Two Kinds of Inclusion

Two Kinds of Inclusion August 23, 2023

A common value expressed today–in corporations, schools, regulators, and churches–is “inclusion.”  It is at the heart of DEI mandates, an acronym for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”  The principle is that organizations should make an intentional effort to be “inclusive”; that is, to include individuals from different races, genders, abilities, ethnicities, and sexual orientations, particularly those who are often marginalized.

But there are different kinds of inclusion and different ways of including people.  So says Tal Fortgang in the Jewish journal Commentary in his article The Dangers of Inclusion Above All Else with the deck, “A praiseworthy philosophy too often tips into a destructive force.”

He praises what he calls “collaborative inclusion”:

Under its tenets, it is a desirable social goal to allow the entry of as many kinds of people as possible into our institutions. All can contribute to the extent of their abilities, and all are treated with respect. Collaborative Inclusion applies to all kinds of people who may lack access to education, jobs, or other goods, whether they face barriers because of their race, sex, disabilities, or something else. It encourages building ramps next to the stairs, letting Jews join the tennis club, and treating your gay colleagues as equals. Crucially, though, it does not ask institutions to change their most important constitutive characteristics, such as the rule that a basketball player must dribble the ball.

But there is also what he calls “imposed inclusion”:

It is rooted in values of equity, result, and social justice. It’s concerned with how different identity-based groups experience advantage and disadvantage in the aggregate. While Collaborative Inclusion aims to honor the uniqueness and potential of each individual and differentiated social institution, Imposed Inclusion tends to homogenize people and institutions. It subordinates the value of individual achievement to equality of outcome and fails to recognize the good in institutions that must exclude people or ideas that will not advance their mission.

The core tenet of Imposed Inclusion is that if any kind of participation produces or perpetuates inequalities, it has not gone far enough. For example, if the rules of the basketball game produce disparate outcomes between people who can run and people who use wheelchairs, the causes of those outcomes—the prohibition against traveling, or a scoring system that rewards height and jumping—must be changed to accommodate, or include, all participants.

As examples of imposed inclusion, he cites how many schools are eliminating advanced courses, gifted and talented programs, standardized testing, and grading because of racial disparities in the outcomes.  Instead of helping children of racial minorities succeed in these activities (collaborative inclusion), they eliminate the activities for everyone so that all students will be the same (imposed inclusion).

Fortgang also sees imposed inclusion in the way some jurisdictions have responded to perceived inequalities in the criminal justice system by refusing to prosecute crimes.  Instead of making the rules apply fairly to all (collaborative inclusion), they eliminate the rules (imposed inclusion).

“It is in the context of religious institutions,” says Fortgang, “that Imposed Inclusion has presented its fiercest and most controversial challenge to places resisting ‘equitable’ treatment of all kinds of people.”  He teaches at Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish school, which is currently being sued for refusing to give official recognition to an LGBTQ club.  The university, he says, welcomes everyone, including gay students, and tries to treat them all with respect and access to what the university has to offer (collaborative inclusion).  But what it cannot do is change its commitment to Jewish law.  Doing so would eliminate its reason for existence.

In reality, of course, for the inclusion advocates, changing the institution is the goal.  “As one of the plaintiffs has openly and repeatedly admitted, the goal of would-be club members has been to force a ‘cultural change’ around sexual ethics at YU and in the Orthodox community.”  He quotes Harvard Law professor Kenneth W. Mack, who said that inclusion has “required the transformation of some of the fundamental rules that governed educational institutions themselves and of the larger society that surrounded them.” Comments Fortgang, “Movements that once championed toleration and acceptance now demand obedience and compliance,” so that inclusion has become “central to the project of homogenizing all institutions according to the progressive view of the human person and the good.”

This applies, of course, to Christian institutions as well, which are facing the same pressures.  It also applies to churches, which are facing demands that they change their theology of the holy ministry so as to be “inclusive” of women in the pastoral office.  Or to change their theology of creation to be “inclusive” of transgender ideology.  Or to change their theology of marriage to be “inclusive” of same-sex couples.  Or to change their long-standing moral teachings to accept–that is, be “inclusive”–of sexual immorality.


Illustration:  “Colorful Diversity” by Gerd Altman, CC0 via

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