Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2-4-09: Firing Gays and Lesbians (and using my taxes)

On the radio this morning, I heard a story of a woman who was fired six months into her job with a church group because the group saw a picture of her with her partner. Up to that point, they had let her interact with their children and had no idea she was gay.

The story went on to explain how a bunch of religious (or "faith based") groups are all up in arms about how they should be allowed to fire gays and lesbians despite receiving federal funding. President Obama is likely to change the rules that President Bush set forth, which allowed religious organizations who receive federal money to discriminate based on religion and sexual orientation. Obama had said in his campaign that he didn't like seeing that happen.

My take on this is simple: it's fine that your group doesn't like gays and lesbians. No law outright says you have to like gays and lesbians and include them in what you do all the time. BUT… when you receive taxpayer money, and since gays and lesbians also pay taxes, you're out of luck. It's that simple. Either you don't take federal money, like how the Catholics used to do all the time before all the expensive scandals (and still mostly do), or you play ball and don't discriminate.

One of the arguments being made by these religious groups is that it's a violation of church and state to force them to act a certain way. That is accurate. But so is the act of funding religious organizations with federal money in the first place. If you look at it more closely, how strict are they? If religious groups know gays and lesbians pay taxes (at least, I hope they know that) and they know they're getting money from a federal grant, aren't they partially funded by gays and lesbians? Either way: gays and lesbians are helping your group. You're not completely excluding them, no matter how hard you try.

Religious groups also make the argument that "Well this would be like if they forced PETA to allow butchers to join." That, my friends, is a good example of hyperbole and false logic. Butchers hate animals and likely wouldn't want to join PETA (unless they wanted to take it down, I suppose), whereas a lesbian or gay man may still believe in religious principles. There are also laws protecting civil rights which get thrown in to the mix with the gay / lesbian argument; you're not violating a butcher's civil rights by saying "Hey, you can't join PETA because you completely stand against what we do by choice." Since being homosexual is a natural occurrence (despite whatever religious groups say), it has different protection than just saying "I choose to be a butcher and you have to let me join."

Don't forget: this is for groups that receive federal grant money. Private groups are still private groups.


Tim said...

You are using the terms homosexual and gay/lesbian synonymously where I think many religious groups, at least Catholics consider the terms to be different. One (homosexuality) is a sexual tendancy or orientation. The other Gay/Lesbian is a lifestyle choice. All gays/lesbians are homosexual but not all homosexuals are gay/lesbian. I have known a number of people of both genders who identified and accepted their orientation as homosexual but did not choose to act on it for various reasons (some religious, some not). So my point is, that simply being homosexual is not enough for a group to fire someone. However, choosing a gay or lesbian lifestyle would go against many churches' belief system and I think that choice falls into the same category you mention for the butcher who wants to join PETA.

Pat said...

Sorry for the delayed response.

I'm not sure if I follow your logic, Tim. I just need a couple clarifications:

- From a strictly religious standpoint (ignoring the fact that my entire argument was from a legal standpoint, which you did not refute), how is it more of an issue that some one is publicly versus privately homosexual? I was raised Catholic, and from what I remember, homosexuals are sinners for being homosexuals, not for openly practicing a gay/lesbian lifestyle. I've never heard of a sin being magnified by public exposure. Isn't it a deal between you and God in the end, anyway? I read the Bible, too, Tim. Sins are between you and God, not whether or not your community sees you as something.
- You make the statement that it's ethically (and legally?) acceptable to fire some one for being openly gay and living a flamboyant lifestyle. That, my friend, is not at all true. Firing some one for being gay is illegal, period; case law defends this. My point was that private groups are LEGALLY allowed to exclude those from their ranks, but a group is no longer fundamentally private if they receive public funds. That's it. That's my entire argument. Firing a public servant for being openly gay is illegal. Please give me an example of a public servant being legally fired for being openly gay. It seems to me that it would be a serious violation of one's civil rights to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

I think we both agree that firing some one for being homosexual is wrong, but I don't quite get your connection to how religions distinguish between public versus private homosexuality.

Thanks for the comment.

- Pat

Tim said...

Pat, let me see if I can add some clarification.

First off, homosexuality is not a sin, according to the Catholic Church, despite what some Catholics and non-Catholics say or believe. Here is a pretty succinct paragraph from the Catholic Answers web site that explains the logic (I suggest reading the whole page and checking out the Catechism page):

"Homosexual desires, however, are not in themselves sinful. People are subject to a wide variety of sinful desires over which they have little direct control, but these do not become sinful until a person acts upon them, either by acting out the desire or by encouraging the desire and deliberately engaging in fantasies about acting it out. People tempted by homosexual desires, like people tempted by improper heterosexual desires, are not sinning until they act upon those desires in some manner."

So as in my case, just because I have the tendency to be attracted sexually to women who aren't my wife doesn't make me a sinner. What would make me a sinner in the eyes of the Catholic Church would be hooking up with those women or joining swinger groups and starting a Free Love Club promoting the swinger lifestyle.

So, that said, I agree the law says that you can't fire someone for their sexual orientation (in this case homosexuality). However, I don't see a problem with an organization requiring that their employees hold the same value system when the organization is a values based entity such as a church or a charitable group. And in the case of some church groups this would come into play with individuals choosing a gay/lesbian lifestyle which is in conflict with the belief system of their organization. The Catholic Church believes that homosexual acts are sinful. Gays/lesbians do not believe homosexual acts are sinful and promote them. Basic conflict of values.

That said, I think the big issue is that the government wants to have their cake and eat it too. Catholic Charities is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, social services networks in the U.S. that gets 60% of it's money from the government. If they pass these kinds of laws Catholic Charities would most likely be forced to stop taking government money or if it took it would probably see a decline in the 40% coming from elsewhere due to its not actually being a truly "Catholic" entity. Either way the government loses because this entity can no longer do a lot of the social work it has been doing so the government will have to pick up the slack and they usually aren't that good at it (one word - Katrina) and it will probably cost a whole lot more which means raising taxes and making their constituents mad.

Personally, I think Catholic Charities and other church charities should refuse the government money and let the chips fall where they may. That probably isn't a very Christian attitude but I kind of get sick and tired of people bashing my church when it provides so much with very little fanfare and even less recognition. And if it has to refuse money to stay true to its values then so be it.

Anyway, really my main concern with my first comment was to try to clarify the difference between "homosexuality" and "gay/lesbian lifestyle". One is a sexual orientation, the basis of which is unknown and not considered a choice. The other is a choice on how to live out that sexual orientation. The orientation is not a sin, the choice to act on that orientation is.

Pat said...

That's a lot of data, Tim, and I appreciate the effort.

But when I read the paragraph when you mentioned that being attracted to other women besides your wife isn't wrong, the first thing that popped into my head was "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife," the Tenth Commandment.

That's from The Holy Bible, Tim. The act of "wrongful desire" (a.k.a. coveting) is in itself considered a sin. No acting out is required. As much as I appreciate Catholic websites, we do still read from the Holy Bible in Mass.

However, I do agree that religious groups shouldn't be taking Federal grants. My point was simply that if they do, they should not discriminate.

And just to be clear: I'm not bashing anything the Catholic Church does. It's done the world more good than any other organization I know of, and I'm proud to call myself a Catholic. My argument is purely of a legal nature.

Tim said...

Just so I don't get in trouble with my wife I've got to say I think there is a big difference between "being attracted" and "coveting". For me, I'll notice women and whether they have a pretty face or beautiful hair or are just overall good looking. I rarely notice anything about guys. That's how I know I'm attracted to women or that I'm a heterosexual. "Coveting", which I agree is a sin (one of the Top Ten as you mention) would occur if I were to start thinking impure thoughts like, 'oh, yeah, I'd tap that', etc. which falls into that area of "encouraging the desire and deliberately engaging in fantasies about acting it out".

Anyway, just wanted to be clear about that.

Pat said...

I'm not going to argue over semantics; whether you think you covet or not is irrelevant. My point was simply that coveting is a sin, and it involves impure thoughts without any action required. Therefore, your argument that sins require action is refuted. I think that was the root of your "homosexual vs. gay lifestyle" argument. So, why is it that you believe homosexual thoughts on their own are not a sin, yet coveting another man's wife or goods is?