Andrew Daines: So Munier, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Resolution 44. What's going on?
Munier Salem: Glad you asked Andrew. There is injustice afoot on East Hill these days. Resolution 44 will deal with this injustice. Though I'm not sure how. Possibly with logarithms.
Andrew: You're right, there is injustice afoot. Look what I read on the S.A. website today:
"The IO shall not discriminate on the basis of actual or perceived age, ancestry or ethnicity, color, creed, disability, gender, gender identity or expression, height, immigration or citizenship status, marital status, national origin, race, religion, religious practice, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, veteran status or weight when determining its membership and when determining full rights of membership, which shall include, but is not limited to, voting for, seeking, and holding positions within the IO."
Munier: Yes, concision was probably not a goal of this legislation. There's a lot to digest here, so let's play a game. Name the some of the protected classes you strongly agree with, and the ones you strongly disagree with. I'll go first. I love the following: ancestry or ethnicity, color, gender, gender identity or expression, citizenship, marital status, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and veteran status. I think height and weight are bogus. And creed... what exactly is creed? I'm thinking of the creepy guy from The Office.
Andrew: Don’t mean to spoil the game, but I don’t love any of [Resolution 44]. As for “creed”, I think the Student Assembly typed a bunch of protected classes into Word and went a little nuts with the Thesaurus.
Munier: Hey! My favorite dinosaur is the Thesaurus. But seriously now... none of it appeals to you? Not even a clause about racial discrimination?
Andrew: Nope, not even a clause about racial discrimination. Before you judge me, hear me out. I’m worried about what this resolution will mean for the clubs on campus — ones I hate and ones I love. As despicable as discrimination based on immutable characteristics is, what about the violence done to clubs when they’re no longer in charge of their own destinies. Highfalutin as that sounds, imagine a situation in which the S.A. swoops in and tells you who’s in and who’s out of your club, who gets to be president, who gets to remain as president in spite of having disavowed the club itself.
Munier: Highfalutin? I don’t think so. I agree that S.A. infringement into the affairs of these organizations is a direct violation of liberties we all acknowledge. But this resolution doesn’t seek to purge campus of all exclusive clubs. The S.A. simply will not fund these organizations. Take a look at some of the current student organizations the S.A. doesn’t fund. You’ll find some of the richest, most influential organizations on this list, including the fraternities, secret societies, The Cornell Daily Sun, Cornell Underground and WVBR.
Andrew: Fair enough, Munier. This is really about dollar bills, but none of the organizations you mention are exactly banging down the S.A.’s door for money. So lets look at the impetus for Resolution 44 — Chi Alpha. This (lonely) Christian fellowship came under fire for its removal of a homosexual from a position of senior membership. Don’t you think they deserve a religious exemption? I mean we’re talking about their core beliefs here.
Munier: Indeed, a core belief. In fact, many scholars have postulated that, the Bible, stripped of its exclusion of homosexuality, would collapse into a black hole — a giant dark mass, devoid of morality and spiritual power. Core belief indeed.
Andrew: Take a step back. The core belief I am talking about isn’t the the exclusion of gays from fellowships — it’s adherence to Biblical teaching as dictated by conscience. A stance on homosexuality is one tiny part of what it means to be a Bible-basher, true, but the broader principle is fidelity to the bible itself.
Munier: Freedom to follow your faith is cool in my book. But, when in conflict with the laws of a republic, secular law ought to supersede religion, especially when significant harm to an individual could occur. A religion cannot freely murder. Tormenting a gay member (out of “love”) for being a sinner can be just as bad. In an alternate universe, Chris Donohoe ’09 could have been pressed to suicide by the adult advisers (described by Chris as “close friends”) revoking Chris of his senior membership, and insisting his acceptance of homosexuality was sinful. I guarantee if that news story ended at the bottom of Fall Creek, the tenor of this debate would be markedly different.
Andrew: You’re quite right. This imagined scenario in which Chris is driven to suicide by his treatment in the club is sickening. But let us not forget, first, that this is hypothetical. And where you seem to take Chris’ strength as a stroke of luck it may also be an indication of the handling of the situation itself by the adult advisers. I find it neither impossible, nor improbable, that an imagined situation like this would be handled by adult leaders in a spirit of love — not in quotation marks. What worries me, however, is a contest of values in the secular overriding the religious freedom in a Christian fellowship. The effects of a law are both substantive and narrative — the narrative here being what? Perhaps it's as you've suggested: Christian groups are bigoted, maybe just haters masquerading as disciples.
Munier: I can't speak to intent (I assume they're not haters) but as for effect? We know what Christianity in America has done for the gay movement. As I mentioned in my article earlier this week, we have documented assassinations, teenage homelessness, suicides... the list goes on. Is the situation contrived? Not based on this evidence. But more fundamentally, I wish to simply point out that discrimination, allowed by first amendment rights or otherwise, has an unintended consequence — silence. It fosters an atomized nation, filled with misunderstanding, in which fear drives men and women into the closet. This does not protect free speech, it silences it, albeit indirectly. But, Andrew, I'm not asking us to run around engineering a happier society. I merely would ask that my tuition, my tax dollars, my military service, whatever... not be thrown in support of these causes. Make no mistake: I see discrimination based on sexual orientation, ecclesiastically motivated or otherwise, as among the worst kind of discrimination.
Andrew: We must be at loggerheads. For me, an argument against the first amendment is doomed to fail due to a lack of acceptable alternatives. I suppose the answer, for you, would be a reiteration of the first amendment with certain limitations. And yet the establishment of these limitations and checks on an unruly doctrine such as free speech is problematic. I venture to say it is the very issue we are grappling with here: what limitations are appropriate? That and the money... I can only stress the value created by content neutrality as we apportion free speech rights and our tuition dollars. It's the only want to ensure a true diversity of opinion and expression. If we're so strong as to say that our money isn't for Chi Alpha to touch, we may find ourselves in the position of discrimanator, revoking their priveleges to reserve rooms, use Big Red bandwidth etc.
Munier: Not going to deny that claim... this is indeed a slippery slope. Which goes back to where this discussion started: Resolution 44. Remember all those categories? (Remember Creed?). I'm gonna call this one as (slightly) too broad. First ammendment rights ought to be restricted with an exacto-knife of justice. Fortunately, I'd hazard a guess that a student-run court at an Ivy-League University is more than capable of toeing the line between blatant discrimination (Chi Alpha) and a silencing of ideas. They can "deliver us from nada," but they ain't using my money to buy their Pope some Prada. Amen?
Andrew: I guess these are my last licks. Better make 'em count. I'm gonna call this one (Res. 44) unnecessary. Our democratically elected representatives (go Vince Andrews!) on the SA are more than capable of fishing out the really really bad cases of discrimination from the bin of slights and jabs and (sorry, Munier) religiously protected mandates.
Munier: Tee-hehe... MANdates. You know Andrew, sometimes I think we have a lot in common...