Tom Gilson

This is What Not Discriminating Looks Like?

Homosexual activists in the Keystone State are blasting a public school principal simply because he is a Boy Scout leader…. the president of an organization that claims the Scouts practice discrimination by prohibiting homosexuals to be leaders said the school should not support the Scouts and should never have allowed them inside the building in their uniforms.

[From Homosexuals rip Penn. principal for wearing Boy Scout uniform (OneNewsNow.com) ]

The ostensible offense is that “the Scouts practice discrimination.” Is there not discrimination being practiced against the Scouts here, though? This Scout leader appeared on a local TV show featuring good deeds the Scouts had been doing. He was not representing the school, as far as we can tell from the report; when he’s in his Scout uniform, he is just a Scout leader who happens also to be a principal. And he got blasted for it. (It was students, not the principal, who wore their uniforms to school.)

“Discrimination” is typically used in one of two senses. The second, unfortunately, is becoming far more common than the first.

At its core it refers to making suitability judgments on the basis of factors deemed to be relevant to the issue at hand. For example, we discriminate against high school dropouts performing brain surgery. The word “discrimination” in this context always belongs in an extended clause: “wrongful or rightful discrimination on the basis of…” Whether it is right or wrong depends on whether the factors for discrimination are relevant. Character and skills are relevant. Skin color is not–unless you’re talking about hiring actors to play, say, George Washington, or George Washington Carver. Then, racial discrimination is based on relevant factors, and there’s nothing at all wrong with it.

Whether we ever had such a pure conception of how “discrimination” should be used, I do not know. I do know that as our culture was gaining awareness that racial discrimination was (almost always) wrong, we used the word “discrimination” by itself, without the rest of the extended clause, and everybody knew just what it meant. It was a useful abbreviation for the whole, because in that era, racial discrimination was the only kind that got much discussion.

Then the connotations of the word evolved toward the second sense of the term. It was, for a while, a specific label attached to a specific evil. By constant use in that context it became associated generally with evil–even though good and positive uses of the word still existed (as in high school dropouts and brain surgery). It gained an emotional overtone. Racial discrimination was and is truly wrong and evil. “Racial discrimination” was shorted to just “discrimination.” And then, “discrimination” by itself picked up the sense of being truly wrong and evil.

Concurrently and also following this evolution, “discrimination” became a word to be claimed especially by minority groups or groups who could claim they had been oppressed in some way similar to African-Americans. Often, in the early years of this process, these groups too were being wrongly discriminated against on the basis of irrelevant factors.

But then some minority groups–and I’m thinking especially of homosexual activists now–realized what they had available to them. Here was a word that evoked universally negative emotions, which the public was used to applying to minority groups. They could claim it for themselves, point to examples where they were being oppressed, and use it against anyone who stood against them.

But the Boy Scouts are a minority group, with considerably less political clout these days than the homosexual activists have. Attacks like this one on the Scout leader are surely a form of oppression. If “discrimination” just means separating out minority groups for oppressive treatment, then the homosexual activists are discriminating against the Scouts!

Actually, discrimination runs both directions: the Boy Scouts actually do discriminate against homosexuals in leadership. Homosexual activists actually and do discriminate against the Scouts. The word by itself tells us nothing about whether one group is right or the other is wrong. But somehow its emotional weight seems to land heavy on the Scouts when thrown their way. It’s because we react to the emotional tone of the word, instead of recalling what it really means.

Discrimination is wrong when it is based on irrelevant factors. The Scouts can make a case that for their character-building goals, sexual practice is relevant. I hope they also discriminate against openly promiscuous heterosexuals, too, though I don’t know how often this happens. There might be room for some argument there.

There is no room, though, for argument on this: homosexual activists cannot claim they are innocent of discrimination while the Scouts are guilty. Not unless they fill out the rest of the clause to show whether they’re discriminating based on relevant factors.

Related: Hijacking the Civil Rights Legacy

External: “Boy Scouts Must Endure, Says TX Governor

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21 thoughts on “This is What Not Discriminating Looks Like?

  1. The word ‘discrimination’ also comes up when discussing the definition of marriage. From a purely secular/economic viewpoint the government should encourage heterosexual (traditional) marriage because a stable, growing economy depends on an ever-increasing population within a traditional family. All studies show this.

    The government would be comitting economic suicide by making it equally attractive for people to ‘hook up’ in other ways. People can do that (and they do), but don’t expect the government to cheer you on.

  2. I think we lost the fight to prevent homosexual distortions of marriage when we allowed heterosexual marriage to become so devalued and temporary.

    Perhaps this is the result of centuries of wrongly oppressing African Americans. Now every minority group will use the emotions from African American’s genuine plight to extract a pound of flesh from convenient victims.

    I suppose the Boy Scouts are a convenient target for the powerful homosexual activists.

    I wonder if the Girl Scouts have something to fear next?

  3. SteveK:
    Your rationale for the government encouraging heterosexual marriage but denying the same right to homosexuals is illogical. Your statement that legalization of homosexual unions would “make it equally attractive for people to ‘hook up’ in other ways” seems to imply that, in your line of thinking, if denied the right to marry, homosexual individuals would instead choose to become straight, marry a person of the opposite gender and have children. This makes very little sense.

  4. BenC, I have to say I didn’t understand your response to SteveK. Would you clarify, please?

    I read and re-read Steve’s comment trying to see if I missed something. I had a hard to seeing the implication as you’ve laid out. Rather, the moral of his comment seems to be rooted in a warning to society as a whole to be cautious in what it “celebrates.”

  5. I have re-read SteveK’s comment and I see now that I overlooked a crucial part of his comment where he wrote:

    [T]he government should encourage heterosexual (traditional) marriage because a stable, growing economy depends on an ever-increasing population within a traditional family. All studies show this. [Emphasis Added]

    So I retract and apologize for my earlier comment. However, I would like to question SteveK’s assertion that all studies show that a “stable, growing economy depends on an ever-increasing population within a traditional family.” Which studies are these? What is considered a traditional family? Skyrocketing divorce rates in western countries have seemed to have little to no noticeable effect on those nations’ economies.

  6. Also, SteveK, shouldn’t we prohibit infertile heterosexual couples from marrying, if the traditional family is so important, as well as heteros who don’t intend to have children? If the traditional family were actually the end goal of a rational policy, as opposed to a policy based merely on tradition, then contradictions like that wouldn’t occur.

  7. The problem isn’t with discrimination per se, Tom. You can be the most prejudiced, bigoted, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic homophobe you’d like to be, in your private life. The problem occurs when you bring those ways of discriminating into the public sphere, access to which all people are equally entitled. Discrimination based on race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation has no place in a public school. I don’t know whether the principal was acting in his role as a Boy Scout leader only in his private life; however, I do think that as a public servant he must be held to a higher standard, by which I mean that he needs to uphold the standards of public life in his private life more than the rest of us.

  8. Hi OS,
    You can be the most hypocritical, anti-religious, and irrational person you want to be in your private life as well, but you ought to be called into check when you bring that kind of thinking into the public sphere.

    What standard of public life has the scout leader violated? Are you suggesting that no public servant should be allowed to belong to any private groups whose legal membership requirements do not admit the entirety of humanity? Are you saying that none of their members should be allowed in the public sphere, or in public schools? To what (relativistic) standards ought they be held when they are not doing anything illegal? Who gets to decide these standards and based upon what – other than personal preference?

  9. Charlie, my answer to your questions is, I don’t know. I think it’s a complicated issue and deserves a lot of discussion. I certainly don’t have it all figured out.

    Tom, I hope you realized that the “you” in my statement, “You can be…” did not refer to you specifically (or to anyone specifically), but was a general “you.”

  10. Also, SteveK, shouldn’t we prohibit infertile heterosexual couples from marrying, if the traditional family is so important, as well as heteros who don’t intend to have children? If the traditional family were actually the end goal of a rational policy, as opposed to a policy based merely on tradition, then contradictions like that wouldn’t occur.

    This is a totoal non sequitir. For one all-too-obvious thing, how are we to know the couples are infertile before marriage, without violating marriage in the process?

    More than that, though, the parent/children family is one of several aims of marriage. Others include friendship, companionship, unity, pleasure, and even the two-person family of husband and wife.

  11. Hi OS,
    Thanks for your admission about your comment.

    Tom, I hope you realized that the “you” in my statement, “You can be…” did not refer to you specifically (or to anyone specifically), but was a general “you.”

    Likewise.

  12. However, I would like to question SteveK’s assertion that all studies show that a “stable, growing economy depends on an ever-increasing population within a traditional family.” Which studies are these?

    I plead guilty to a bit of hyperbole when I claimed ‘all studies’, and ‘economic suicide’. Never say ‘never’ and always refrain from saying ‘always’. Remember that boys and girls.

    Also, SteveK, shouldn’t we prohibit infertile heterosexual couples from marrying, if the traditional family is so important, as well as heteros who don’t intend to have children?

    Don’t make a false dilemma out of this. It’s not a question of all or nothing. It’s a question of (all other things being equal) which family/social structure should the government encourage/promote most in order to get what it wants – in this case stable, continuous economic growth.

    There are many different family/social structures the government can favor. They can also choose to favor none in particular. I mentioned in another comment that, sometime in the future, we may be asked to vote on the legality of laboratory-produced babies for the sake of continued population growth (and labor force) and the economic growth that comes from that. Is this a better route to take than simply favoring traditional families and the babies that come naturally? I don’t think it’s better at all.

    Perhaps Tom can weigh in on this since this is his area of expertise (I think).

  13. Tom, is it merely a practical matter that there is no practical way that we can find out before marriage whether people are infertile? If that’s the case, then you’d be saying that, if we could wave a magic wand and somehow know with certainty who was infertile, then we *would* prohibit marriage for those people. If it’s not merely a practical matter, then, what is your objection to my point, because all you did was respond about the practical difficulty.

    All those other aims about marriage are not the issue I raise here: I think Steve and you are claiming that procreation is a necessary requirement of marriage, thus the insistence on heterosexual marriage. But if that were the case, then the only inhibition to keeping marriage from infertile couples would be the practical matter of finding out who is infertile. But I suspect you wouldn’t try to keep infertile couples from marrying, so your priniciple falls apart. And if mere love is sufficient for marriage, then homosexual marriage should be OK. Which is it?

    I suspect (forgive me if I do violence to your beliefs in my attempt to cut to the chase) that the principle becomes merely and only “Because God said so.” Not because society will fall apart *otherwise* if homosexuals or the infertile marry, because then we could have fertility tests for marriage (not unimaginable, especially for men) in addition to blood tests. Is that what you propose? But if it comes down to God said so, that makes God un-reason-able.

    SteveK, I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario in which homosexual marriage has some bad economic consequence. Can you lay out a hypothetical scenario for me?

  14. Hi Paul,

    SteveK, I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario in which homosexual marriage has some bad economic consequence. Can you lay out a hypothetical scenario for me?

    Are you really?
    You’ve said that any argument for legally sanctioning homosexual unions would necessarily be applicable to polygamous unions. If polygamous “marriages” are the consequence of homosexual “marriage” are the bad economic consequences still hard to imagine? Have you noticed that in Britain welfare coverage is now to be extended to multiple marriage partners?

    As I asked you over two years ago:

    If the slippery slope led us to legally sanctioning polygamous marriages wouldn’t there also be the problem of spousal benefits? How could a corporation or government be expected to extend medical benefits, for instance, to any number of non-working, legally identified spouses of an employee? How long would society last under such pressures, and wouldn’t this result in the removal, for equality’s sake, of benefits to even the one, legitimate, dependent spouse?
    Just thinking.
    Charlie | 11.15.05 – 1:16 pm | #

    I can’t find your response to this question. Do you have one now?

    While I’m reminiscing, does your argument for SSM address this yet?

    It is a law of nature, a truth, a guide to behaviour.
    When a man and a woman created offspring they pooled their resources and talents in order to survive and to raise those offspring. They functioned as a unit, and were married.
    Society only recognizes that natural co-dependence when it recognizes their marriages.
    This relationship is the very thing that propagated the species and ensured its survival.
    Where in history is the equivalent for SSM?

    Same sex unions are not the same as marriages. They have not the same history, they are not the result of the same biology, they have not been the tool for ensuring the survival of our species, they have not entailed the same interdependency, etc.
    If you can’t demonstrate the equivalence for marriage and same sex unions this is not a question of equality. Our marriage laws only reflect what marriage is, and has been. You have not presented a case or reason to expand it to what it is not and never has been. There is no requirement, by any moral standard, to treat as equal two things which are not.

  15. Charlie, I think that your point about extending benefits to all spouses in a polygamous marriage is an important consideration. I would have no problem, therefore, drawing an arbitrary line past which more spouses would not get benefits *on purely economic grounds.*

    However, I’d also be interested in seeing estimates of exactly how bad the problem might be – some real numbers, that is. If the real numbers are bad, then we can limit things.

    If you’re argument is economic, then I agree, but don’t try to mutate an economic judgment into a moral one.

    Furthermore: SSM couples can adopt children. When a hetero couple adopts a child, doesn’t society give that family all the benefits as if that child’s parents were the husband and wife? So what’s the difference in this case? The only single difference is the sexual orientation. If society were consistent – if we denied family benefits to hetero couples that adopted children – then your argument would be consistent. But I don’t think you’re ready to adopt that position. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  16. Hi Paul,
    You are at the same point in your argument and your knowledge of the subject that you were more than two years ago and you’re still advocating for the same things in the same manner.
    I’ve covered your question about economic impact and that’s what interests me about your comments at this point.
    You couldn’t imagine how money could be an issue and I’ve shown how it is an issue, given your own position.

    I would have no problem, therefore, drawing an arbitrary line past which more spouses would not get benefits *on purely economic grounds.*

    If the real numbers are bad, then we can limit things.

    Why?

  17. Charlie wrote:

    You are at the same point in your argument and your knowledge of the subject that you were more than two years ago and you’re still advocating for the same things in the same manner.

    At least I’m consistent! ; )

    Seriously, I don’t recall the conversation in which you destroyed my position on SSM. Please refresh my memory.

    I’ve covered your question about economic impact

    Sorry, I must have missed that one, too. Where was that? I looked on this thread an couldn’t find it. Then again, to what question of mine you were referring? We might as well make sure we’re talking about the same thing.

    Similarly, I don’t know to what you’re referring when you say you’ve shown how it could be an issue. I can make some guesses, and I could try to see if my guesses were what you were talking about, but I don’t see why we should go around like that–why you leave things vague instead of specifying to what you’re referring.

    Lastly, the reason why “we could limit things” is because our society sometimes limits benefits based on economic considerations, simply because we don’t have the money to do everything we would if the money was there. Health care comes to mind immediately, as a prime example. What’s the point of your “why?” question?

  18. Hi Paul,

    Seriously, I don’t recall the conversation in which you destroyed my position on SSM. Please refresh my memory.

    Destroyed? Well, I made no such claim, but I’ll certainly remind you of our discussions, since I just quoted the relevant part.
    You claim that we ought to allow SSM out of respect for equality and consistency. I showed it’s not a question of equality, and even asked again if your argument can address that issue. Again, you have not addressed that issue.
    You also had no knowledge then about any possible negative impact your support for SSM would have on society. You just didn’t personally feel the results could be that bad, and offered that we ought to just try and then muddle through – against the objections of anyone who didn’t think we ought to. Your economic claims here don’t give me confidence that you’ve done any thinking in the intervening years that would move us beyond this “muddling through” that you previously offered.

    Me: I’ve covered your question about economic impact.
    You: Sorry, I must have missed that one, too. Where was that? I looked on this thread an couldn’t find it. Then again, to what question of mine you were referring? We might as well make sure we’re talking about the same thing.
    Similarly, I don’t know to what you’re referring when you say you’ve shown how it could be an issue. I can make some guesses, and I could try to see if my guesses were what you were talking about, but I don’t see why we should go around like that–why you leave things vague instead of specifying to what you’re referring.

    Hmm. Sorry you missed it. Let me try to remind you.
    Yesterday you said to Steve, and I quoted you immediately prior to my response:

    SteveK, I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario in which homosexual marriage has some bad economic consequence. Can you lay out a hypothetical scenario for me?

    This morning I responded:

    You’ve said that any argument for legally sanctioning homosexual unions would necessarily be applicable to polygamous unions. If polygamous “marriages” are the consequence of homosexual “marriage” are the bad economic consequences still hard to imagine? Have you noticed that in Britain welfare coverage is now to be extended to multiple marriage partners?

    Once more, to connect the dots:
    This is a scenario in which SSM has a negative economic impact.
    You say that your arguments for SSM are equally valid for polygamous marriage. Therefore, by your position, the case for SSM is a case for polygamy. A move toward SSM is a move toward polygamy. You admit that there is a case where polygamous marriage could have some bad economic consequence. Therefore, in that scenario, SSM has a bad economic consequence.

    Lastly, the reason why “we could limit things” is because our society sometimes limits benefits based on economic considerations, simply because we don’t have the money to do everything we would if the money was there. Health care comes to mind immediately, as a prime example. What’s the point of your “why?” question?

    You seem to me to be about halfway between trying to make two different arguments here: neither of which seems very good.
    Are you saying that you have “no problem” denying people (what you claim to be) equality, justice and the consistency of society “because our society sometimes limits” equality, justice and consistency?
    Or have you personally selected economic concerns over (what you claim to be) issues of equality, justice and equality?
    If polygamy, and by extension, SSM, can be so easily subordinated to what you find important why do you find it so intolerable that others will subordinate it to things they find more important – like their concerns over the future state of the nation, morality, God’s commands, etc? Why would you advocate such things as the use of the courts against their expression of what they find to be more important, especially given that neither you nor they can actually be right (according to you)?

  19. Sorry, Charlie, when you wrote

    You are at the same point in your argument and your knowledge of the subject that you were more than two years ago and you’re still advocating for the same things in the same manner.

    I interpreted that to mean that I was repeating the same old arguments that you had refuted more than two years ago. What exactly was your point in writing what I’ve quoted? What was the larger point you were trying to make?

    I showed it’s not a question of equality, and even asked again if your argument can address that issue.

    Once again, I can’t respond to this without you being specific as to when you showed it wasn’t a question of equality. Can’t you quote what you’re referring to?

    Again, you have not addressed that issue.

    I haven’t addressed the issue of equality? Do mean that I don’t think it’s an issue of equality? Of course I do? Can you be more clear?

    Your economic claims here

    Can you quote the economic claim I made? I need to know exactly what I might defend.

    Also, in case you missed it, in this thread I acknowledged that there might be economic cost to pay for SSM (note I have never said how small or large I think that cost might be). What else do you want concerning the economics of SSM?

    You say that your arguments for SSM are equally valid for polygamous marriage. Therefore, by your position, the case for SSM is a case for polygamy. A move toward SSM is a move toward polygamy. You admit that there is a case where polygamous marriage could have some bad economic consequence. Therefore, in that scenario, SSM has a bad economic consequence.

    My equating SSM and polygamy doesn’t mean that every consequence of one befalls the other.

    Are you saying that you have “no problem” denying people (what you claim to be) equality, justice and the consistency of society “because our society sometimes limits” equality, justice and consistency?

    I’ll be happy to respond directly after you respond directly to my previous question (no judgment or rancor here on my part, but I’m setting my boundaries for this discussion):

    Furthermore: SSM couples can adopt children. When a hetero couple adopts a child, doesn’t society give that family all the benefits as if that child’s parents were the husband and wife? So what’s the difference in this case? The only single difference is the sexual orientation. If society were consistent – if we denied family benefits to hetero couples that adopted children – then your argument would be consistent. But I don’t think you’re ready to adopt that position. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  20. Hi Paul,

    I interpreted that to mean that I was repeating the same old arguments that you had refuted more than two years ago. What exactly was your point in writing what I’ve quoted? What was the larger point you were trying to make?

    I made it. You chopped up part of it and ignored the rest, but here it is again:

    You claim that we ought to allow SSM out of respect for equality and consistency. I showed it’s not a question of equality, and even asked again if your argument can address that issue. Again, you have not addressed that issue.
    You also had no knowledge then about any possible negative impact your support for SSM would have on society. You just didn’t personally feel the results could be that bad, and offered that we ought to just try and then muddle through – against the objections of anyone who didn’t think we ought to. Your economic claims here don’t give me confidence that you’ve done any thinking in the intervening years that would move us beyond this “muddling through” that you previously offered.

    ===
    You said:

    Once again, I can’t respond to this without you being specific as to when you showed it wasn’t a question of equality. Can’t you quote what you’re referring to?

    I’m not sure if I can make links work in this new format so I’ll just put the url here: https://www.thinkingchristian.net/?p=1273#comment-1756

    I haven’t addressed the issue of equality? Do mean that I don’t think it’s an issue of equality? Of course I do? Can you be more clear?

    Sure, address the comment. I asked it in my first response to you.

    Can you quote the economic claim I made? I need to know exactly what I might defend.

    Your claim was that you couldn’t imagine a scenario in which there might be a negative economic consequence.

    Also, in case you missed it, in this thread I acknowledged that there might be economic cost to pay for SSM (note I have never said how small or large I think that cost might be). What else do you want concerning the economics of SSM?

    In case I missed it? You missed it.
    You said (to the effect): name an hypothetical situation where SSM could result in a bad economic consequence.
    Charlie: here’s one
    Paul: that’s an interesting point, now, how about adoption, infertility, and all these other issues that I mentioned to other commenters and which you didn’t address?
    Charlie:

    I’ve covered your question about economic impact and that’s what interests me about your comments at this point.
    You couldn’t imagine how money could be an issue and I’ve shown how it is an issue, given your own position.

    Paul:

    Sorry, I must have missed that one, too. Where was that? I looked on this thread an couldn’t find it.

    –why you leave things vague instead of specifying to what you’re referring.

    Charlie: You admitted there could be a cost.
    Paul: In case you missed it, I admitted there might be a cost.

    (and yes, I note that you never said anything about the size of the cost. You have no idea about the cost, financial or otherwise, but want us to muddle through anyway. This muddling, of course, includes you violating your own moral standards and arguments to arbitrarily deny benefits to multiple marriage partners when the counter-issue is sufficiently important to you).
    ===

    My equating SSM and polygamy doesn’t mean that every consequence of one befalls the other.

    That’s got nothing to do with it. You admitted that your arguments for SSM are equally valid for polygamy. Therefore, a valid argument for SSM is a valid argument for polygamy and accepting an argument for SSM is accepting an argument for polygamy. This is irrelevant, of course, because the point was to demonstrate that there could be a cost involved: which, in case you missed it, has been conceded.

    I’ll be happy to respond directly after you respond directly to my previous question (no judgment or rancor here on my part, but I’m setting my boundaries for this discussion):

    Ah, the more things change…
    Once again demanding direct answers to your questions, quid pro quo. You really have no idea how ironic this posture is, do you?
    I already said I’m not interested in your adoption points.
    You can address those with Steve or some other participant who wants to discuss them – I set my boundaries.
    As I said, I was answering your question about economics. That was the question I had referenced so vaguely that you had no idea we had discussed it. This was just hours before you decided to jog my memory and tell me how we had previously discussed it.

    But you haven’t set your limits as you would now like to claim- you’ve decided to talk about equality. As well, you directly asked me for the follow-up which you are now refusing to address.

    Lastly, the reason why “we could limit things” is because our society sometimes limits benefits based on economic considerations, simply because we don’t have the money to do everything we would if the money was there. Health care comes to mind immediately, as a prime example. What’s the point of your “why?” question?

    So, as we are talking about direct answers – what’s your direct answer on the equality issue (as linked)?

  21. Charlie, we can’t even agree on the ground rules by which we have a conversation. Until we can do that, there’s no point trying to have a conversation.

    Paul

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