Muslim students, lofty neutrality toward the Other, and the Miley Rule

Ed Brayton is right that Maryland’s Parkdale High School is taking a “weird” approach to religious accommodation.

The school is requiring Muslim students to maintain a certain level of GPA in order to qualify for being excused from classes for daily prayers.

As Brayton writes, “If the accommodation is reasonable under the Free Exercise clause, it’s reasonable for all Muslim students, not just the ones with a certain grade point average.”

He’s also right that there should be some formal correction for the Parkdale teachers upset over any accommodation of the Muslim students’ prayers who told their classes that the public institution was “a Christian school.”

What those teachers likely meant is that the majority of students attending the school are, at least culturally, Christian. That’s probably true. But that doesn’t mean that Christians, because we’re the majority, get to enjoy privileges denied to neighbors of other faiths or of no faith.

For Christians trying to figure out a way to think about these things, let me suggest the Miley Rule — the ethical principle articulated by the great moral philosopher Miley Cyrus: “Just put yourself in that person’s shoes.”

How would the good Christians of Riverdale Park, Md., feel if the free exercise of their religious beliefs were made conditional on maintaining a high GPA? How would it feel to be in their shoes?

Or, as Miley also said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Wait, maybe that last one wasn’t Miley, maybe that was Jesus. Either way, it seems like a good rule.

I attended the public John Greenleaf Whittier elementary school through second grade. Every Wednesday, my Catholic classmates were dismissed early to walk a few blocks over to St. John’s for catechism. If our schools could accommodate that, we can certainly figure out how to accommodate the prayers of our Muslim students as well.

* * * * * * * * *

I think the Miley Rule and that other rule also apply to this story.

In a recent post at Out of Ur, David Fitch defines LGBT people as suffering from “sexual brokenness.”

Apart from the merits or demerits of that particular position, it’s odd that Fitch characterizes this as a demonstration of his “taking a non-position to this question.” His post is titled “Why You Shouldn’t Have a Position on LGBTQs,” and I think he’s quite sincere when he claims “we have no position.”

I think he quite sincerely doesn’t realize that, yes, in fact, he does.

“What does it mean to be privileged?” Jamelle Bouie asked. “It means not having to think about any of this, ever.”

And it means getting to pretend that “we have no position,” even when you clearly do.

And it means that you get to decide what “position” to take toward others, or to loftily take no position at all, while others can never have a “position” on the “question” of you. Unlike them, you’re never a “question.” That’s what privilege means.

That’s not a privilege that everyone gets to enjoy.

Fitch’s title — “You Shouldn’t Have a Position on LGBTQs” — cannot make any sense for the many “yous” reading it who are themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or queer. How can you have “no position” on yourself? I suppose that’s marginally better than being asked or required to have a “position” against yourself, but still, what are LGBT Christians to make of Fitch’s argument?

My advice for Fitch would be, again, listen to Miley: Just put yourself in that person’s shoes.

 

  • Foelhe

    Funny, I don’t think you can make a case that homosexuality is unnatural. Unless you think “unnatural” means “unusual”, in which case you know fuck-all about nature.

  • AnonymousSam

    *Nods* That’s what I meant by “for any reason.” As far as I’m concerned, what those reasons are should be the student’s business and shouldn’t even need to be uttered, whether they’re for prayer or because Macy’s is having a sale. If you’re getting enough out of lessons to demonstrate adequate comprehension of the material, you’re holding up your end of the bargain.

  • CoolHandLNC

    I agree with you about “natural law”, but we are probably not interpreting the term quite the way it is intended. I’m really not qualified to explain what it does mean, I’m just trying to understand the other side’s point of view. In this context, perhaps along the line that “because most people form families with a man and a woman in marriage bearing children, that is the Natural Order of Things, and people who do otherwise are outside that order”. Of course families haven’t always looked like that — the nuclear family is recent enough to be experimental — nor have all human societies organized themselves that way. That is the problem with trying to deduce “should” from “is”. It tends to get clogged up with preconceived notions.

    Curiously, the term “artificial” has no such problems. Artificial simply means made  through skill or craft. Artificial does not mean unnatural. (That shows up as a flaw in the argument for ID creationism.)

  • Madhabmatics

     Our rural k-12 school actually had this policy. We had a school administration PhD that was, I guess, very into experimentation. I don’t want to be specific because some of it was under the nose of the county.

    It was great, students had a real incentive to act well because the less of a problem you were, the more freedom you had. It also really helped prepare for college, because if you said “Yeah I’m planning on going to college” your teachers could just send you to the library to do article analysis instead of sitting in whatever class you were in going through ~graduation exam~ material.

    I’ve followed that adminstrator’s career since, and he’s been going to inner city schools w/ problems and working his sorcery on them. Every time he gets to a school, you’ll see local forums light up about how cool this principal is and how the kids and parents love him.

    Right now there is a poor child somewhere that is able to do directed reading in a library about a subject they love, and they can probably hear the mournful sounds of the principal’s banjo echoing down the hallway.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s one of the things I loved about college. While there were attendence quotas you had to make if you were on financial aid programs, several of my instructors didn’t care what we did as long after showing up as we were turning in work that reflected understanding of the subjects. Those who did care tended to have lectures which were engrossing and interactive, so one didn’t want to be missing them.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I can entirely see how the policy they enacted could have resulted from a sequence of well-meaning and not-deliberately-discriminatory decisions each of which seemed perfectly reasonable and logical, and which at any stage would have been completely fixed if there’d been a Muslim or really anyone with any awareness of religions that have rigid requirements that don’t easily align with christianity involved anywhere in the process to say, “Hey Bob, but wouldn’t this end up blocking the free practice of their religion?”

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Just in the last couple days we’ve heard the CEO of eHarmony claim that
    “At its best, [homosexuality has] been a painful way for a lot of people
    to have to live”, and a teacher in Indiana (who supports an effort by
    some of her students to hold a private senior prom that excludes LGBT
    students) claim that gay people have no purpose in life. Now here’s
    Fitch asserting that LGBT people are “sexually broken”.

    Homosexuality has been a painful way for a lot of people to have to live, in large part because of people like the CEO of eHarmony, the teacher in Indiana, and Fitch.

  • Foelhe

    The context isn’t that hard. Conservatives think something’s natural if it’s normal to them. If they’re not familiar with something, it must go against nature. They only like the word unnatural because it lets them make an appeal to authority, which is the only argument they’re really good at making. In this case the appeal is to Mother Nature rather than YHWH, but nothing else really changes.

  • ScorpioUndone

     I absolutely agree with you here, and was going to say much the same thing. Being transgender has nothing to do with who I choose for a sexual partner, it has to do with who I am as a gendered person.

    Just because I’m called a transsexual doesn’t mean it’s about the sex act, for crying out loud. I really wish that when it comes to discussions of sexual “brokenness” (a bullshit term that needs to be wiped from Christian dictionaries the way “rape” needs to be wiped from the GOP’s) that people would do their homework and learn what they’re talking about first. 

    I’d maybe also say that refusing to take a position is nothing more than a cop out. While I respect the refusal to elevate homosexuality as the chiefest sin, the way many congregations tend to, I don’t respect a church that stands idly by, doing nothing to effect positive change for groups of people that have a history of being beaten down by that very same church. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    It’s possible there’s no real adaptive “advantage” to homosexuality being around in our genes, that maybe it’s a recessive trait carried by a number of people – active or inactive – that just keeps getting passed on. Maybe it’s a gene complex, which can break up and recombine somewhere down the line. There are lots of ways for traits to carry on, even ones that suggest they might reduce a person’s likelihood of directly contributing to the gene pool. (Then again, there are a lot of gay people who have had kids, for one reason or another.)

    My personal hypothesis is that if it is an adaptive trait for humans and other species, it’s related to “quality, not quantity” approaches to child-rearing. Given we’re rather social creatures, it may be advantageous to have a “less-reproductive” subset of the population who can help provide care to their “more-reproductive” kin – or at least who are less likely to create more competitors for resources. (Though again, lots of gay people who have kids too. But you could make a worthy argument for culture overcoming biology, given closeted people bowing to social pressure to act straight.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/shaenon Shaenon K. Garrity

    Barring Muslim students from prayer time if they get bad grades makes perfect sense.

    I’m assuming, of course, that when the Christian students get bad grades, they have to start coming to school on Sundays.

  • Water_Bear

    Just because a dominant allele is present doesn’t necessarily mean the recessive one is completely unexpressed. The gene for Sickle Cell Anemia, the most well known example of this, is actually quite useful if you only have the one allele. And not just for the people who have it; the whole society benefits from reduced malaria transmittance even with a small incidence of the gene.

    Plus, something so heavily impacting reproductive success of the individual doesn’t get to ~5% of the population just through genetic drift. The “gay gene(s)” have to fight an uphill battle just to stay in the gene pool, so there’s got to be a pretty seriously good reason for it to have stayed around through our 1mil year history as a species. And culture only accounts for the last 50,000 at most.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Even when your goal is good, it is generally not a good idea to try to explain human behavior using vague appeals to evolution. You’ll encourage the evo-psych types.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    Well, again I bring up my “quality, not quantity” hypothesis, which is an argument for “gay genes” as an adaptive feature not present merely through gene drift. It means you could have a mother or father who is a carrier for the recessive “gay gene(s)” while their sibling has both recessive and is gay. That sibling provides care to the carrier’s children, making the recessive gene more likely to prosper because the children receive better care. Hominids are generally social enough that this can play a part across dang near the entire 1mil year history without worrying about culture. But in (relatively) recent human history, culture is an added factor that might help keep it vital for other reasons.

    Then again, not everything about how we develop is strictly down to genes. Not by far. So reducing homosexuality’s persistence in nature to “alleles” is potentially as fallacious as saying “well maybe it just drifts along and survives.” DNA doesn’t precisely code for every detail, but development is strongly influenced by the conditions we develop in – see also: epigenetics, when non-genetic factors cause genes to express differently. In this case, it’s literally not a matter of genes for sexuality facing Darwinian pressures as it is some other condition in our development influencing human sexuality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667708632 Kenneth Raymond

    Well, again I bring up my “quality, not quantity” hypothesis, which is an argument for “gay genes” as an adaptive feature not present merely through gene drift. It means you could have a mother or father who is a carrier for the recessive “gay gene(s)” while their sibling has both recessive and is gay. That sibling provides care to the carrier’s children, making the recessive gene more likely to prosper because any children who are also carriers receive better care. Hominids are generally social enough that this can play a part across dang near the entire 1mil year history without worrying about culture. But in (relatively) recent human history, culture is an added factor that might help keep it vital for other reasons.

    Then again, not everything about how we develop is strictly down to genes. Not by far. So reducing homosexuality’s persistence in nature to “alleles” is potentially as fallacious as saying “well maybe it just drifts along and survives.” DNA doesn’t precisely code for every detail, but development is strongly influenced by the conditions we develop in – see also: epigenetics, when non-genetic factors cause genes to express differently. In this case, it’s literally not a matter of genes for sexuality facing Darwinian pressures as it is some other condition in our development influencing human sexuality.

    (Minor edit for clarity.)

  • RLS

     I’m sorry, did you say LGB people “ideally won’t reproduce”? Would you, perhaps, care to rephrase that?

  • vsm

    You’ll note he was talking about primitive societies rather than the United States in the 21st century.

  • Carstonio

    If Hexep is saying that it’s preferable that LGBT people not reproduce, what difference would that make whether it’s a primitive society or a modern industrial/technological one?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     I can’t speak for vsm or Hexep, but it seems to me that “it’s better for everyone if queer people today don’t have children” and “ten thousand years ago, we lived in arrangements where it was better for everyone if queer people didn’t have children” are very different statements from the point of view of supporting/challenging social norms and setting policy.

    For my own part, I suspect both statements are strictly speaking true, but a more useful way to frame the topic is that it has always been better for everyone if some subset of the healthy adult population isn’t having children at any given moment (where “having children” encompasses not just giving birth, but also raising them to the point where they on average produce more resources than they consume), and the optimal size of that subset varies depending on the size of the population, birth and death rates, average lifespan, available resources, etc. etc. (This is vaguely related to life history theory, but only vaguely.)

    I say “strictly speaking” because, if it’s optimal for everyone if N% of the population to have trait T, and group G comprises N% of the population, then yes, it’s better for everyone if group G has trait T (than if nobody does), but that’s a misleading way to talk about it, since it suggests that it’s better for everyone if group G has trait T (than if some other N% of the population does), which isn’t true at all.

    In the same sense, yes, it’s better for everyone if queers don’t reproduce (than if everybody reproduces), but that’s a misleading way to talk about it, because it’s not true at all that it’s better for everyone if queers don’t reproduce (than if some other N% of the population doesn’t).

  • Carstonio

    a more useful way to frame the topic is that it has always been better for everyone if some subset of the healthy adult population isn’t having children at any given moment

    While I don’t argue with that contention, we can’t assume that anyone who asks the question is using the framing Hexep appeared to use. I inferred from “ideally”  that LGBT folks reproducing would allegedly have negative effects besides creating more demand for scarce resources. That inference was based on the longstanding homophobic claims about gays either recruiting or influencing others into their “lifestyle.” You’re exactly right that the framing is misleading.

  • Hexep

    No, I will not. 

    If any other person has felt offended by my choice of words, I beg their pardon. I was attempting to describe caveman times, the halcyon days before the advent of the turkey-baster, as it were, before the light of science and medicine, when babies came out of vaginas because a penis had previously gone into them, and someone who wasn’t down for the latter (former?) would have to make some hard choices about the former (latter?), and statistics alone demand that some would fall on one side, and others on t’other – and of course, now we are much closer to a society where nobody has to pretend, and the amount of people who have to tote around offspring as an elaborate disguise is steadily on the decrease.

    But to you, RLS, I make no such offer. Through ten-thousand leagues of copper wire and shimmering radiation, I have looked into your heart and judged you wholly wanting. You feel no genuine hurt or outrage, nor any wound that could be laid at my feet as the product of my hand. You are simply attempting to jerk me around, to feel powerful, to catch me on something and make me apologize, and thus place your feet above me head. You want to have a holier-than-thou moment at my expense, and make me stutter.

    You have not succeeded. Should you say otherwise, I will not believe you. That is all.

  • Carstonio

    No offense taken, particularly now that I understand your point more clearly. Your point about the beneficial effect of some adults not procreating is a good refutation of one particular homophobic falsehood – the non-procreative nature of same-sex relationships imperiling the human race. I’ve even encountered the claim that gays and lesbians are selfishly denying their genetic heritage to future generations. 

    Ultimately there’s no support for homosexuality being objectively immoral. Or put another way, society has no interest in having a norm that favors a particular orientation over any others. While one cannot choose one’s orientation, one can choose whether to express it through relationships, and that should be an individual choice rather than a societal one. Before my state legalized same-sex marriage, the high court had argued that marriage was for procreation, while conveniently ignoring that this would justify denying marriage to straight couples who can’t or won’t reproduce. Similarly, if a society experienced a massive crisis of infertility and weighed making procreation mandatory, the problem wouldn’t be homosexuality specifically but non-procreative sex in general. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “ideally” can also be value-neutral, because it can refer to the way a certain model operates. “Ideally”, in physics, all surfaces are frictionless. :P

  • CoolHandLNC

    The context isn’t that hard. Conservatives think something’s natural if it’s normal to them. If they’re not familiar with something, it must go against nature. They only like the word unnatural because it lets them make an appeal to authority, which is the only argument they’re really good at making. In this case the appeal is to Mother Nature rather than YHWH, but nothing else really changes.

    That sounds about right, or at least consistent with how I have actually heard it used. I was trying to be slightly more circumspect. How is one to to reconcile such conservative appeals to natural law with those such as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. (“arc of the moral universe bends toward justice”) who appeal to natural law to effect change?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There are two different forms of natural law being appealed to, and it’s in the interest of conservatives to purposely muddy up which one they’re talking about.

    In science, “natural law” is that which might also be termed “the laws of physics”: i.e. the universe as a composition of particles and fields, and the interactions between them. As such, when we observe the universe we see that even without conscious intervention certain things occur predictably: objects fall under the influence of gravity. Entropy increases*. Energy is released under certain conditions and absorbed under other conditions.

    In short, there are whole classes of phenomena for which you can bend, but not break, the rules. *You can try to achieve localized decreases of entropy, but only if the entropy of the whole universe at least stays the same, if not increases.

    You can artificially induce certain energy transformations (e.g. nuclear power), and you can hold objects against gravity (e.g. your table), but in the end…

    … the laws are essentially immutable.

    However, there is a different “natural law”, usually appealed to by philosophers and political scientists, which assume that humans are an integral part of the picture and that things like individual freedoms are innate and should be protected as such.

    But to cut a long story short, the fact is that the “laws” of this kind are not immutable. They can be changed, circumscribed, even done away with – as the USSR and other regimes have so amply proven.

    But the idea of human freedoms being a part of natural law and considered to be a force of nature just as much as electromagnetism is, has a rather irresistible appeal to people who want to suppress what they see as being socially objectionable.

    After all, in this second category of natural law, the rules are ultimately what you want them to be, and if, in doing so, you can appeal to the first category as some kind of backing for your particular wants, all the better for you and all the worse for, say, QUILTBAG people.

  • Cathy W

    But then you have to consider that whatever is described as the “ideal” is as realistic as a perfectly spherical cow or an economic transaction where both buyer and seller are perfectly informed.

  • Tricksterson

    Except I’m presuming that this rule doesn’t apply to Christian students.  Or does it?

  • Tricksterson

    The Sarcasm is strong in this one.

  • Tricksterson

    “uber-gay, is that anything like “Ubermensch”?

  • Foelhe

    MLK’s line about the arc of the moral universe is an appeal to justice, of course, as well as a statement of hope and a warning to others that they were on the wrong side of history. But that’s only part of his argument. He also spent a great deal of time pointing out that the racial double-standards in his day were unjust. It’s pretty impossible to argue that they weren’t unjust, and his writing makes that clear.

    That’s the core difference, I think. MLK asked people to stop injustice, claimed racism was injustice, then made it pretty damn clear that this was true. Even if he hadn’t, the injustice would have been pretty damn obvious for anyone clear-eyed enough to see it, but MLK wedded injustice and racism, made it clear you couldn’t have the latter without the former.

    Conservative Christians? They ask people to stop unnatural behavior, say being gay is unnatural behavior, and then end with “because I said so, that’s why”. Not really the same level.

  • Tricksterson

    First Rule of Pokemon Club:  Don’t talk about Pokemon Club.

  • Tricksterson

    I think most people define “unnatural” as “I don’t like it”

  • Hexep

    I can theoretically conceive of phenomena that could be unnatural – geometric forms whose sides don’t add up, one-dimensional objects, things like that – but not any kind of concrete, tactile thing, or being. Is there such a thing as an actual, physical form that is ‘unnatural?’

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There is that. I take “ideally don’t reproduce” as acknowledgement of a simplification of a model, not as a value statement. And I happen to be a QUILTBAG person, so I know whereof I speak when I say I am not offended. :p

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Robert Anton Wilson wrote an essay on why Natural Law is like religion, only based on pure bluff:  “Natural Law, or Don’t Put a Rubber on Your Willy”.

    Worth reading, especially if you regularly get into arguments with people who try to invoke Natural Law to kill the debate.

  • http://twitter.com/ElanasHunter Elanas Moonlily

    Hexep:

    The effect is still visible today; gay villages throughout the western world are gentrified as all hell, as their occupants tend to have a lot of disposable income because they aren’t as likely to spend it on kids.

    And yet many LGBT groups average well below the population at large: individuals of color, lesbian couples, trans individuals and couples, and so on. About the strongest reliable claim is that white male individuals and couples with access to education and professional preparation do notably well. That’s not the same as saying that all or even most LGBT are so fortunate.

  • http://twitter.com/ElanasHunter Elanas Moonlily

    Make that cis white males.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Well, in a primitive society, a gay man or a lesbian reproducing would necessarily involve certain prerequisite acts that pretty much by definition, a gay man or lesbian would not care to do.

  • Carstonio

    There’s a phony populist song and dance in the homophobic repertoire, the claim that LGBT folks can’t be oppressed since their average annual income is higher. You’re right to point out that this is an incomplete portrait of that group. But so far Hexep doesn’t seem to be making that claim.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I’ve usually heard it attributed such:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wil_Wheaton#Wheaton.27s_law


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X