Monday, 23 August 2010

A Moral Dilemma

I’ve been wrestling with a moral dilemma.

As many of my regular readers know, I am of the opinion that discrimination on the basis of something over which one has no control, such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc., is morally repugnant. To me it’s plain logic; to many it is not, as it conflicts with deeply held beliefs – and as we all know from personal experience, beliefs invariably transcend logic and even hard evidence. This cognitive dissonance is the tragedy of the human condition.

Being what is generally termed a 'non-believer', I struggle with the proposition that one’s choice of religion is something over which one has no control, as one is able to subject religion to critical analysis and reach an educated opinion as to both its moral veracity and metaphysical truth. Indeed many decide to leave religion or even choose one other than the one in which they were brought up. You cannot, however, decide to suddenly become Asian, or homosexual.

Yet millions of people belong to a particular religion through no fault of their own, simply resulting from an accident of birth – which cannot be selected at will. Therefore there is an element of inevitability surrounding belief systems (be they religious or otherwise) which become the foundation of one’s self-view.

The dilemma I’m wrestling with is the one of whether religious people should be subject to anti-discrimination legislation, particularly the Catholic adoption agencies with respect to the adoption of children by gay couples.

Whereas, till now, I have firmly believed all – regardless of their religious beliefs – should be subject to the law of the land, I’m slowly beginning to think they should be free to decide according to their own conscience. I would add a rider to this, that being that they should be free to decide according to their conscience, providing they have no monopoly on adoption – or whatever is under consideration in an anti-discriminatory sense.

If I were to start an adoption agency that refused to place children with say red-headed people, then I should be allowed to do this, as there would still be routes to adoption for red-headed people. I must reiterate that I would never, ever, place defenceless children with red-headed adoptive parents. Please don’t think I would even consider harming children in this manner, it’s merely a ‘for instance’.

All joking aside, the thought at the forefront of the mind of anyone engaged in placing children with adoptive parents should be the best interests of the child – and Catholics sincerely believe it is in the best interests of the child to not be placed with a gay couple. However much I may disagree with their belief, it is nonetheless sincerely held and not susceptible to logical persuasion.

There is also the argument that placing a child with a gay couple could put the child in acute danger of bullying and ridicule at school, as unfortunately there is still a high proportion of the populace which is homophobic. Until such time as homophobes become an anachronistic minority, there is no denying that the risk of ridicule is very real, and could therefore harm the psychological wellbeing of a child place with adoptive parents who are gay, regardless of the love they would receive from such parents.

However, this Utopian state of affairs when homophobia becomes an anachronism is unlikely to occur if we pander to discriminatory religious belief – that being the crux of the dilemma, along with whether the rights of gay couples (however justifiable they may be) supersede the needs of a child?

Perhaps the agenda should be to first eliminate homophobia and only then introduce the adoption of children by gay couples.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.


  1. If the agenda is to combat homophobia then these are the institutions that should be challenged. The Catholic Church doesn't have the best record when it comes to the care of children. If you were going on evidence of physical and pschological harm you would have to rule out Catholics as adoptive parents. Surley the best interest of a child is to be placed with a loving family.

  2. Unfortunately I think allowing people to act purely based on tradition, authority or revelation would doom the human species to one totalitarian hell-hole after another. We are only where we are because people have fought against such things, even when such dogma was imposed by the majority.

    Not allowing human-kind to try new things that fly in the face of tradition or authority, to attempt to improve our lot, properly understand our universe and to learn from our mistakes would be tantamount to killing it off IMO.

  3. Trudy - regardless of the love given to such children, what of the bullying they will doubtless receive. Are they to be sacrificed in the battle against homophobia?

    Steve - are we not equally guilty of imposing our morality?

  4. CB, it's only them who say what they believe is "moral", just saying it is doesn't make it so. I would ask, is it moral to "impose" fairness and tolerance? I'd say that generally, it was.

  5. Bill: thanks for bringing this post to my attention, as it's a fascinating subject. I'll share my views, but alas I cannot promise to be terse!

    Because your comments are limited to 4,096 characters my comment has had to be split into multiple pats. Ordinarily, I'd post to my blog rather than leave a post of this length, but I'm in the middle of the Pentenary special and it's hard to insert right now.

    Apologies in advance for the length of this! :)

  6. Well, scratch that - it won't take the comment even if I break it up! I'll try and find another way to get it to you.

  7. Should religions allow discrimination simply because their beliefs are insusceptible to logical persuasion?
    The law is there for a reason, it is to ensure justice, when people are not likely to act accordingly on own initiative and I do not think any religion should be held above the law. But it does seem as if religions can get away with a lot of things other institutions can't.
    Religions have changed over time, and they will change when they are forced to (be it financially or based on public opinion), the survival of the church comes before the word of God, we do not stone gays to death anymore, and somehow there can always be found a legitimate reason for changing the tradition, if the will to do so is there.

    Are we really so scared of the playground bullies, that we allow them to set the agenda of the modern day society?
    If children get bullied in school for having gay parents, then it is a bully-problem, not a gay-problem. And bullying can be stopped, in fact it starts with the teachers, and they do have a great influence on the atmosphere of the class room.
    There are schools where ritual bullying simply isn't present.

    Allowing the fear of bullying make decisions is an upside-down approach and not very rational.

  8. Way TOO many big words in this one.. BUT

    Gay couples should have as much right as anyone else..

    The law is an ass..

  9. But Phil, the law says they already do have the right.