Religious Bigotry Revisited
The discussions about religious-based bigotry against gays never end. I recently posted about religious bigotry against gay people.
In the latest round at Victor Reppert's blog, he thinks it's wrong that Vanderbilt University should disallow discrimination based on religious "creed" in its school-sponsored clubs and organizations. In this case, a non-denominational Christian organization called InterVarsity had ousted one of its leaders who was homosexual on the basis that he didn't adhere to the "basic Christian doctrines". There was no explicit mention of homosexuality, but because of that homosexuality, it was presumed that the person didn't meet the ideological requirements of the group. The university rightly recognizes this as unjust discrimination. I call them bigots. Victor thinks I would do the same in a similar situation (for example, if the Campus Freethought Alliance were infiltrated by the Campus Crusade for Christ), and therefore, I am being intellectually dishonest.
In our examination of this issue, it would be useful to start with a working definition of 'bigot'. Here is the Merriam-Webster definition:
a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intoleranceSo as I see it, the hallmark of bigotry is prejudice based on some group membership rather than what a person actually believes, says, or does. The religious group at Vanderbilt made the presumption that this person, due to his homosexuality, doesn't meet their creedal requirements. The issue is not simple, because many Christians believe that homosexuality is antithetical to their religion. However, that is certainly not the case for all Christian denominations, and there are many gay people who are faithful Christians, and even members of the clergy. So it is hardly a universal claim among Christians that homosexuality is a violation of the fundamental tenets of Christianity. And it seems pretty clear that it was a matter of discrimination based on sexual orientation in this case, rather than non-adherence to the "basic Christian doctrines".
Let me make my own position clear. I don't believe that an organization should be prohibited from requiring its members to be ideologically aligned in some way. But qualification based on that requirement should be determined on an individual basis, not by virtue of membership in a group as determined by race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. If I were a member of the hypothetical "Campus Freethought Alliance", I would not have a problem with Christians, or people of any religion becoming members of the group. But if they wanted to work at cross-purposes to the goals and ideals of the organization, that would be cause to exclude them from membership.
How is this different from bigotry? There's no prejudice involved. There's no group-based discrimination. It's that simple. InterVarsity made a presumption based on sexual orientation. That's prejudice, and that's what makes them bigots, in my view. In the hypothetical case that Victor presented to me, there is no prejudice involved, and no bigotry. I certainly would no exclude people just because they were members of some religious faith.
And that's where Victor gets it wrong. He presumes that I would be just as much a bigot as those Christians whose bigotry he defends. But he's absolutely wrong about that.