true, it is only trivially so. The real argument is whether or not supernatural foundations are a relevant difference. I would argue that in fact it is a very relevant difference and it is accounted for in the supreme court’s decision to include “takes the place of God” in the definition. The difference between saying “we were meant to be together because of the inherent order of the universe as determined by some divine plan,” and “we were meant to be together because of a causal chain of events caused by the interaction of two atoms at the beginning of time,” is categorical. Both statements could even be describing the same thing and be reducible to the same logical components, the difference is rooted in the difference between what Wittgenstein thought could be said and what could only be shown. Now, I think that distinction is useful to show the difference on a more philosophical level, but not necessarily on a functional level.
    The difference on the functional level between a religion and a running club is what they’re protected by. One, by freedom of conscience, the other by freedom of expression (and movement I suppose). The relevance of the difference was a social decision made at the time the laws were drafted. Therefore, it is logically prior to the law and is a necessary part of it. I do not think this could be changed unless the social fabric of the country changes (and it is changing so who knows).
    So basically, I agree with you that from a strictly logical point of view there is no relevant difference between religious groups and equally zealous non-religious groups, but the law goes beyond strict logic into the social realm (whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a different debate).

    “If I sincerely believe that God has commanded me to drive fast and I found a church, this would not warrant giving me an exemption to the speed limits. Sure, I have the right to believe that, but unless I can show that a divine command has been given granting an exemption, I am just saying that because I believe I should have an exemption I should have one.”

    Even if a person could prove that God gave them a divine command, I do not think this would necessarily warrant an exception in the law. The law of a country protects the freedom of belief and worship but not all practices (e.g. killing, theft) and so the relevant difference falls somewhere else (for example harm or respect for autonomy).. The reason there are exceptions for religions is not because a religion is assumed to be true, but because of internal mechanisms of the law (i.e. the right to freedom of religion) where those rights do not clash with other rights such as security (so there would probably be no exception for speeding). This is just one more example of why it does not matter whether or not the metaphysical foundations of a religion are true.

    “it seems perfectly fair to insist on such proof. After all, how hard would it be for God to dispatch a lesser angel to sign some forms? After all, the bible reports all sorts of divine signs-burning bushes, angels talking to people and so on. So, if God could send angels to talk to people way back then, surely He can do the same now.”

    I would expect there are many theological arguments for why God would not do that, but I would suspect that none of them would convince you. There is a fundamental epistemological disconnect between religious believers and non-believers and I have watched it create many pointless, circular debates. The fact is what a believer holds as proof is very different from what a nonbeliever holds as proof and since both sides only criticize the other’s proof from within the confines of their own paradigm, nothing ever gets accomplished. It is for that reason that I think it is important to keep Aristotle’s advice in mind.

    “Given that God is, well, God, the state should probably change laws to match His will. But since any fool or knave can say “God says X”, we need some reasonable proof that is what God said. Otherwise it could just be some fool or knave desiring to get an exception for his prejudices, biases or desire to commit misdeeds with impunity.”

    I disagree that a state should match their laws to God’s will just because God is God and there is much precedence for this even within the context of religious philosophers. For example, Augustine’s City of God argues a stark separation in the roles of Church and State. In Judaism, it is not wrong not to be a Jew. As a result, despite the fact that Judaism believes in a God, in a state like the United States, there is no requirement to make Jewish law, the law of the land (since Jews are only like 2% of the population).
    It is equally the case in secular scholars like Machiavelli, that there is a separate morality for politics for example and because the state is logically prior (in his view) to cultural institutions like organized religion, there is no reason for even a correct religion’s law to be State law. Even if we hold a religion as being true it does not necessitate any change in the law. Again, The key here is that religious freedoms are not granted due to the validity of religions, they are granted due to population and cultural factors. Arguing against the validity of one religion or another has no bearing on the law surrounding it.

    “I will say, of course, that I will gladly change my view on the matter in the face of proof. Being omnipotent, God should be able to easily send a sign that would pass epistemic muster and thus convince me and everyone else of the one true faith. To fail to do this and allow such conflict to continue would surely be a wicked thing.”

    If you want to have a theological argument about why God wouldn’t settle such arguments, what you’ll most often run into is people who either say “God has already settled the argument and you’re in denial” or “Why would God debase herself to appease sceptics? The value of worship is in the leap of faith (as Kierkegaard might argue), by making himself apparent, God undermines this totally.” It also depends on what God we’re talking about here. If we’re talking about the traditional Christian God, then I definitely think the above two arguments would be used and I think they would fall into the same cross-paradigm sniping that goes nowhere. For the purposes of the argument here though, it is enough to say that proof of any religion is absolutely unnecessary.

  18. In my longer refutation, I offer some potential relevant differences. The first and most relevant difference in my mind is the fact that murder and theft are necessarily done against someone’s will, whereas discriminatory hiring practices are not. This is especially the case in a job like Catholic priests where the candidates know exactly who qualifies (i.e. men) for the job. Now it is not enough to justify discrimination based on full disclosure, it is also necessary to show that the discrimination is justifiable (since all hiring practices are fundamentally discriminatory in the first place the only difference between legal and illegal is whether the discrimination is justifiable). So the question becomes do you actually need to be a man to qualify as a Catholic priest? You argue that the Catholic church would have to prove this metaphysically, but that is not necessary. These jobs are within the context of the religion, therefore even if Catholicism is false, to be a good catholic it is still necessary to follow the rules. Similarly, there is a right way and a wrong way to speak Klingon, it does not matter that there are no actual klingons; there is a right and a wrong way to be a warrior in Dungeons and Dragons, it makes no difference that it’s a fantasy world.

    I would assume that hiring discrimination is also against a person’s will-that is, they do not consent to not being hired because of discrimination. As you note, discrimination is only wrongful discrimination when the standards used are not relevant to the job qualifications. In the case of a priest being a man, that seems to be purely a matter of choice rather than a matter of job necessity. For example, only males can be sperm donors-that is because only men generate sperm. However, there do not seem to be any priestly functions that require being a male. After all, women serve ably as ministers and so on. As such, God seems cool with women in such roles.

    In the case of other gender based exclusions, there needs to be an actual difference in the job that physically requires a man or woman. Otherwise, this would violate the principle of relevant difference. Mere tradition does not seem to be adequate.

    To use the obvious analogy, imagine a church committed to the superiority of the white race. If they believed that only whites can be priests, then they would (by your argument) be able to exclude non-whites. It is not clear how saying “hey, it is our tradition and belief” would make such a practice acceptable. After all, employers cannot say “hey, I’m a loyal member of the KKK so I should be exempt from hiring blacks.”

    Sure, there is a right way to be a fighter (in the sense of not sucking at it). But this has no impact on the real world in a legal way.

    ven if we take harm as being the relevant difference, if we argue that justifiably discriminatory hiring practices are harmful, then anyone who has ever not gotten a job is owed damages. I believe it has already been shown that discrimination based on sex is justifiable in the case of Catholic priests and so harm is another relevant difference between discriminatory hiring practices and murder.

    They would, if the reason they did not get the job was because of an irrelevant factor, perhaps their race, gender or religion.

    Firstly, it is not my claim. I am working with what I understand is the American Supreme Court’s functional definition of a religion (i.e. the centrality of belief taking the place of what God would be to someone else). By saying without a supernatural foundation, religious beliefs are just like any other beliefs is the equivalent of saying “if religious beliefs weren’t religious they would just be beliefs.” While this is true, it is only trivially so. The real argument is whether or not supernatural foundations are a relevant difference. I would argue that in fact it is a very relevant difference and it is accounted for in the supreme court’s decision to include “takes the place of God” in the definition. The difference between saying “we were meant to be together because of the inherent order of the universe as determined by some divine plan,” and “we were meant to be together because of a causal chain of events caused by the interaction of two atoms at the beginning of time,” is categorical. Both statements could even be describing the same thing and be reducible to the same logical components, the difference is rooted in the difference between what Wittgenstein thought could be said and what could only be shown. Now, I think that distinction is useful to show the difference on a more philosophical level, but not necessarily on a functional level.

    That seems to be rather biased in favor of God.

    The difference on the functional level between a religion and a running club is what they’re protected by. One, by freedom of conscience, the other by freedom of expression (and movement I suppose). The relevance of the difference was a social decision made at the time the laws were drafted. Therefore, it is logically prior to the law and is a necessary part of it. I do not think this could be changed unless the social fabric of the country changes (and it is changing so who knows).
    So basically, I agree with you that from a strictly logical point of view there is no relevant difference between religious groups and equally zealous non-religious groups, but the law goes beyond strict logic into the social realm (whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a different debate).

    Well, I would agree that the law recognizes a distinction that is not logically warranted. Naturally, I do recognize the practical importance of appeasing religious groups-just as one appeases any special interest (such as corporations or the rich) in order to gain their support or avoid their wrath. However, these special exemptions tend to lack moral justification (beyond avoiding the harm such groups would inflict if they were not appeased).

    Even if a person could prove that God gave them a divine command, I do not think this would necessarily warrant an exception in the law. The law of a country protects the freedom of belief and worship but not all practices (e.g. killing, theft) and so the relevant difference falls somewhere else (for example harm or respect for autonomy).. The reason there are exceptions for religions is not because a religion is assumed to be true, but because of internal mechanisms of the law (i.e. the right to freedom of religion) where those rights do not clash with other rights such as security (so there would probably be no exception for speeding). This is just one more example of why it does not matter whether or not the metaphysical foundations of a religion are true.

    I’m willing to bet if I could do that, I could get an exemption. Plus a few books deals. :)

    I would expect there are many theological arguments for why God would not do that, but I would suspect that none of them would convince you. There is a fundamental epistemological disconnect between religious believers and non-believers and I have watched it create many pointless, circular debates. The fact is what a believer holds as proof is very different from what a nonbeliever holds as proof and since both sides only criticize the other’s proof from within the confines of their own paradigm, nothing ever gets accomplished. It is for that reason that I think it is important to keep Aristotle’s advice in mind.

    Well, yes-mainly that 1) He does not exist or 2) He never did any of that stuff in the past and hence would not do it today.

    I do agree that believers have a different standard of proof. However, a key question is whether or not said standard is actually correct or at least justifiable. I have met folks who believe in faeries, ghosts, UFOs and whatnot and they believe they have adequate proof. However, they do not get off the hook by claiming a different set of rules of proof. In this case, I am actually using the standard of proof set in the bible (see, for example, Locke’s essay on Enthusiasm). After all, God did (supposedly) send signs of proof in the past (back before cameras, coincidentally). I just expect the same proof that was offered then. That seems fair.

    I disagree that a state should match their laws to God’s will just because God is God and there is much precedence for this even within the context of religious philosophers. For example, Augustine’s City of God argues a stark separation in the roles of Church and State. In Judaism, it is not wrong not to be a Jew. As a result, despite the fact that Judaism believes in a God, in a state like the United States, there is no requirement to make Jewish law, the law of the land (since Jews are only like 2% of the population).
    It is equally the case in secular scholars like Machiavelli, that there is a separate morality for politics for example and because the state is logically prior (in his view) to cultural institutions like organized religion, there is no reason for even a correct religion’s law to be State law. Even if we hold a religion as being true it does not necessitate any change in the law. Again, The key here is that religious freedoms are not granted due to the validity of religions, they are granted due to population and cultural factors. Arguing against the validity of one religion or another has no bearing on the law surrounding it.

    I agree that the state should not make what folks thing is God’s will the law just because they say it is so. But, if God does show up and start laying down the law, how could we oppose His will? Shoot him? Send lawyers?

    If you want to have a theological argument about why God wouldn’t settle such arguments, what you’ll most often run into is people who either say “God has already settled the argument and you’re in denial” or “Why would God debase herself to appease sceptics? The value of worship is in the leap of faith (as Kierkegaard might argue), by making himself apparent, God undermines this totally.” It also depends on what God we’re talking about here. If we’re talking about the traditional Christian God, then I definitely think the above two arguments would be used and I think they would fall into the same cross-paradigm sniping that goes nowhere. For the purposes of the argument here though, it is enough to say that proof of any religion is absolutely unnecessary.

    Those answers fail to satisfy.

    To use an analogy, if I am selling you a used Kindle, then you have the right to see it before buying it. If I just show you a box and say “hey, it is in there, believe it on faith and give me your money”, then you would surely not buy it without looking. If you asked to see it and I said “you debase my awesomeness by asking for proof” or “you must take a leap of faith” you would surely think me a knave or a fool. If you would require proof to spend money on a used Kindle, surely you would want proof to spend your life believing in something. That just seems fair. If you think otherwise, I have a lot of stuff I could sell you…:)

  19. s. wallerstein (amos)

    Mike:

    We have a different concept of what the rights of the minority are.

    I said above on February 21 at 7:33 PM that the Catholic Church cannot discriminate for reasons of gender in non-sacramental functions. In the same way, if the Catholic Church hires a logic teacher, they cannot discriminate against you since you are a qualified logic teacher.

    However, if they want someone to say mass, they can specify a male ordained priest.

    Are they violating your rights when you are not allowed to say mass? I think not, even though they are discriminating against you.

    That is, not every act of discrimination by a majority against a minority is a violation of their rights.

    For example, I am a pedestrian, do not drive and hate cars.

    However, the society I live in discriminates in favor of the car-driving majority and against the
    pedestrian minority. More public money is spent in building and repairing roads than on sidewalks and many traffic intersections are constructed so that senior citizens like myself are forced to trot across the street to avoid certain death in traffic.

    However, although my society (and yours from my experience visiting it) discriminates against the minority of pedestrians, it does not violate any right of theirs.

    Once again, in a democratic society the majority get to decide the priorities of society, as long as they do not violate the rights of or harm the minority, and in your society, the majority of people are religious.

  20. “I would assume that hiring discrimination is also against a person’s will-that is, they do not consent to not being hired because of discrimination.”

    I’m saying there is tacit consent to be subject to discrimination since it is common knowledge that discrimination is what happens when you apply for a job. By saying yes to an interview, every person is implicitly saying “I agree to be judged based on all relevant criteria”. The question then becomes is sex a relevant criteria.

    “As you note, discrimination is only wrongful discrimination when the standards used are not relevant to the job qualifications. In the case of a priest being a man, that seems to be purely a matter of choice rather than a matter of job necessity. For example, only males can be sperm donors-that is because only men generate sperm. However, there do not seem to be any priestly functions that require being a male. After all, women serve ably as ministers and so on. As such, God seems cool with women in such roles.”

    A priest and a minister perform two separate functions. Though they are ostensibly similar, I do not think a minister has the authority to perform a Catholic wedding, or funeral and vice versa. So it is simply false to conclude that because a woman can be a minister in an Anglican church, a woman can therefore be a priest in a Catholic church. To do that is to decide which one is right and that is simply not the place of the law. This argument is of the form A is to B as C is to D therefore A is to B as C is to B. That’s simply logically incorrect. Unless of course you only mean the physical motions of a cleric, in which case that is to misunderstand what is going on within the church. If it were simply the physical actions, then a robot would be able to be a priest and a minister and I think both Anglicans and Catholics would disagree with that.

    “Mere tradition does not seem to be adequate. To use the obvious analogy, imagine a church committed to the superiority of the white race. If they believed that only whites can be priests, then they would (by your argument) be able to exclude non-whites. It is not clear how saying “hey, it is our tradition and belief” would make such a practice acceptable. After all, employers cannot say “hey, I’m a loyal member of the KKK so I should be exempt from hiring blacks.”

    By your own admission, physical differences in a person are valid grounds for omission from a job. Though I in no way advocate white supremacy, if it is a white supremacist church, it makes no sense to me that a black person would be priest, after all the physical quality of being white is a relevant part of the job description. Now, if you’re saying the job description is therefore invalid, then you’re simply saying the religion itself is invalid (since it stems directly from the theology of this church), but again it is not the place of the law to rule on which religions are valid or not, therefore the judgement must fall somewhere else (like harm). The only way you can say the rejected candidate is harmed is if they’re unfairly rejected.
    When the job is the execution of a tradition or belief, there is nothing else to appeal to but tradition and belief so it doesn’t make sense to discount that as a valuable source of reasoning. However, this does not extend to racist or sexist people in other jobs. If you simply happen to be racist and you’re working for any company except a racist religion, I don’t see how a person could justify racial exclusion fairly. Therefore racial exclusion becomes unfair and is therefore a source of harm.

    The relevant distinction is that of harm. Harm here means unjust discrimination (ruling out a candidate for reasons other than relevant qualifications) all qualifications for religious jobs are determined by the dogma of that religion (and no other source). If a job is literally “executor of tradition x” then it doesn’t matter if tradition x is true or not, in order to be qualified for the job you must follow what tradition x says.

    “Sure, there is a right way to be a fighter (in the sense of not sucking at it). But this has no impact on the real world in a legal way.”

    All I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to agree with the source of the rules or the fact that the rules correspond with reality to say that they are solely responsible for determining the roles played within the context of those rules.

    “They would, if the reason they did not get the job was because of an irrelevant factor, perhaps their race, gender or religion.”

    Alright, but race and gender can be relevant factors for more than just physical reasons. When the job is one linked to tradition what that tradition dictates is the only source of what is a relevant qualification or not.

    “That seems to be rather biased in favor of God.”

    Do you mean my argument or the supreme court definition? The supreme court definition says take the place of God but it doesn’t have to be God, it could even be the absence of a God. As for my two romantic declarations, I don’t mean to favour one or the other. The first could be completely wrong. I only mean to show that they are different statements.

    “Well, I would agree that the law recognizes a distinction that is not logically warranted. Naturally, I do recognize the practical importance of appeasing religious groups-just as one appeases any special interest (such as corporations or the rich) in order to gain their support or avoid their wrath. However, these special exemptions tend to lack moral justification (beyond avoiding the harm such groups would inflict if they were not appeased).”

    I disagree completely. These groups represent a large part of the voting public. This means they are as entitled to the law protecting them as anyone else. It`s not simply appeasing a special interest, it is protecting the cultures and ways of life of a diverse number of people. Remember these laws also protect religions like Wicca which are hardly powerful, but have as much a right to practice as any other religion.
    You may argue that women are also a majority, but non-catholic women are not qualified because they are not catholic. Catholic women, for the most part, willingly give up their right to be free from discrimination in this context. The right to anything is the right to reject that thing.

    “I’m willing to bet if I could do that, I could get an exemption. Plus a few books deals. :)

    Haha, you’re probably right, but then I would challenge that in court on philosophical grounds.

    “Well, yes-mainly that 1) He does not exist or 2) He never did any of that stuff in the past and hence would not do it today. I do agree that believers have a different standard of proof. However, a key question is whether or not said standard is actually correct or at least justifiable. I have met folks who believe in faeries, ghosts, UFOs and whatnot and they believe they have adequate proof. However, they do not get off the hook by claiming a different set of rules of proof.”

    Yes that is definitely the key question, but the problem is that the “correct” standard of proof is always determined taking for granted some other standard of proof. Such that, Someone is always taking for granted that they’re side is right to begin with. I’m not particularly religious, but I imagine there are reasons (like the end of the age of prophets) why God wouldn’t treat now the same way she treated then. At the very least, I could imagine a religious person arguing that accusing religious belief of being irrational as if it were some kind of defect misses the point. My approach to these sorts of debates is usually to say that it makes no sense to say a language-game is wrong. If it is wrong (i.e. internally inconsistent) it will naturally pass out of use (assuming it is not forced out of use that is, that`s something different).

    “I agree that the state should not make what folks thing is God’s will the law just because they say it is so. But, if God does show up and start laying down the law, how could we oppose His will? Shoot him? Send lawyers?”

    There is a difference between saying “God shows up thus proving God`s existence so what do we do about the law now?” and saying “a forceful God shows up and starts imposing the law.” I was assuming you were talking about the first scenario. What I was trying to argue was that there is precedence for saying God showing up would not necessarily entail the end of the secular State. If God showing up convinced everyone and the secular state was then abolished by the will of the people, that would be something very different. God`s existence does not automatically entail public law be religiously inspired (though practically speaking that would probably happen).

    “Those answers fail to satisfy. To use an analogy, if I am selling you a used Kindle, then you have the right to see it before buying it. If I just show you a box and say “hey, it is in there, believe it on faith and give me your money”, then you would surely not buy it without looking. If you asked to see it and I said “you debase my awesomeness by asking for proof” or “you must take a leap of faith” you would surely think me a knave or a fool. If you would require proof to spend money on a used Kindle, surely you would want proof to spend your life believing in something. That just seems fair. If you think otherwise, I have a lot of stuff I could sell you…:)”

    While I do enjoy your analogy and appreciate your offer, I will have to decline both. There is an act of faith necessarily involved in the act of learning. It comes back to what I was saying earlier about presupposing a standard of proof to prove a standard of proof. That act of faith comes in many forms and is not at all religious in most cases. Usually, it just involves trusting your parents and teachers. You cannot prove 2+2=4 until you understand the most fundamental elements of math (i.e. what is a number). Getting to this point, however, requires that you accept math all the way to that point. You could then argue that once you have reached that point, you can then use it to prove the rest, but all that proves is an internally consistent system.
    At this point, people usually argue that science corresponds to the outside world and is objectively verifiable because anyone (given the right tools and abilities-presupposing what the right tools and abilities are) can do it. However, in order to verify things in science one needs to be able to rationalize things a certain way, which requires certain prior assumptions about meaning and language and so on. It should also be stated that scientific research is subject to the same psychological fallacies (like confirmation bias) that other practices are. These facts combined with the fact that the institution of science and science education is as politicized and subject to capital as any other institution, take science in practice quite far away from the pure epistemic claims it makes. Even if a pure scientific method were correct, I doubt it would be possible within the social, political, economic framework humanity exists in. Far from invalidating science, all this means is that we need to treat it in a pragmatic way.
    When someone purchases a Kindle, maybe they look in the box, but they don’t pick it apart and put it back together. Maybe they even take it apart and put it back together, they have no way of knowing where the parts came from. Let’s say the guy got the parts and made the Kindle in front of the customer, the customer still doesn’t know if the seller has a deal with a mugger down the street in on the whole deal. There is always faith involved at some level and God does not have to have anything to do with it.

  21. While I do have to have “faith” in basic principles of reasoning, that sort of “faith” seems to be better founded than simply having faith in complex metaphysical views. There seems to be an important distinction between accepting the validity of Modus Ponens on the basis of “faith” in proofs/truth tables and having faith in God’s existence.

    Also, my challenge is within the rules of the faithful. I’m not an expert on theology, but the bible has angels routinely interacting with mortals (wrestling in some cases). Also, God sent numerous signs in the old testament, plus Jesus and others performed miracles. As such, it seems reasonable to ask for that same sort of proof today. After all, if God can burn a bush for Moses, or turn a staff into a snake and so on, then He surely can do that today. I’m not asking for much-just have an angel show up at my 10K next week to run against me. Angels seem to like sports, so s/he would probably enjoy it.

    In the case of the Kindle, I would not crack the case to check the parts-but I would expect to test it to see if it worked and did what it was supposed to. Also, if I was buying something for a vastly higher price (like a house) I would want a thorough inspection. In the case of buying a religion, it seems fair to expect evidence adequate to the price one is supposed to pay (belief and behavior).

    I actually, as the saying goes, want to believe. I would love to live in a world governed by a divine being who is all good, all powerful and all knowing. I would love to know that the righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished (and given a shot at redemption). In games, I always play a hero-usually a paladin, Jedi Knight or other good character with a supernatural or religious connection. After all, I want to fight for the side of good and fight the powers of evil…smiting them with righteous fury and offering them the mercy of redemption from their wickedness. However, this world does not seem to have the supernatural elements that are claimed of it by the religious folk. Perhaps the magic died in the industrial age, but I have seen no signs of it-and I have looked and, as I have said, I do want to believe. If you have such signs, please share them with me. I really do want to believe.

  22. I respect both your wanting to believe and (almost more so) the fact that it is a reference to the X-Files. I’m not trying to equate religious faith with the basic intellectual faith that is a staple of any viewpoint, but very often there are people who think their viewpoints are entirely void of faith and involve strictly “knowing”, this does not seem to be your view and I am happy about this. I will do some research into theological explanations offered as to why biblical events are no longer present, because though I’ve never researched the question, I doubt any church would let that go unexplained.
    Getting back to the main argument, there are other religions without biblical events or any claim to empirical proof in the mundane sense, which are also covered by the ministerial exception. It is important to keep in mind that my initial objection was to your using the lack of empirical proof as a reason to justify why religions shouldn’t get this (and other) exemptions. Even if my claim that an empirical standard is the wrong one for religion is wrong in the case of certain religions, I still maintain it is right in the case of religion per se because there are religions with no claim to empirical proof and even if a religion was proven empirically false, that would not affect the reasoning behind the choice to grant the religion rights. If a religion being true had anything to do with the religious institution’s entitlements than it would be impossible to give the same entitlements to religions which in some cases claim contradictory things. However, such opposing religions are granted equal rights. Therefore, it is an invalid criticism of religious legal exemptions to attack the validity of the religion.

  23. Martin Ciupa wrote “Or that Judaism and Islamic religions should be banned from conducting circumcision? I think that would be a group of people asserting their beliefs onto others, in a way that was unreasonable/intolerable.”

    Is it fair on children who have not subscribed to any religion that they have physical mutilation performed on them by their adherent parents? isn’t that imposition of one belief onto others? In those states where female of all ages have rights not much different to minors (ie essentially none), are they not similarly imposed upon by what is essentially a religion of male adherents with captive females?

  24. @Mike,

    My point on circumcision (of males) that I explain further in my post on the February 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm is that it is also done by people of no particular religion for hygiene reasons, and is considered not harmful, and indeed possibly beneficial. Thus I have no objections for this to do for a sacramental reason in this case.

    However, I am absolutely not in favor of generic mutilation of children for sacramental purposes (e.g., ritual scaring), or female circumcision in particular, it seems to me the “balance of rights argument” that I am making can not be applied.

    As I said …

    IMO, as a principle of balance, we should not be asked by any religion to conduct any intolerant act that we would not be willing to be also tolerated on ourselves – per the ethic of reciprocity/golden rule/categorical imperative (that is quite universal in mainstream world religions).

    Thus, IMO, some aspects of world religions need reform.

    See… http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/focus_magazine/news/story/2008/01/080118_scarification.shtml

  25. Typo: to be done

  26. Benjamin,

    I’m willing to accept non-empirical proof, just as I do in the case of logic and mathematics. So, if a religion can produce such proofs for their claims, I will accept them to the degree that the evidence warrants.

    If, however, the evidence is that Cthulhu or Zeus has sent them a dream vision that only the faithful can experience, then without evidence that such a vision occurred and was caused by Cthulhu or Zeus, then I would be reasonable in my lack of acceptance.

    In the case of exemptions, my view remains that they need to provide a relevant difference justifying the exemption. If my company is hiring and I say we can only hire men, then I need to prove that in a legitimate way. Saying that I am a devout sexist, that I come from long line of sexists, that a god told me to be sexist, or that my church is sexist does not seem to be adequate. I suppose it essentially comes down to my view that without proof of doctrines, all religions have to go on are fallacious appeals to tradition, common practice or belief. None of those have any merit as justifications.

  27. Attacking the metaphysical legitimacy of a(ny) religion does in no way challenge the rights religions have. The religions were not given these rights based on the validity of their beliefs, their rights do not hinge on their soundness as philosophical beliefs. The right to religious practice is ingrained in social, historical, political, and philosophical reasons. At no point does Mill or Washington ever say all religions are metaphysically sound. So you’re attacking a reason which was never used to justify the right in the first place.

    I don’t know if there is any clearer example than saying everyone has the right to play a certain game. The rules don’t need to be true, the right was given because people enjoy playing this game and the game needed to be protected from outside interference.
    Now, in order to play this game you have to be 5′ 10 or taller. This is discriminating against shorter people. The relevant difference you’re asking for would seem to demand some metaphysical reason outside of the game for the height of player (anything else would just be fallacious appeals to tradition), but that makes no sense. What is required in order to play a certain position in the game is determined by rules which are entirely contained and determined within the game. All that’s necessary is that the relevant officials within the game make a ruling. For the rules of the game, there are no higher authorities then those guys.
    Just as it makes no sense for the law to expect the outside rules to apply within the game, the law should not expect the rules of the game to apply to the outside world. That’s why your comparison of a sexist, working at Company A, claiming he only hires men is not enough to justify an exception. Non-religious jobs (jobs outside the game) are subject to outside rules and so a principle of difference based on outside rules needs to be provided.

    To sum up, if you’re attacking the right to religion itself, then it is not satisfactory to challenge the truth of religions since that was never part of the justification for the right in the first place. If you accept the right to religious practice, then you have to respect that for jobs which only exist within the context of those religions (and no others, i.e. religions should not get to rule on the sex of their janitors) what is a relevant difference can only be determined by the traditions/theology of the religion because there is no other relevant source of information.

  28. The entire point of naming and enforcing rights such as these is to protect our society from being a mob-rule democracy.
    From what I can tell, the entire argument in this article turns on the simple fact that ‘now we all know gender discrimination is wrong’. Well, no we all don’t. Apparently the Catholics either don’t think they are discriminating or don’t think they are doing it in an immoral way. More broadly, perhaps the majority of the earth’s population still believes (or at least lives as though) there are clearly defined roles for men and women that are morally wrong to violate.
    You can’t start dictating the Church’s hiring practices purely on the grounds that the public opinion has swung far enough in a certain direction, and that seems to be what this article is saying. A hundred years ago, when most people supported gender discrimination, your article would simply be responded to with “Why the heck should the Church have to ordain female priests just because you, a non-Catholic, thinks it’s immoral of them not to?” A hundred years later, that’s STILL the appropriate response, but since most people who will read this article agree with you about gender issues, the argument seems stronger because the person to make that counter argument is much less likely to appear.
    It wasn’t so long ago that the United States enacted prohibition. When they did, they made an exception for the Catholic Church’s rituals that required wine. I *suspect* that most people reading this will think the Government was right to do so. But what’s the difference, other than most of us are against Prohibition and in favor of gender equality?

  29. Also, what you guys seem to be forgetting is ordination. Require the Catholic Church to not gender discriminate when hiring priests all you want- there still won’t be any female priests for them to hire, because they don’t ordain them, which is a religious ritual. Without that, no woman is qualified for the job, and the Church won’t give women that ordination. So what you’d need to do is force the Church to ordain female priests- in other words, the State would be dictating the nature of a religious ritual, which is an even greater violation of religious freedoms than advocated in the article on it’s face.

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