Some members of the American Philosophical Association (APA) are circulating a petition that aims to censure orthodox Christian colleges and universities.  The authors of the petition are requesting that the APA not allow these institutions to advertise open positions in their publication Jobs for Philosophers. The crux of the issue?  The non-permissive stance of these schools regarding homosexual behavior.  You can read the petition here:

The implications of this petition are severe, not only for Christian colleges but for orthodox Jewish and Muslim schools as well.  The petition amounts to a frontal attack on the religious liberty of private educational institutions. In response, some Christian philosophers have drawn up a counter-petition, which you can read here:  I have already signed this petition and encourage you to consider doing so as well.

Mark Murphy of Georgetown University has drafted a very insightful response to this controversy, which you can see here: Murphy makes several illuminating observations, many regarding the history of the APA nondiscrimination provisions and other points pertaining to the faulty logic of the petition to change the APA’s advertising policy.  Here I will summarize and embellish some of Murphy’s points:

First, the accused Christian colleges do not single out homosexual activity as unacceptable.  Rather, such colleges prohibit all extramarital sexual practice, which also includes adultery, premarital sex, polygamy, pedophilic sex, and bestiality.  The expectation at these Christian colleges is that their employees and students will refrain from all sexual activity that is outside the bounds of Christian marriage.  While some homosexuals might consider the expectation to refrain from extramarital sexual activity to be a burden, it is not a special burden placed on them, since heterosexuals are also expected to refrain from extramarital sex.

Second, note that this is a behavioral prohibition which is consistent with nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (per the language of the APA nondiscrimination policy).  To be sexually oriented in a certain way, whether heterosexually or homosexually, is to be physically attracted to members of a particular gender.  But to act or not to act on these desires is a matter of choice, just as it is a matter of choice as to whether to have sex at all.  To insist that persons, whether homosexual or heterosexual, are not free to choose whether or with whom to have sex, assumes a form of hard determinism—a view which, to say the least, is highly contentious.  (See my January 26 post about this.)

Third, the moral norm of confining sex to marriage between one man and one woman is inherent to the religious commitment of these Christian colleges.  Moreover, this is the long-standing belief and practice of all major theisms—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—and many other religions besides.  So to sanction schools for observing this ideal would be blatant religious discrimination—against, in fact, the religious beliefs of the majority people in the world.

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