Thursday, October 1, 2009
Thanks to Rick for passing on the news that Chai Feldblum has been nominated to be a member of the EEOC. I'm hoping that Prof. Feldblum has (or will develop) a more fulsome understanding of liberty of conscience than the one reflected in a comment she made about the Elane Photography case. She remarked, "if you run a wedding photography service, even if you don't like the fact that those two gays are getting married, you'd better have someone on your staff who will take those pictures."
Here's how I respond in my forthcoming book:
[The idea] that the Huguenins [the photo agency owners] can avoid the problem by hiring an employee who is willing to shoot events that their own moral convictions do not permit them to shoot . . . solves nothing unless we conceive of conscience in individualist terms, as though its claims apply to my own conduct and no further. In reality, conscience refers (literally) to shared moral belief, and while not every claim of conscience will actually be shared, such claims are, by their nature, susceptible to sharing. As such, the Huguenins’ resistance to offering, through creative hiring, a “full service” photography agency is not an imperialist expansion of conscience’s interior domain; it is a natural outgrowth of conscience’s relational dimension. Institutions do not possess a conscience in some ontological sense, but they do embody distinct moral identities that are shaped by their constituents’ consciences. When we preclude the cultivation and maintenance of such institutional identities, it is not just moral pluralism that suffers; it is the cause of conscience itself.