Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Is it socially acceptable to hire an opponent of SSM to write a comic book?

I've been intrigued by the protests targeting DC Comics for the company's decision to permit an anti-SSM advocate to write part of the Superman series.  This represents part of a troubling trend not just to challenge anti-SSM advocates on the merits of the issue in the public square, but to push them to the margins of society.  But here are my questions: is the problem with these protests that they're seeking to deny a publicly prominent employment opportunity to an individual based on his political views, or that they're seeking to deny a publicly prominent employment opportunity to an individual based on his opposition to SSM?  In other words, would the protestors be on firmer ground if they were seeking to organize a boycott of DC Comics for hiring an outspoken opponent of interracial marriage to write for the Superman series?  As SSM becomes more widely accepted, do we need to be prepared to defend the social inclusion of a wider variety of unpopular views?


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I think if Orson Scott Card were an outspoken opponent of interracial marriage, he wouldn't have been offered the job in the first place, or if he had, few would be disturbed by a protest. R. R. Reno over on First Things writes about "the Selma analogy," and he is very much opposed to making an analogy between the rights of black people and the rights of gay people.

As I understand Reno (and I urge people to read the essay for themselves rather than accept my interpretation), the civil rights movement of the 1960s was such a terrible intrusion by the government into personal freedom that we can sympathize with conservatives like Goldwater and Buckley who opposed it. They did, though, came to see that they were wrong. Civil rights legislation, horrific as it was, was necessary. "Fighting the evil of racial discrimination really did require something like a government takeover of our racist culture," says Reno. But such a thing can never be allowed to happen again—certainly not over the "rights" of gay people. And of course Reno's position is the position of the Catholic Church. There must be no "rights" granted to gay people—no legislation that recognizes them as a protected category.

Of course it is *possible* that at some point in the future, many who oppose same-sex marriage and prohibitions based on sexual orientation will—like Buckley and Goldwater—realize that the unthinkable is thinkable. George Wallace famously said in 1963, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," but ten or fifteen years later he reversed his position. I think Reno and many other opponents of same-sex marriage are looking down the road ten or twenty years and are convinced they will never accept it. Maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong, but unless the tide turns (which is, of course, possible) they will be a minority and may very well be looked upon with some of the same disdain people now have for racists.

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 25, 2013 11:07:24 AM

I think there is a better way to frame the issues. Preliminarily, I am not sure there is a "problem" with these protests and I view with some amusement the suggestion that a refusal to buy a certain comic results in the author's marginalization.

But I think the larger problem is finding the right box. The "anti-SSM advocate" is Orson Scott Card, a fantastically successful science-fiction author (Ender's Game, etc.--might as well just be Ender's Game owing to its critical success and consistent strong sales). Card is not some starving artist whom DC Comics "hired." Given Card's prominence as a science-fiction author, it seems to me rather that DC asked him to write (or at least sign his name to) a new Superman webcomic series as an effort to expand the market for Superman. Card is lending his reputation to Superman, not vice-versa.

But what is that reputation? Card has always been "out" about being LDS, and there are perceptible LDS themes in his mainstream science fiction, leaving aside his works created specifically for an LDS audience. But over the last, say, ten years, Card has managed to make himself about as well-known for his conservative political views as for his artistic talent.

So if DC wishes to associate its Superman brand with Card, how can it force customers to distinguish between Card the brilliant scifi author and Card the outspoken conservative? DC seems to have wanted the reaction to be, "Cool, Card wrote Ender's Game! I bet his Superman comic series is awesome!" But one reaction seems to have been "Isn't Card that guy who thinks liberals are destroying America? Why do I want to read anything he wrote?" (To me this is about the same as Catholic Charities "hiring" (associating itself with), say, Angelina Jolie on the basis of her charitable work, then facing a backlash over Jolie's perceived moral defects.)

Depending on the product, this may make Card a net liability.

Posted by: Sykes Five | Feb 25, 2013 11:22:43 AM

Also, I am missing the distinction between:

1. "seeking to deny a publicly prominent employment opportunity to an individual based on his political views;" and

2. "seeking to deny a publicly prominent employment opportunity to an individual based on his opposition to SSM."

Posted by: Sykes Five | Feb 25, 2013 11:35:34 AM

Society and the law must make distinctions based on what is true, and cannot be entirely relativistic. Were it not so, it would be wrong to ostracize racists. The difference between support of racism and opposition to asexual marriage is that support of racism is objectively wrong and opposition to asexual marriage is objectively right. To ostracize a group for having a belief that is right is what is known as a persecution.

Posted by: Dan | Feb 26, 2013 9:46:20 AM


What is your source of objective knowledge? And how do we, as citizens in a democratic society, tap into it? Don't we all believe our convictions are "objectively right"? Are you claiming that proponents of same-sex marriage deep down know they are objectively wrong?

Posted by: David Nickol | Feb 26, 2013 11:23:05 AM

Can I answer David's questions? Here's my answers:
1. reason
2. by using reason and having reasonable discussion with one another in the open and free public square
3. Yes, generally, we all believe our convictions are objectively right. And since different people have different opinions, that means that people's convictions must be more confused or less confused, the more or less perfectly their convictions correspond to truth, support goodness and true human flourishing, etc.
4. I don't want to speak for Dan, but I see no claim (and no reason for claiming) that proponents of SSM deep down know they are objectively wrong. To the contrary, I'm certain that SSM proponents think that they are objectively right. I'm certain that some SSM proponents think that SSM is a good that is supportive of human dignity, is a benefit to society, etc. Now I happen to disagree, and think that SSM is not conducive to human flourishing and is not supportive of the common good. But that's fine if people disagree with me. SSM is a topic on which reasonable and well-meaning people can disagree.... or, maybe I should say, SSM **should** be a topic on which reasonable and well-meaning people can disagree. I'm tolerant of SSM proponents, and consider them to be well-meaning and reasonable (albeit misguided). But I'm worried that we're turning into a society where SSM supporters *aren't* tolerant of me and *don't* consider me to be well-meaning and reasonable (albeit misguided).

Posted by: Thales | Feb 27, 2013 9:45:14 PM