Stigma, Gay Philosophers, And Christian Colleges

Inside Higher Ed reports this morning that Calvin College, a “distinctively Christian” liberal arts college, has become the first institution to run afoul of a new rule adopted by the American Philosophical Association “requiring any college that violates any part of the association’s anti-bias policy to have job listings with the association flagged.” The rule was adopted last year because of the opposition of many philosophers to “having their association list jobs from institutions that do not hire gay professors.”

One aim of the policy, proponents said, was to then be able to lobby colleges to change their policies. Some philosophers are now trying to do just that with a petition urging the college to accept gay professors. “One might puzzle over a form of Christianity that is committed to the inequality of people, and in particular of job applicants for positions in philosophy. More disturbing, however, is the stigma Calvin College feels entitled to place upon those who are doubly exposed: as lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgendered in a society that has yet to accept them, and as people seeking jobs during difficult economic times.

I don’t want to address the substance of this issue here. For what it’s worth (about what you paid for it), I don’t believe employers should discriminate against gay applicants, and I also believe religious institutions deserve broad exemptions from anti-discrimination laws and regulations that violate their religious beliefs.

But I do want to address two petition points quoted above, one of which I question as a matter of fact and the other strikes me as just whiningly silly.

First, the questionable fact: I wonder if the “stigma” Calvin College allegedly inflicts on gays by refusing to hire them is actually greater in our society and culture at large (not to mention among the opinion-shaping elites) than the “stigma” suffered, especially in academic circles, by “distinctively Christian” institutions and individuals. Clearly representatives of Calvin College and similar institutions would be no more welcome at meetings of the American Philosophical Society or other assemblies of culture-producing citizens (despite the “diversity” they would provide to such gatherings) than gay professors are at Calvin or than blacks were at Bob Jones University when its tax exemption was revoked.

Now the whiningly silly: I’m sorry philosophers are having trouble finding jobs, but I don’t think their difficulty imposes any additional duty to be nice to them on Calvin College, nor does it make them “doubly exposed.” All those “seeking jobs during difficult economic times” are equally “exposed,” and that exposure is no worse, no different, for philosophy applicants (even gay philosophy applicants) than for anyone else.

Do philosophers really want to argue that since gay philosophy applicants are “doubly exposed” they deserve special, preferential treatment? Oh wait, don’t answer that….

Say What? (1)

  1. T. Shaw February 10, 2010 at 2:12 pm | | Reply

    Question comes to mind: Are gay professors as clueless as straight professors? Seems as if . . .

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