Friday, April 4, 2014

Do Christians Have a Double Standard?

It occurs to me that some people might believe that there is a double standard in play, where we object to the CEO of Mozilla and a member of the Duck Dynasty cast being bullied out of a job for privately supporting something in keeping with his or her beliefs while we think it is acceptable for a religious school to terminate an employee whose life is not in accord with the values of the religious school. Do we have a double standard when we think Hobby Lobby should be exempted from the Contraception Mandate but think Mozilla was in the wrong in encouraging the resignation of their CEO?

Such a person might ask, "Shouldn't you either accept the right of both to exclude, or the obligation of both to ignore personal behavior?"

It's a fair question, but if we explore the issue I think we will find the two scenarios are not equivalent and there is no case of special pleading or double standard in having two separate responses.

First of all, we must consider the purpose of the institution in question. For a secular company which operates under a code of ethics concerning how they behave towards customers or employees, what a person does in his or her own time that does not fall into these areas does not fall under the authority of the code of ethics.  It doesn't matter whether the employee personally holds views that others disagree with if he or she does not violate the code of ethics or the law.

In contrast, Hobby Lobby is a company which specifies it operates under Christian principles. A non-Christian is free to live his or her private life according to their personal values and Hobby Lobby does not interfere. What they insist on is the right to run their business according to their Christian values, which include no working on Sundays and no funding of abortifacient drugs. Hobby Lobby takes no action if an employee chooses to use these drugs. It's only when an employee's conduct is public and is in violation of the company code of ethics that it takes action.

So far, no double standard.

Now we come to the Catholic school who has to terminate an employee who is living in a way contrary to the Catholic moral beliefs. In this case, the purpose of the school is not just to teach, but to teach in a way which testifies to the Catholic vision of how to live. The teachers bear witness to this way of life. Now people who are not Catholic are educated by these schools and people who are not Catholic may be employed by these schools.

BUT, because these schools bear witness to the Catholic moral teaching, the employees are required to sign agreements that they will not live contrary to these teachings... a teacher who publicly lives against these moral values creates a scandal, forcing the Church to either:

■ Ignore the violation, giving the impression that Catholic moral teaching doesn't really matter.
■ Hold the teacher responsible for violating the code of conduct, showing that this is a very serious matter.

Thus the Catholic school may hire a teacher who has homosexual tendencies under the recognition that such a person must live a chaste lifestyle. However, if such a teacher publicly takes part in a "gay marriage" -- which the Church cannot accept as a true marriage -- this teacher is declaring to his or her students that he or she openly rejects the Catholic values. Because of this, the Church has no choice but to fire the teacher.

Again, there is no double standard. The employee agreed that he or she would live in a way compatible with Catholic teaching and then willfully broke that agreement. Because the Catholic Church believes that one may never choose to do evil, the employee who publicly testifies by his or her lifestyle that there is nothing wrong with the act, and that the Church is wrong is just as unfit to be a teacher in a Catholic school as a person who shows up for class drunk.

In short, there is no special pleading, no double standard between being appalled by the gay bullying against Mr. Eich and supporting Hobby Lobby or the Catholic Church.

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