The APA Discriminates

Ashley Thorne

Inside Higher Ed reports that the American Philosophical Association, which helps its members find positions in academic philosophy through its publication Jobs for Philosophers, has made some changes in its nondiscrimination policy. First, the association voted to put a warning flag on job listings by colleges that prohibit homosexuality among their employees. This includes most religious colleges. Second, the APA added a new sentence to its nondiscrimination policy. After the boilerplate “The American Philosophical Association rejects as unethical all forms of discrimination based on...” it says: 

This includes both discrimination on the basis of status and discrimination on the basis of conduct integrally connected to that status, where "integrally connected" means (a) the conduct is a normal and predictable expression of the status (e.g., sexual conduct expressive of a sexual orientation), or (b) the conduct is something that only a person with that status could engage in (e.g., pregnancy), or (c) the proscription of that conduct is historically and routinely connected with invidious discrimination against the status (e.g., interracial marriage).  

The addition of this clause is crucial. Up until now, according to Inside Higher Ed, “some advocates for religious colleges have said that these institutions don't discriminate against gay people, but only those who engage in gay sex.” You know, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” But the “conduct integrally connected” line doesn’t make allowances for loving the sinner. 

Alastair Norcross, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a strong advocate for the policy change, said religious colleges welcoming celibate homosexual employees is still discrimination. He said it’s like letting colleges “say that we'll hire men or women, but we require all of our employees to pee while standing up.” But the APA, hypocritically, has adopted an equivalent position. In its policy is a statement in regard to religious colleges: 

At the same time, the APA recognizes the special commitments and roles of institutions with a religious affiliation; it is not inconsistent with the APA's position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school's religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliations do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement.  

So now, the APA is essentially saying “we won’t discredit religious institutions so long as they don’t practice their beliefs.” 

The APA intended to end one form of discrimination, but they have begun another.

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