Being personally offended for someone else

I’ve noticed the phenomenon of someone getting personally offended on behalf of someone else, who, in fact, has not been personally offended.  A complaint has been filed against Catholic University for being insensitive to Muslims–basically by being a Catholic university–even though no Muslims have complained.  From a Washington Post editorial:

The press release announcing complaints against Catholic University of America for alleged bias against Muslim and women students begins with a mention of criminal charges leveled against a bishop in Kansas City for withholding information about suspected child abuse. It’s an irrelevant cheap shot. But it’s a good tipoff to the lack of substance in public-interest lawyer John Banzhaf’s high-profile campaign against Catholic University.

Mr.  Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University noted for litigation on behalf of non-smokers and women, recently complained to the D.C. Office of Human Rights that Catholic was violating the rights of its Muslim students. The complaint is focused on the school’s policy of not giving official status to non-Catholic worship groups, but Mr. Banzhaf, in interviews and releases, also suggests that Muslim students are uncomfortable with the symbols of Catholicism on the campus. He faults the university for not setting aside space — free of crucifixes and other religious icons — for Muslims to worship. The complaint follows another action by Mr. Banzhaf in which he alleges that Catholic’s elimination of coed dorm floors is discriminatory (he claims such adverse effects to women as not being able to find males to walk with them to their dorms after dark).

It’s a little hard to take the charges seriously considering no one actually claims to be aggrieved. Mr. Banzhaf acknowledged to The Post’s Michelle Boorstein that he had received no complaint from Muslim students but was acting on the basis of a 2010 Post article (which, to our mind, painted an overall positive experience of Muslim students at Catholic). The university has received no complaints from Muslim students and, in fact, reports a doubling of its Muslim enrollment since 2007, from 56 to 122.

via Campaign against Catholic University – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://lwtheology.wordpress.com tdoig

    I would love to see a political cartoon of this. Any artists on this blog?

  • http://lwtheology.wordpress.com tdoig

    I would love to see a political cartoon of this. Any artists on this blog?

  • SKPeterson

    Anti-catholic bias meets ambulance chasing lawyer. Sort of like dog bites man.

  • SKPeterson

    Anti-catholic bias meets ambulance chasing lawyer. Sort of like dog bites man.

  • HeatherHH

    I came here from Challies. I was immediately reminded of Proverbs 26:17:

    He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own
    Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.

  • HeatherHH

    I came here from Challies. I was immediately reminded of Proverbs 26:17:

    He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own
    Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.

  • Michael B.

    Interesting article. There’s kind of an inner war among democrats on how much Islam should be defended. An atheist will criticize Islam, and the most vitriolic responses toward the atheist will come from feminists and liberals.

  • Michael B.

    Interesting article. There’s kind of an inner war among democrats on how much Islam should be defended. An atheist will criticize Islam, and the most vitriolic responses toward the atheist will come from feminists and liberals.

  • Kirk

    Man, he sounds bored.

  • Kirk

    Man, he sounds bored.

  • Cincinnatus

    Kirk@5: Who, specifically, sounds bored? The reporter or Mr. Banzhaf (or someone else entirely)?

    The issue is a nice image of the problems of political correctness, especially as they pertain to private and/or religious organizations. Perhaps we should question whether “offense” and “offensiveness” are vices to be avoided in the first place.

  • Cincinnatus

    Kirk@5: Who, specifically, sounds bored? The reporter or Mr. Banzhaf (or someone else entirely)?

    The issue is a nice image of the problems of political correctness, especially as they pertain to private and/or religious organizations. Perhaps we should question whether “offense” and “offensiveness” are vices to be avoided in the first place.

  • Kirk

    Banzhaf. That’d he’d up and sue without any provocation or complain suggests that there is nothing left to do on behalf of women and non-smokers. He’s trying to find purpose.

  • Kirk

    Banzhaf. That’d he’d up and sue without any provocation or complain suggests that there is nothing left to do on behalf of women and non-smokers. He’s trying to find purpose.

  • SKPeterson

    He should sue Rick Warren.

  • SKPeterson

    He should sue Rick Warren.

  • Helen F

    The devil IS in the detaiils in THIS one!

  • Helen F

    The devil IS in the detaiils in THIS one!

  • DonS

    Banzhaf was one of my professors in law school. A very likable and personable man. At the time, his anti-smoking campaign was in full swing, and his zeal for the subject was contagious even for a committed individual rights advocate like me. Of course, the issue of smoking in public spaces involves a real balance between the rights of smokers and the rights of non-smokers to be free of the nuisance of second-hand smoke, and he was pretty good at focusing on the legitimate conflict between those often competing rights.

    Banzhaf does not (or at least did not) seem to have a discernible religious faith, and it seemed to me at the time that he was a guy whose social activism functioned as his religion. I guess he’s still looking for the next cause he can embrace.

    Catholic University is a private Jesuit school. Though it welcomes students of all faiths, and isn’t at all devout in its Catholicism, why should those of non-Christian faiths expect accommodation through access to rooms devoid of Christian symbols? Even in this secular, misguided age, that’s a bridge too far. If you’re a Muslim offended by Christianity, don’t go to a university referencing Christianity in its very name!

  • DonS

    Banzhaf was one of my professors in law school. A very likable and personable man. At the time, his anti-smoking campaign was in full swing, and his zeal for the subject was contagious even for a committed individual rights advocate like me. Of course, the issue of smoking in public spaces involves a real balance between the rights of smokers and the rights of non-smokers to be free of the nuisance of second-hand smoke, and he was pretty good at focusing on the legitimate conflict between those often competing rights.

    Banzhaf does not (or at least did not) seem to have a discernible religious faith, and it seemed to me at the time that he was a guy whose social activism functioned as his religion. I guess he’s still looking for the next cause he can embrace.

    Catholic University is a private Jesuit school. Though it welcomes students of all faiths, and isn’t at all devout in its Catholicism, why should those of non-Christian faiths expect accommodation through access to rooms devoid of Christian symbols? Even in this secular, misguided age, that’s a bridge too far. If you’re a Muslim offended by Christianity, don’t go to a university referencing Christianity in its very name!

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    If this guy went to an Islamic school, would he expect the Islamic school to take down its symbols in some room so he could be comfortable? Is he asking the same of Islamic institutions that he is asking of Christian institutions.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    If this guy went to an Islamic school, would he expect the Islamic school to take down its symbols in some room so he could be comfortable? Is he asking the same of Islamic institutions that he is asking of Christian institutions.

  • Martin J

    I don’t necessarily have a problem generally with someone being offended on behalf of another. In fact, I think leaders are called to do this. If someone is a true leader, they do not wait for someone to complain to correct a legitmate wrong.

    What is troubling in this case is that there is no legitimacy to the complaint. By definition, Catholics and Muslims are going to be offensive to one another. To insist on things being any other way is to deny legitimacy to one side over against the other.

    So, what we really come down to then is who is right?? In a world where moral absolutes are deemed the only real offense and where relativism rules the roost, anyone who claims to hold a position strictly because it is true or right is seen as offensive. That’s extremely troubling to me.

  • Martin J

    I don’t necessarily have a problem generally with someone being offended on behalf of another. In fact, I think leaders are called to do this. If someone is a true leader, they do not wait for someone to complain to correct a legitmate wrong.

    What is troubling in this case is that there is no legitimacy to the complaint. By definition, Catholics and Muslims are going to be offensive to one another. To insist on things being any other way is to deny legitimacy to one side over against the other.

    So, what we really come down to then is who is right?? In a world where moral absolutes are deemed the only real offense and where relativism rules the roost, anyone who claims to hold a position strictly because it is true or right is seen as offensive. That’s extremely troubling to me.

  • Lou

    Martin, Agreed. If Christians always defer to the tact of “not taking offense on behalf of others”, then we have to get out of the abortion debate and stop advocating pro-life/ending abortion. Whoever came up with this objection hasn’t really thought it thru. I see it as a post-modernist value.

  • Lou

    Martin, Agreed. If Christians always defer to the tact of “not taking offense on behalf of others”, then we have to get out of the abortion debate and stop advocating pro-life/ending abortion. Whoever came up with this objection hasn’t really thought it thru. I see it as a post-modernist value.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    You guys are forgetting the other half of my observation. Of course we should take offense on behalf of others in the sense of standing up for their rights and caring for their needs. My post is about being personally offended for someone else who is not offended. The subject of the post is someone who is not a Muslim filing a complaint about Catholic University’s treatment of Muslims when the Muslims at that school do not consider themselves ill-treated. Another would be people complaining that Florida State’s football name being the Seminoles is demeaning to Native Americans, when the actual Seminole tribe supports the team being named after them.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    You guys are forgetting the other half of my observation. Of course we should take offense on behalf of others in the sense of standing up for their rights and caring for their needs. My post is about being personally offended for someone else who is not offended. The subject of the post is someone who is not a Muslim filing a complaint about Catholic University’s treatment of Muslims when the Muslims at that school do not consider themselves ill-treated. Another would be people complaining that Florida State’s football name being the Seminoles is demeaning to Native Americans, when the actual Seminole tribe supports the team being named after them.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith, I get your point. We have a plethora of organizations, the granddaddy of them being the ACLU, which have the primary or sole purpose of taking offense on our behalf, even when we are not offended. But the larger point in this case is that, even if Muslims were actually to be offended, they would be utterly in the wrong. There is nothing to be offended about in an openly Catholic, private university displaying its religious roots.

  • DonS

    Dr. Veith, I get your point. We have a plethora of organizations, the granddaddy of them being the ACLU, which have the primary or sole purpose of taking offense on our behalf, even when we are not offended. But the larger point in this case is that, even if Muslims were actually to be offended, they would be utterly in the wrong. There is nothing to be offended about in an openly Catholic, private university displaying its religious roots.

  • Lou

    Dr. Veith, I still don’t get that it is wrong with being offended for someone else who has not been offended.
    For instance, we are offended on behalf of the unborn, even though the unborn do not, nor cannot protest.
    Perhaps, a better example is this Penn State scandal. Is it wrong for Joe Paterno to take offense and act on behalf of abused children, even though those children have not voiced their offense? Seems like the answer is a resounding, “yes.”
    On a softer note, if the place where I am in charge practices sexual harassment and I know about the practices, I do not wait for a complaint to surface before taking action toward the offender.

    I’d have to go back to Martin’s statement in #12 or Don’s elaboration in 15, and say that in this case the supposed offense is not valid. If the American people and our leaders were able to make these right judgments better, then organizations like the ACLU could be laughed out of the court room when they come in with various and sundry illegimate offenses.

  • Lou

    Dr. Veith, I still don’t get that it is wrong with being offended for someone else who has not been offended.
    For instance, we are offended on behalf of the unborn, even though the unborn do not, nor cannot protest.
    Perhaps, a better example is this Penn State scandal. Is it wrong for Joe Paterno to take offense and act on behalf of abused children, even though those children have not voiced their offense? Seems like the answer is a resounding, “yes.”
    On a softer note, if the place where I am in charge practices sexual harassment and I know about the practices, I do not wait for a complaint to surface before taking action toward the offender.

    I’d have to go back to Martin’s statement in #12 or Don’s elaboration in 15, and say that in this case the supposed offense is not valid. If the American people and our leaders were able to make these right judgments better, then organizations like the ACLU could be laughed out of the court room when they come in with various and sundry illegimate offenses.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Lou, Where someone is being harmed, or abused, or killed, of course Christians and even non-Christians should intervene in their behalf. It is an “offense” to hurt others. They are objectively “offended against.” No, victims do not have to complain first. But the offense and their hurt are objective. This post uses another meaning of “to be offended”; namely, to be insulted and to feel aggrieved. That is a legitimate thing to feel, whether for oneself or for someone else. But to feel it for people who do not themselves feel insulted or aggrieved seems to be misdirected.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Lou, Where someone is being harmed, or abused, or killed, of course Christians and even non-Christians should intervene in their behalf. It is an “offense” to hurt others. They are objectively “offended against.” No, victims do not have to complain first. But the offense and their hurt are objective. This post uses another meaning of “to be offended”; namely, to be insulted and to feel aggrieved. That is a legitimate thing to feel, whether for oneself or for someone else. But to feel it for people who do not themselves feel insulted or aggrieved seems to be misdirected.

  • Lou

    Well then, what of gospel, slander, and bearing false witness?

    Trying to qualify the type of offense by measures of severity doesn’t quite work, because it all goes back to a question of whether or not the offense is legitmate, not whether we should take offense on behalf of others. Physical or emotional, if there is sin and injustice involved, we sometimes have a duty (to both parties!) to take offense for others and act on their behalf.
    I think we all agree that this situation with Catholic University and the folks taking offense for Muslims doesn’t pass the legitmacy test.

  • Lou

    Well then, what of gospel, slander, and bearing false witness?

    Trying to qualify the type of offense by measures of severity doesn’t quite work, because it all goes back to a question of whether or not the offense is legitmate, not whether we should take offense on behalf of others. Physical or emotional, if there is sin and injustice involved, we sometimes have a duty (to both parties!) to take offense for others and act on their behalf.
    I think we all agree that this situation with Catholic University and the folks taking offense for Muslims doesn’t pass the legitmacy test.

  • Lou

    Oops,,, should be “what of gossip”… man I’m getting old.

  • Lou

    Oops,,, should be “what of gossip”… man I’m getting old.

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