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The Perils of Workplace Purges

Two organizations stumbled into controversy this week over employment and gay marriage. World Vision [1], a Christian organization that provides humanitarian aid, announced it would hire staff in gay marriages [2] (previously, this was a violation of the employee code of conduct) and then, two days later, reversed the decision [3]. Meanwhile, at Mozilla [4], the open source technology company best known for the Firefox web browser, the promotion of co-founder and CTO Brendan Eich to CEO [5] drew criticism, since Eich had made a $1000 donation in support of Proposition 8 in 2008 [6].

Evangelical leader Franklin Graham [7] and Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood [8] immediately called for boycotts of World Vision after its initial announcement. Mozilla faced calls for boycotts as well, as a team of gay web developers pulled their applications from Mozilla [9] and called for others to follow suit “until Brendan Eich is completely removed from any day-to-day activities at Mozilla.” Eich posted a reply to criticisms on his blog [10] that made no reference to the donation or his personal beliefs but expressed his “sorrow at having caused pain” and commitment to inclusiveness.

These boycotts are intended to get a company to exclude some people from the workforce, not to change the products a company makes or what they do with their money. Consumers have the right to stop donating or buying for any reason they choose, but Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry doubts [11] that the people lashing out against World Vision have thought out the consequences of their position:

Imagine every business is a “Christian” business (and that’s the end goal, isn’t it?) and has this policy. So when you’re in a committed same-sex relationship, the outcome is that you…don’t…work? Anywhere? Never mind the cruelty, how is this supposed to get anyone to repent of anything?

Gobry is reluctant to use employment for ideological coercion, since, as a Catholic, he’s more interested in converting the enemy than suppressing them. If the gay rights movement wants to change Brendan Eich’s mind, it’s to their advantage to keep him enmeshed in mainstream culture; after all, gay friends and acquaintances are one of the strongest predictors of support for same-sex marriage [12].

Balkanized businesses, which only hire employees or leaders that are politically palatable to their donors and customers aren’t economically or socially efficient. Instead of creating weak-tie relationships across ideological divides, they segregate people who disagree, fostering a fear of contamination by association. This exclusionary approach raises the stakes of political conflict dangerously high. When the losing side of a debate is blacklisted, all disputes become wars of annihilation. Tweet: [13]

When Eich donated to Proposition 8, his state was split on the issue; the measure passed by a 4.5 percent margin. If, less than a decade later, the losers of that fight are unemployable, the next group on the losing side of a historical shift has every reason to fight dirtier, while time is still on their side.

Or, for people who plan to stay in the public eye, political activism could start to seem like a risky bet. Ars Technica‘s coverage of Eich [14] suggests he went out on a limb when “he made the choice to spend money toward a political aim” and shouldn’t be surprised to find that his actions have consequences.

But neither side benefits from policing orthodoxy as tightly as these boycotts would do. World Vision made its policy shift in the service of this kind of neutrality; since some of the churches it worked with and the states it operated in recognize gay marriage, World Vision would respect, but not praise, their policies. That turned out to be unacceptable to its donors, who saw anything less than exclusion as tacit endorsement.

A healthy body politic requires that there be room to be wrong and still belong to normal society and commerce. A society that won’t live together can’t learn from each other.

Follow @leahlibresco [15]

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#1 Comment By JohnE_o On March 27, 2014 @ 8:25 am

Leah, do you agree with the claim being made at Patheos that “All Catholics are Obliged to Oppose the Legal Recognition of Homosexual Unions”?

[16]

#2 Comment By Joseph Dooley On March 27, 2014 @ 9:40 am

Gobry:

Imagine every business is a “Christian” business (and that’s the end goal, isn’t it?) and has this policy. So when you’re in a committed same-sex relationship, the outcome is that you…don’t…work?

No, you end your rebellion and come to the Lord for forgiveness.

#3 Comment By Lukas On March 27, 2014 @ 10:32 am

I find the politicizing of sexuality and gender and race and religion and ethnicity repulsive.

You may have a code of dress and conduct and hygiene…but thats thats more for creating a productive, professional and respectful workplace where numerous people can work together.

There is only 2 reasons to deny someone employment:

-a conflict of interest involving criminality. Obviously no one would want a pedophile or an abusive personality to be in teaching or childcare.

-while politically incorrect, transgendered people who are confused about their gender should not be exposed to children who lack an understanding of gender and sexuality. That is not descrimination. In this case it places a burden of an individuals freedom upon all those who innocently do not yet have the awareness to comprehend such issues.

Other than that, people deserve the right to work and employers should have the right to set code of conduct but not to dismiss an employee because of something that may not be introduced into the workplace.

#4 Comment By Bryan On March 27, 2014 @ 11:24 am

I think part of the problem with World Vision is that despite their claim that they were trying to be neutral or were not necessarily affirming gay marriage in principle, it came off that way because they only made this one exception to their previous policy. Had they decided to open up their hiring policies to something like an “all who wish to assist the poor are welcome” type of approach – meaning it would include gay Christians in legal marriages, singles who weren’t celibate, fundamentalist Mormons in polygamous arrangements and so on, the notion that you simply wanted to join forces with anyone that wished to assist these children might have come across better. Instead it came off as an attempt to “normalize” gay marriage within the evangelical community.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 27, 2014 @ 11:36 am

” . . . but Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry doubts that the people lashing out against World Vision have thought out the consequences of their position:

Imagine every business is a “Christian” business (and that’s the end goal, isn’t it?) and has this policy. So when you’re in a committed same-sex relationship, the outcome is that you…don’t…work? Anywhere? Never mind the cruelty, how is this supposed to get anyone to repent of anything?”

Apparently Mr. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, hasn’t thought out his critique. The reason a christian would oppose the hiring of people whose behavior contradicted that of scripture is not about unemploying them – that is not the goal. You are missing the point.

Conservative, traditional, fundamentalist christians would expect another associated body to conform to a design by God. Like a church of the same understanding – would not hire someone opposed to the life called to by Christ. You would be well advised to actually think out what these people believe.

A lot of traditional believers get involved with World Vision for their Christian principles, if it appears that are abandoning the same — their bock on the question makes sense.

I understand the position, and certainly Churches, of the commitment I am referring would not mind in the least addressing homosexual behavior in the context of conversion. But none of those Churches would condone anything that suggests that the objectionable behavior itself is condoned — there is a difference.

And I would bet they have thought through their position more than you.

#6 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 27, 2014 @ 11:38 am

For the believer of the scriptural variety — it is not about the correct political blend, but the correct blend of thought and Christ.

#7 Comment By Alex On March 27, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

a team of gay web developers pulled their applications from Mozilla and called for others to follow suit

Wait, where did the Rarebit developers call for others to follow suit? At the link you give, the developer is quoted as saying, “this is very, very personal,” and in an interview with the Advocate magazine they said, “We are not calling for a mass boycott. Our situation is unique and personal.”

This isn’t a “team of gay developers” – it’s a startup business run by a same-sex married couple. This business could not have existed without legal recognition of SSM (one of them is not a US citizen – until he got spousal sponsorship to stay in the country, he had to stay at his day job and couldn’t quit to start a small business), so they have uniquely strong feelings about this.

They are not calling for others to follow suit as far as I know.

#8 Comment By Joshua Holmes On March 27, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

I find the politicizing of sexuality and gender and race and religion and ethnicity repulsive.

They’ve always been politicized. The difference is that the marginalized are fighting back and winning.

#9 Comment By Rorschach On March 27, 2014 @ 12:32 pm

I agree with most of that Rod is saying here, but issues like the Hobby Lobby case really complicate matters. If for profit corporations have religious views and can harm their employees because of their views there is no way to prevent ideological battles like this from happening. Take the CEO of Mozilla as an example. The CEO of Hobby Lobby claims his religious rights are being substantially burdened because HL is required to obey the contraception mandate. What if the CEO of Mozilla said that his religious beliefs prevent him recognizing gay marriages and that he doesn’t want insurance to cover gay spouses? The two cases aren’t perfectly analogous because the Green family owns HL, but you can see what I’m getting at. You can’t have it both ways when it comes to stuff like this.

#10 Comment By Hermonta Godwin On March 27, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

“A healthy body politic requires that there be room to be wrong and still belong to normal society and commerce. A society that won’t live together can’t learn from each other.”

The problem here is that there must also be some things that are ruled out of bounds. Ruling homosexuality out of bounds does not imply that there is no room to be wrong on anything and still belong to normal society.

This critique seems to either assume that homosexual acts are morally neutral unlike other actions that should be ruled out of bounds or that we should not have laws that are enforced. Either way, we have a controversial position.

#11 Comment By Christian Schmemann On March 27, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

Balkanization of our body politic is a good description. The first though I had while reading your article was that American is getting into a ideological polarization- a polarization that will eventually leave a significant portion of America that shuns both ideologies out in the cold, could and probably will eventually lead to an ideologically-charged conflagration similar to the 1934-1935 Spanish Civil War.

#12 Pingback By Economic more-or-less-disagreement with TAC § Unqualified Offerings On March 27, 2014 @ 2:31 pm

[…] actually sympathize with Leah Libresco’s point in this post.  I’ll leave aside the case of World Vision, because they are an explicitly religious […]

#13 Comment By David Naas On March 27, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

We have been here before — Guelphs and Ghibellines, anyone?
(And, did they really, when in power, drag the children of the other side on hooks through he town to be thrown into the river?)
Let’s be honest. It didn’t start on the Left. It was promoted shamelessly by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. And now all of us are paying the price for encouraging bloviators.
O tempora, O mores.

#14 Comment By PMMDJ On March 27, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

So if Hobby Lobby wants to prevent its employees from having birth control, that’s their right, thanks to the religious freedom of corporate personhood. But if people want to call them out for that position, it’s balkanization and ideological coercion. Got it.

#15 Comment By JonF On March 27, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

Re: The problem here is that there must also be some things that are ruled out of bounds.

Of course– but those things should be things where there is some sort of general agreement within society (pedophilia comes to mind). Businesses should strive to stay studiously neutral on issues of contention, insofar as their bottom line is not affected.

#16 Comment By Luke On March 27, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

“Imagine every business is a “Christian” business (and that’s the end goal, isn’t it?) and has this policy. So when you’re in a committed same-sex relationship, the outcome is that you…don’t…work? Anywhere? Never mind the cruelty, how is this supposed to get anyone to repent of anything?”

New concept: how about homosexuals come to Christ, and abandon (completely, permanently, and contritely) their old ways? That would mean NO more homosex, ever. If they don’t wish to marry a person of the opposite sex (the only person with whom a Christian, or anyone, should have sex), then they remain celibate until they do. Not complex.

#17 Comment By jaded On March 27, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

So if I’m a Satanist, do I have that same religious freedom? If I’m a practicer of Santeria so I have that same freedom? They can’t have it both ways. The goal they and the Dominionists appear to have is to eventually have Christians rule the world and to invalidate every other religions. If a Jewish or Muslim person wanted religious freedom, somehow I don’t see it happening.

#18 Comment By Sandra On March 27, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

We can only hope that the zealots going after women with a vengeance also become pariahs–because right now it’s doctors and low-income women. And that should disturb every thinking person who believes in equality.

#19 Comment By Chris Atwood On March 27, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

Equating World Vision and Mozilla is like equating Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby. One is an ordinary corporation with no religious or social identity. The other is a Christian ministry. And the clarity of this fact is evidenced by the fact that everyone reading this comment knows which one is which, without me having to say. Enforcing religious employment standards, or exemption from contraception mandates by one is and should never become controversial; the same thing by the other is deeply problematic. The attempt to “balance” criticism of the critics of Eich by criticizing World Vision is a false equivalence and a false balance.

#20 Comment By Rorschach On March 27, 2014 @ 11:40 pm

“, or exemption from contraception mandates by one is and should never become controversial; the same thing by the other is deeply problematic”

Well that’s exactly the problem, isn’t it? Conservatives are claiming that both should be able to have “religious” views that would exempt them from things like the contraception mandate.

#21 Comment By John On March 28, 2014 @ 11:05 am

While contraception and abortion ‘rights’ were discovered hiding in the penumbras of the constitution, the 2nd Amendment right of the people to keep and bear arms is enumerated and obvious. But it doesn’t follow that corporations or 3rd parties are obligated to pay for our guns and ammo.

Pregnancy is not a disease so neither contraception nor abortion can be construed “health care” unless words don’t mean anything and we’re down the rabbit hole (*in which case we can all play “change the definition to suit me” games like changing what “public” and “private” and “state” and “duly elected” means, exactly.)

But while pregnancy is not a disease – and so contraception and abortion can’t be called “health care”, the right of the people to be secure from crime or violence is a health care issue – without security, you may be injured or killed. So using the same logic of the administration, why ought we not mandate the purchases of firearms and ammo for everyone?

#22 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 29, 2014 @ 7:03 am

“We can only hope that the zealots going after women with a vengeance also become pariahs–because right now it’s doctors and low-income women. And that should disturb every thinking person who believes in equality.”

I am going to bite at this apple, even though I know its loaded with trouble.

This is the gentler version of war on women. I have to reject it. The unwillingness to abstain from behaviors which lead to pregnancy (I guess there’s only one) is soley in the hands of a women. She is not being forced to engage in such behavior then she should measuring the consequences of the same. She should in fact control her impulses.

Unwillingness to do so should not be anyone else’s burden but her own. In other words, she should ensure she prevents getting pregnant. The cost of birth control preventing conception ranges from 40 to 0 dollars a month. The supposed ‘pill’ was supposed to be the answer to a women’s freedom, but instead that freedom has become linked to my willingness to pay for her relational exploits.

I am not sure what it is that women want here. Chivalrous behavior by others to pay for her bedtime exploits or independence from the same. The chivalrous behavior comes with strings attached. My tax dollars invite my need to know how and why it is being spent or if you insist that my company pay for it, then I have every right to establish guidelines by which I will do so. You are inviting me into your bedroom. Frankly, I would prefer that you don’t. Pay for your own conception prevention.

I prefer that women actually take responsibility for her choices about her body. If you cannot afford a child. Don’t conceive. If she finds herself so incapable of self control. It is not as if she doesn’t know going in that failing to do so will have consequences for which she will have to bear a heavier burden than the man she is willing to play ball with then she needs supervision. If someone asks me to go on a pleasure cruise and requests that I carry their bags around for most of the trip, I would be well advised to count the costs of just how pleasurable this cruise is going to be.

Women seem to be making war on themselves. One that is quite preventable.

#23 Comment By EliteCommInc. On March 29, 2014 @ 7:05 am

As for low income women, well, one should not be taking trips that can ill afford.

#24 Comment By Daniel On March 29, 2014 @ 9:41 am

I am really, really tired of those who claim that Hobby Lobby is “preventing their employees from having birth control”. It is not as if HL is saying that to be a HL employee, you must not use birth control. Such a claim is false and foolish.

HL is saying that they do not want to subsidize four forms of birth control (not all kinds as is also implied) in the health plan offered to their employees, as these four forms can be reasonably shown to be abortificants. But under the AHCA, we’ve mandated that the subsidized access to these four methods of birth control is so compelling that it trumps the choice of the employer.

Now, some things ARE such compelling needs as to require government intervention and coercing people to pay for it through taxation. I am not so sure that these four methods of birth control are that way, however.

Furthermore, these snarky comments about “corporate personhood” fail to see that the First Amedment protects corporations like the NY Times–or else it protects no one.

#25 Comment By R.C. On March 29, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

Too many topics being covered here.

A quick run-down:

1. Re: Marriage: This word is used in various senses. In Christianity, it means a sacramental union between man and wife which has supernatural power and grace because, building upon nature, Christ made it a “mystery” which represents His life-giving union to the Church. This is not mere symbol in the human sense, where the symbol is less real than the thing symbolized; rather, because the Eternal Word pronounced it, it is more permanent and substantial than the physical universe. In it God comes into the World in a self-donating and life-giving way, holding nothing back. That is the Christian theology of marriage, and it is the privilege of husband and wife to enact the sexual remembrance (“anamnesis”) and re-echoing of the divine love. Since this is, in Christianity, the holiest act apart from the Eucharist/Communion/Lord’s Supper (and in many ways echoes that even-holier sacrament), profaning it is not only sinful but sacrilegious.

2. Re: Homosex, Fornication, Masturbation, and Kinky/Perverse Sexual Usages: These are sinful and sacrilegious in Christianity. Evangelicalism in the post-Christian West has been heavily influenced by — and compromised with — social decay and cultural corruption in this area, and has not taught the sinful and sacrilegious nature of Fornication, Masturbation, Kink, etc. for nearly 100 years now. It is no surprise that Homosex should be included in the list of compromises, but the faithlessness to Christian sexual ethics started much earlier than that.

3. Re: Divorce: According to Jesus Himself, this does not exist in Christianity if the original marriage was valid (i.e. was not consanguinous, was voluntary between two parties competent to choose it, et cetera). According to Jesus, whoever (civilly) divorces his (actual, valid) wife is not (sacramentally) divorced in the eyes of God, and thus commits adultery against his first (real) wife if he remarries and has sexual relations with his second (not-real) wife. Now in 1st century Palestine, a woman whose husband divorced her had little possibility of income. She had to seek another marriage or turn to prostitution, or she would likely starve. For this reason, Jesus states that the man who divorces his wife “makes her into an adulteress”; that is, forces to have sex with a man other than her (still actual, civilly former) husband. Jesus says the only exception to this is if the woman was already an adulteress anyway; in that case, the man divorcing his wife does not “make her” an adulteress because she already was. But in either case, remarriage remains sinful. That is the ancient and continuous Christian teaching on marriage, period…until modern Evangelicals, in compromising with the sexual immorality of modern society, gave it up.

4. Homosexuality: Christianity is a pro-science faith because it believes God created the universe and its order and logic are reflective of the character of The Artist And Architect. Thus, naturally, Christianity accepts that, just as a certain percentage of persons have a biochemical physical disordered appetite for eating non-foods (pica), and a very large percentage have a disordered appetite for sexual congress with persons not their spouse (attraction to fornication or adultery) or to self-stimulate to orgasm (masturbation), likewise, as much as a third of all persons have varying degrees of attraction to mutual masturbation with a same-gendered partner (homosex).

The attraction to fornication or masturbation is not a sin; but fornication and masturbation are: And a vast number of American Christian youth, if they die early, probably go to hell because they did not “agree with God” about the wrongness of these sins while they had the opportunity. Death reveals what it is that we have chosen in preference to God’s love, for when the physical world melts away and nothing stands between us and that love, all unrepented sin is the sin of idolatry.

Likewise, failure to repent of the sin and sacrilege of preferring homosex over God’s notions of sexual morality is idolatry; death brings about an awareness of what a person has chosen in preference to God.

5. Sexual Sins versus Other Sins: Sexual sin is, in one sense, one of the least-culpable kinds of sin in the Christian lexicon. Spiritual pride is far worse, far more diabolical. For every gay man who, instead of attempting repentance and lifestyle conversion, embraces his preferred sin over God’s commands, there are a hundred cold self-righteous prigs who believe that because their sins — looking down on their neighbor, feeling smug about themselves — are NOT homosexual, they need not repent it. The prig’s sin is sufficient to send him to hell apart from God’s grace…but whereas the slightest attempt by the gay man to purify his lifestyle is an occasion for God’s grace to pour in, the spiritual pride of the prig is a wall keeping grace out. The gay man, in this example, is closer to the kingdom of God.

6. Setting an example: Christ plainly says about one’s public stance towards sinfulness, that while it must be gracious and forgiving towards the sinner, it MUST NOT include “teaching these little ones to sin.” Of the man who does so, Christ says he’d be better off thrown into the sea with a millstone tied ’round his neck.

As a consequence, while the Christian must drip with love towards human beings in his public life, he must doe so in a fashion which leaves no vagueness about the sinfulness of premarital sex, homosex, masturbation, adultery, kink, and the like.

In our “don’t bore me with the details, give me your attitude in 140 characters or less” world, this is very difficult.

The person who says, “masturbation is sinful” is immediately called anti-sexuality and prudish and whatnot — even if he has eight children and his wife has a happy glow about her. After all, 140 characters is too little to explain that sex is TOO GOOD and TOO HOLY to use in that fashion, just as a Ferrari is not suitable for offroading and the Mona Lisa is not suitable for paintball target practice.

Likewise, the person who states — inbetween volunteering with AIDS patients — that homosex is a sin is called a hater. His own actions show this is a false accusation, but because most Christians (and all non-Christians) are pretty ignorant of Christianity, it will take far too long to explain what Christian marriage is, how sex consummates it, and how God designed the universe with that glorious marital “liturgy” in mind from the beginning.

The orthodox Christian is the most pro-sex person on the face of the earth, even (perhaps especially) while he lives chastely when unmarried. To him, two men having mutually masturbating and calling it “marriage” is like having a faux Holy Communion with the elements replaced by cardboard wafers and motor oil in the cup, and calling it “The Lord’s Supper.”

At any rate, a Christian organization — like World Vision — must reflect this orthodoxy. It must care for people, which means embracing unchaste teenagers and unfaithful spouses and porn addicts and gay men and women. But it must kindly, carefully, but unambiguously, point out that these things have bad consequences both now and in the hereafter. It would be less-than-loving if it did otherwise. And, according to Jesus, if it condones any of these sins, it would be better for its members to have millstones around their necks…you know the rest.

#26 Comment By Marc R On April 4, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

Leah, we went to high school together, and I’m surprised that you’re attempting to construct this argument so broadly, especially with so many false equivalencies, something you yourself would have torn me a new one for back when we were teenagers. Where did your dedication to proper logic and rhetoric go? Did you give that up since leaving Wheatley?

#27 Pingback By Sympathy for the Vanquished | Token Dissonance On April 9, 2014 @ 5:15 am

[…] In reflecting on the late unpleasantness, my friend (and fellow LGBT writer) Leah Libresco makes an astutely concurring observation: […]

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[…] betrayal than an immediate template for society-wide action, though. As Leah pointed out in her initial treatment of the controversy, gay marriage in-group policing is practiced by both sides of the issue, as […]