I recently received this comment on my blog. (The comment was on this post):
Are you tolerant of church sponsored organizations that do not want to be forced to pay for their employee’s abortions?
Are you tolerant of Christian business owners (photographers for example) who do not want to attend the union of a man and a man? (Afterall, there are many folks who take wedding photos. If you are having a wedding, wouldn’t you want a photographer who WANTS to be at your wedding? Trying to put such a photographer out of business (through legal action) seems spiteful.)
Thanks for the question. I’m always happy to discuss any of my views, especially with those who disagree. Hopefully we can learn something from our exchange of ideas and view points.
I am sympathetic to the notion that a person shouldn’t be forced to do something they believe is morally wrong or makes them feel uncomfortable. However I do think making discrimination legal is ultimately wrong.
I’ll try to give you some reasons why this is so.
First, regarding your specific examples. Most people are going to want someone taking their wedding photos who wants to be there. So, I don’t think that is a huge deal in that it is a somewhat unusual scenario. I think in this case the best approach would be to respectfully explain that you would prefer not work as a photographer at a same sex marriage based on your religious views. However, I think if they chose you as their photographer it would be wrong to refuse to take the client for discriminatory reasons.
In regards to the abortion issue, regardless of the morality of abortion, we all pay for abortions and wars and other things that one might be inclined to think are immoral. We all pay taxes of various sorts and are all part of a society in which those things happen. So, I think the thing to do, if you disagree about some particular policy issue, is work to change the law. I don’t think not providing insurance is the right solution. Ultimately the thing to consider is when you have an employee and you give them money you support what they do in a very real sense. Or when you shop at a store you are part of an entire supply chain of farmers, packers, shippers, retailers, etc. What are we to do about this? I think selectively picking out abortion in this instance is more political posturing than a substantive philosophical or moral position. I don’t see a relevant difference between giving someone money and them spending it on something immoral and giving them health insurance and their using it for something immoral, assuming abortion is in fact immoral. And outside of total isolation, which is probably impossible, I don’t see anyway around this.
Beyond those somewhat general comments the issue is a bit difficult to address in that a proper answer requires a complete explanation of ethical theory. That being said I’ll try to give a summary of the main points that are relevant.
One important ethical belief that many liberals, and philosophers, hold is that discrimination is morally wrong i.e. you ought not to discriminate.
Of course to evaluate that belief we need to know what we mean when we talk about right and wrong and what it means to say something is morally wrong. I consider myself a Kantian when it comes to ethics and Kant’s system of ethics is basically a formalization and systematization of the familiar notion that you ought to treat others the way you would want to be treated, which is of course the golden rule. And, if you believe in the golden rule, which presumably you do as you are a Christian, then there is a good reason to not discriminate.
Essentially you ought not to discriminate because you would not want to be discriminated against. It really is that simple. Kant’s proof of this claim is a little more complex but we can probably both agree that we ought to abide by the golden rule so no need to prove it here.