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Student Blog – The Anti-Gay Preacher

JMU student and Madison Collaborative Advisor (new peer education group), Megan Sibley, sent me the story about the preacher on-campus at JMU in mid-September. I asked her to think about how the Eight Key Questions may apply to this situation and she wrote the following response.

By Megan Sibley, Junior, IDLS – Early Childhood Education

On September 16th and 17th, Reverend Jackson preached against homosexuality outside Carrier Library. His proclamations did not go unnoticed – instead, it instigated a massive retaliation in support of LGBT. JMU students sang hymns and held signs while drowning out the preacher’s words with chants supporting gay equality. This certainly posed an ethical dilemma. The complex perspectives can be seen when applying the 8 key questions to this scenario.

Fairness – Fairness applies to the reasoning behind both the reverend and the students’ decisions. The most objectively fair thing to do would be to allow both sides of the argument to voice their opinions. But from the students’ perspective, fairness was centered on equal human rights. They fought against this man’s opinion in support of a fair society.

Outcomes – The ultimate outcome was the students’ successful reprisal with a message of love and acceptance. It gained media attention, which helped spread the word of equality, as well as giving empowerment to the gay community. If nobody had retaliated against the preacher, gay students who heard his negative talk would not have realized how accepting and supportive our school actually is.

Responsibilities – The students didn’t have an official obligation to stand up against Reverend Jackson. They could have walked right by and not said anything. However, they felt it was their moral responsibility to stand against his negative message. That was a responsibility that many would not have considered their own (i.e. the bystander effect), but these JMU students stepped up. The reverend thought he had a responsibility too – to spread the word of his religion.

Character – When speaking out, the preacher and students expressed their character. The students showed compassionate character when defending the targeted group. The reverend considers being Christian as part of his identity, but he should think about whether his words reflected the person he wants to be.

Empathy – Reverend Jackson did not appear to use empathy when making his decision to preach. He was not thinking about the impact his words had on others’ self-esteem. He also did not try to understand the point of view of the students who were trying to reason with him.

Authority – To the reverend, his authority was God and the Bible. But he interpreted it in such a way, it ended up hurting rather than helping his message.

Liberty and Rights - Liberties and rights were at the core of this situation. Each party exercised their freedom of speech. The students took their right to free assembly to combat the reverend’s message. But possibly the most important innate right was for safety and peace of mind. The gay students at JMU deserve to feel as safe and welcome as the straight students. Removing the preacher from campus created that safe, loving environment for them.

Making Ripples

On September 17th, Justice William C. Mims, a Harrisonburg native, opened the Madison Vision Series with a brief history of the word Justice and ended with a challenge to the men and women of JMU to “make ripples, do justice.” His reference was inspired by Robert F. Kennedy’s 1966 “Day of Affirmation Address” in Capetown, South Africa. For more information on this speech by Robert F. Kennedy visit Justice Mims also proposed that the Madison Collaborative: Ethical Reasoning in Action, is a pathway toward making ripples at JMU. As a Madison Fellow this academic year, I welcome opportunities to work with all faculty interested in incorporating ethical reasoning into their courses. Visit the MC website or email me at Let’s make waves!

Does Science Make You More Moral?

This question was addressed in a research article where subjects were “primed” – given a word or phrase – from science and then asked to weigh in on various ethical issues and dilemmas.  Those subjects which were primed by the science terms actually showed a statistically significant improvement on ethical decision making.  [Forwarded by Judith Dilts, associate dean, CSM.]

College Students Do The Right Thing

A group of students who found themselves in an untended store decided to do the right thing.  See:  [ Nick Langridge, senior vp university advancement, forwarded.]

Reflection not Reflex

Philip Zimbardo’s notoriety came from the Stanford Prison Experiments in which students who role played prison personnel treated students who role played prisoners so harshly that the experiment had to be stopped. It was actually Zimbardo’s wife an outsider who saw what was going on that forced the end of the experiment. Zimbardo is now designing ways to teach against the “bystander effect.” He calls his training a training for heroes.  According to the article, “The hero project’s curriculum teaches students to use a mental “pause button” so that they can avoid falling prey to automatic assumptions (“Someone else will take care of it”) and choose a more thoughtful response instead.” The MC’s pause button is the eight key questions, i.e. a little more content than simply stopping to think. Just stopping to think about anything — reflecting–  causes better thinking and acting. See:  [ Forwarded by Tom Adajian, philosophy.]

Deciding on Life and Death in Katrina (Real life parallels to the Hurricane Sharon “It’s Complicated” case)

In a book titled Five Days at Memorial doctor/author Sheri Fink tells how doctors at the hospital decided who to save first, who to save last, and who to assist in dying as the floodwaters from Katrina rose higher.  According to the author, doctors tend to be utilitarians (outcomes oriented) “and other considerations might not be taken into account, like justice or fairness..” [The book was mentioned on NPR and the link forwarded by Jenne Klotz, interim associate dean, library.]

Speaking of Plagiarism

Richard Posner is a noted federal judge, jurisprudential scholar, economist, and prolific author. A number of years ago he wrote a brief article on plagiarism that asks the question, What is wrong with plagiarism? See:  He turned the article into a book–The Little Book of Plagiarism– which strikes similar themes, i.e. what is really wrong with plagiarism? Judge Posner  argues that plagiarism is a way of life in the law and in literature.  He claims that copyright infringement is a real problem because it amounts to taking property. However, plagiarism he classifies as a kind of fraud but it is a fraud that is problematic only in special circumstances.