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8 May 2005

Who’s afraid of the religious right?

Not Microsoft: After the publicity that suggested that Microsoft had
refused to support a gay-rights bill in the Washington legislature
because it was afraid of the Christianist right, it reversed position
on Friday

In yesterday’s message Mr. Ballmer suggested that employees’
responses had helped persuade Microsoft officials to renew their
backing of the measure. More than 1,500 employees signed an internal
petition demanding that the company support the bill, and scores wrote
in protest to Mr. Ballmer and Mr. Gates.

A Microsoft executive,
speaking on condition of anonymity, said that senior company officials
met after Microsoft’s widely publicized turnaround on the bill prompted
an uproar, and that they had decided to change the company’s stance
because of pressure from employees.

You may recall that I didn’t think that MS was afraid of the
Right.  I still don’t.  If it was, it wouldn’t have changed
positions here.  MS wasn’t afraid of the religious ideological
pressure to begin with.  External threats of boycotts against the
World’s Operating System (TM) can’t be taken seriously.  But
internal displeasure from 1500 employees is something you have to
listen to, as even a small number of these create taking action against
the company’s interests poses a much more direct threat to
profitability, productivity, and the future bottom line.

Here’s the section of hypocrisy in the article:

But the company’s decision disappointed others, including Microsoft
employees who belong to the Antioch Bible Church in Redmond. The church
is led by the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, who met with Microsoft officials
twice about the bill and claimed to have persuaded them to change their
position on it.

“I feel that it’s been kind of a stressful day,”
said a Microsoft employee who is a member of the church and who spoke
on condition of anonymity. “I feel that it was wrong for the company to
say that they will be supporting issues such as this. Businesses should
not actually be publicly taking a stance on that, regardless of their
internal policies.”

The employee, who has worked at Microsoft
for four years, said the company should “stay out of it” when it comes
to the debate over gay rights.

Hmm.  So companies should not take positions on matters of the
day?  Why should churches then take positions?  Are you
willing to be bound in action in the same way that you’d bind
others?  My guess is not.  More importantly, we have no idea
why this person thinks as s/he does, but there’s no philosophically
defensible position (at least, as long as you believe in republican
democracy) for excluding coporate citizens from expressing their view
on the social policies of the day that affect them while allowing moral
affinity groups “special rights.”  Under a democratic system like
ours, that’s what churches and other religious congregations are — no
more and no less than any other affinity group.  To treat them any
differently than other civic groups is to privilege religion, and to
privilege religion without civic cause endangers egalitarianism,
freedom, and equality in our democracy.

Allowing religion to have place of privilege in the marketplace of
ideas, values, and policy leads directly to the question of which
religions should receive privilege, why, and how to protect those that
don’t.  Majoritarianism is not a suitable argument in repose (read
your Locke or your Mill if you don’t know why), because it tends toward
abuse of minorities and the treatment of individuals as means and not
ends.  It’s more fair and procedurally easier to privilege no
religion under a system like ours.  You may not like it that we
can’t have a prayer here, or a “God” there.  But think of it this
way: how would you like it if you had to revere a God other than your
own?  The particular genius of our government lies in the hope
that the awesome power of the state can’t be marshalled for sectarian
domination of one group by another.

ABC, on the other hand, is frightened of the bullies:

Monday’s season finale of “Supernanny” included a commercial for a Web
site offering child-rearing advice from Focus on the Family, a group
that says its “primary reason for existence is to spread the Gospel of
Jesus Christ through a practical outreach to homes.”

The United Church of Christ, a Cleveland-based church that says it
has 1.3 million members, has asked why the Focus on the Family ad was
accepted when ABC rejected its requests to buy time as part of its
national advertising campaign. The United Church of Christ ads, which
depicted a variety of people – gay, disabled, racially diverse – said:
“Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”

Cohen-Cutler, senior vice president for broadcast standards and policy
at ABC, said in a statement, “The ABC Television Network does not
accept ads from organizations which present religious doctrine.” The
network said it accepts ads from religious organizations, including the
Salvation Army, as long as the commercials do not proselytize.

The Focus on the Family ad said, “We’ll be there with parenting advice,
and a faith-based perspective that can make all the difference.”

Rev. Robert Chase, director of communication for the United Church of
Christ, said in an interview, “It seems that somebody is deciding that
one religious expression is O.K. for viewers to see and others are

UCC asked people to go to church directly.  FotF removed the
appeal by one step (instead directing people to its website, where they
will receive invitation/admonition to go to particular churches). 
ABC’s logic here is casuistic (one might even say Jesuitical, but I’d
doubt that ABC would take an ad from Jesuits, not least because it
would be above their heads), to say the least.

Posted in Politicks on 8 May 2005 at 12:09 pm by Nate