Ethics 2016: When is it okay to pass judgment based on political views?

ethics

I’m being confronted with what is, to me, a serious ethical dilemma.

What do I do when I discover that a person who does work or might want to work within the volunteer programs I manage actually supports Donald Trump for president?

The above sentence sounds like a lead in to a joke. I wish it were.

In the most recent case of my experience, one of the women who teaches Sunday School within my ministry area posted a pro-Trump article. I can’t even be hopeful that it was just a slip of a finger on a keyboard, because she’s posted some pretty out-there stuff in the past.

Up until now I’ve felt that I can’t police the personal beliefs of my volunteers. I have 25 people working with children in my department every week (and each volunteer slot is double-staffed, making a total of 50 volunteers to monitor); even if I wanted to keep my thumb on what and how they teach, it would be an impossible task. I do my best to make sure they’re on the same page with the theology we want to teach, that they frame their lessons in a way that ONLY offers a message of grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love. Once they’re in the classrooms doing their thing, it’s out of my hands.

We don’t have any kind of litmus test in our congregation for who’s allowed to work with kids (beyond our very carefully followed child protection policy). The stance of our denomination is that we have collective statements about our theological beliefs, but we do NOT tell individuals what they must believe, how they must think about certain issues, or how they should vote.

But this Trump thing is a whole new ball game.

I do not believe it’s possible to make a case that an adult who supports this man has good judgment. In fact, I believe that supporting Trump denotes a severe lack of critical thought, a severe lack of concern for those who don’t look exactly like us – in short, being a Trump supporter indicates a severe character flaw.

This is not hyperbole. It’s truly what I believe.

TRUMP_16_Make_America_Great_Again_sticker

I heard an author in a radio interview this morning make an excellent point: What is really meant by this slogan is “Make America White Again.” That is what Trump’s followers actually want. It’s a truth that makes me physically ill.

In this particular case, this teacher is done with her teaching for the year. I don’t think she’ll be returning next year; after doing this work for twelve years I can tell when a volunteer is on his/her way out.

But I can see the possibility of having to make some pretty serious and difficult decisions in the new program year that will start in the fall, which is traditionally when we sign up a lot of new volunteers.

I take my responsibility to our children very seriously. I’m not 100% certain that it’s ethical to create my own litmus test for the people who work within the programs I oversee.

But I know I cannot live with myself if I allow a Donald Trump supporter to have access to children in my care.

 

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14 thoughts on “Ethics 2016: When is it okay to pass judgment based on political views?

  1. I do not envy you this problem in the slightest. I think you are right. Supporting this man indicstes either an ability to ignore, fail to research, or acceot a great many dark, dark things. Its hard to feel like it’s ok to expose children to that. But at the same time you have never before tested for these things. Never before made it something that you watch for. It’s a rock and a hard place.

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  2. oooo! Such a dilemma when you know someone believes in sickness such as Trump, could be passing on this type of crap onto impressionable young ones. Making it a political free zone sounds good to me.

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  3. That’s a tough one and I completely understand your concerns (the fact that some Trump supporters seem to be able to conjure up a willing suspension of disbelief when it comes to the racist, homophobic, misogynist stuff doesn’t sit well with me either). The comment above by new doorknobs is a nice compromise, though obviously not an easy conversation to have. At its very best, it might just open the door (or maybe a window) for having these conversations on a larger scale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point. The hard thing is that our volunteer staff is so large it makes it very hard to discuss difficult topics. Maybe this is the year to experiment with several smaller meetings, with fewer volunteers at any one given meeting, to facilitate meaningful conversation.

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  4. Maybe it’s not this simple, but I could picture a discussion along the lines of: “I understand you are supportive of Donald Trump. But I’m concerned since Trump has made very clear statements that denigrate immigrants, Muslims, Hispanics, etc. Our church firmly believes that all people are equal in the eyes of God, and deserve to be treated and respected as such. I want to make sure that this is a message you would be wholeheartedly supporting when working with any children entrusted to your care.”

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    • You could add in any other relevant Trump statements that contradict church tenets. But in general, I think the lack of respect for some groups of people is a fairly clear litmus test that ought to be acceptable, and very relevant to the sorts of lessons kids generally cover in Sunday school.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a good thought, and one I’ll l be discussing thoroughly with my colleague who leads Youth ministry. Certainly he’s got more to worry about in this area than I do – it’s much more likely that politlics will be a point of discussion in their gatherings. Even though it’s just as much about fitness for service as concern over what will come up in conversation.

        It’s good to hear from you – I’ve been missing your posts, and hope you’ll be writing again sometime soon. 🙂

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  5. Read often but don’t think I’ve ever replied….

    All you can really do is from this point on (or however it works within your church) make a rule that no political discussions can occur within the church walls (or within Child Teaching Times).

    By doing so, you would actually protect everyone. You (and I don’t either) like Trump but someone else may not like Sanders, Clinton, Cruz, etc. And they may not want their children to hear about how ‘great’ any of those people are while in church. They may feel you lack morals, convictions or faith and don’t want their own children around that. So if you remove all political talk from the teachings, you eliminate a lot of this and anything else is just judgements on another character and the parent can either decide to not enroll their child in the classes or to have faith that you will make sure the rule is followed with strong disciplinary action against those who decide to disobey it (even if it’s something you agree with).

    Church is to learn about your God. Not someone’s views on current political going-on’s, no matter what ‘side’ your on.

    Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, that’s certainly not a bad suggestion. I can see instituting such a policy. My concern, though, is not so much an adult talking about politics; it’s that an adult who can support someone as completely devoid of reason, compassion, and mature behavior can’t possibly have the kind of thinking skills and basic understanding of life I would require of someone working within our programs. Thank you very much for your comment.

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