Monday, February 20, 2012

Tone Deaf

Let's try to understand this. According to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, it's wrong for a religious employer to deny insurance coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients to their employees because that's imposing the employers' values on their employees. On the other hand, Ms Wasserman Schultz sees nothing wrong with the president imposing his values on the religious employers by requiring them to provide the coverage:
How people can be so tone deaf to the irony inherent in their words is sometimes astonishing.

At any rate, here's a question I wish someone would have asked Ms Schultz: Why is it wrong, exactly, for anyone who has the power to do so, to "impose" his or her beliefs on someone else?

Someone might say that the question is silly. It's just obvious, it might be asserted, that imposing one's beliefs is unfair, but that reply doesn't help much. It simply leads to the question why it's wrong to be unfair. Fairness is a moral virtue only if it's grounded in a transcendent moral authority, but transcendent grounds of right and wrong have no purchase in a secular society.

So what is it that makes it wrong for one group to use its power in a lawful way (the question might be expanded to include unlawful ways, but we need not go there now) to impose its version of moral right on everyone else? The answer is that, in a secular society, nothing makes it wrong other than that some people, in this case Ms Schultz, don't like the particular moral beliefs that they fear are being imposed.