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More on the AALS Boycott

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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16 Responses

  1. David says:

    As someone who works for a Jesuit law school and who is organizing in support of this boycott I find your list a little bit silly. The Jesuit campuses on the West Coast support marriage equality. In fact, we have far more openly gay and lesbian faculty members than we do priests.

  2. dave hoffman says:

    David, the fact that the “jesuit campuses on the west coast support marriage equality” isn’t really the point. The jesuits are subservient (of course) to the catholic church, which doesn’t support SSM. If you believe in judging an organization by the political beliefs of its host, then it’s a fair comparison to make. Of course it’s over the top – I linked to the inquisition! – but that’s also intentional.

    The boycott’s supporters, in my view, fail to realize the value of permitting the members of large organizations to hold diverse views about contested political issues.

  3. David says:

    “The jesuits are subservient (of course) to the catholic church, which doesn’t support SSM.”

    First, that’s not true. Jesuit campuses are not subject to the authority of the Vatican. We neither receive, nor give, any money from the church.

    Secondly, your post seems to imply a direct connection between the Republican Party and support for Prop. 8. This is unfounded. Our Republican governor has come out forcefully against this ballot initiative. So has the Republican mayor of San Diego.

    I too value permitting members of large organizations to hold diverse views on contested political issues. However, what other groups, besides LGBT issues, is this standard being applied? Can you imagine the AALS, or any other professional legal organization, permitting dissent on inter-racial marriage?

  4. BobJones says:

    So what if the hotel owner donated to organizations devoted to keeping segregation of the races? And had a Bob Jones U. style religious justification for it? Would that boycott be absurd to?

    Before resorting to facile expressions about the primacy of free speech and the importance of civility, you may want to disclose exactly what you find that is more reasonable about the antigay agenda than the anti-black agenda. (Hint: look at Janet Halley’s work on the discourse of equivalents).

  5. dave hoffman says:

    BobJones: I made no claim about the primacy of free speech. I think that the AALS, as a non-political organization with a highly diverse membership, has no business taking a stand on this issue. You are correct that there could be much closer calls – the hotel owner donated to Nazis, racists, etc. (For a good discussion, check out this thread, http://legalethicsforum.typepad.com/blog/2008/08/the-threatened.html#comments, and especially Andy Pearlman’s comments). I myself am not convinced that any kind of *donation* by the hotel owner, if not attached to action against guests, would be grounds for an organizational boycott.

    David: I was unaware that the jesuits owed no allegiance to catholic doctrine, and got my (contrary) view from this letter by Pope Benedict (http://www.catholicexchange.com/2008/01/21/82661/).

    The fact that the Republican governor and mayor of San Diego oppose the SSM marriage initiative is a good point, though, if you look at the endorsers of Prop 8 among state officials, I think you’ll see a pattern: http://www.protectmarriage.com/endorsements

  6. dave hoffman says:

    Or maybe to put it another way, I don’t think that the best way to convince people that SSM is good public policy is to tell them that the opposing view is so illegitimate that it can’t be part of the political process, and its holders are no better than racists or bigots. If the argument here is that you can’t dislike SSM marriage and be a good person, then I think that the movement for marriage equality is making a bad tactical choice.

  7. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    The following is my latest addition to the thread at Legal Ethics Forum and it is not far from the letter and spirit of the above comment:

    In the end, a boycott probably hurts the workers at the hotel far more than it does the owner. Does it help to change the owner’s mind? Hardly. Does it make those boycotting the hotel feel holier than thou: most certainly. I think it might prove helpful to read what those who worked to develop the art and science of nonviolent activism had to say about such things. Gandhi, for instance, attempted to develop stringent criteria for resorting to a boycott. In the case of a boycott, for example, he “held that a nonviolent boycott is legitimate when when we are required to compromise with what we believe to be an untruth, but he felt that it would be a dangerous thing if we were to adopt *social* boycott when there are differences of opinion.” Indeed, Gandhi averred that a “summary use of social boycott in order to bend a minority to the will of the majority is a species of unpardonable violence. [....] We may not make people pure by compulsion. Much less may we compel them by violence to respect our opinion [keep in mind here that Gandhi was not simply speaking to physical violence but, more importantly, violence of the heart and mind]. It is utterly against the spirit of democracy we want to cultivate…. [I]t would be wisdom to err on the right side and to exercise the weapon even in the limited sense…on rare and well-defined occasions.” Again, a boycott is essentially a withdrawal of cooperation from an unjust social or economic institution or practice. How does that apply in this case? We might keep in mind that although such things as self-interest, prejudice and moral inertia can be the root causes of many conflicts, it also happens that “men of good-will” can take very different view of what human happiness and well-being consists in and thus it behooves us to realize that individual differences of belief and value may run so deep that there is no way to overcome or resolve them and, especially in the instant case, a boycott does nothing to promote concrete conditions of mutual trust, understanding and dialogue which, one thinks, would be prerequisites to any attempt to get the owner to change his views. Recall that where possible, a Gandhian satyagraha can “loosen up the moral and emotional rigidity of participants [in a conflict so as to create] a climate conducive to a relaxed and sympathetic dialogue.” A boycott here assures the elimination of that probability or possibility! There is nothing in the economic practices and policies (e.g., unfair discriminatory practices) of the hotel that warrant a boycott and there are far more creative (and perhaps more effective) ways to communicate one’s beliefs about the owner’s political views (several of which were suggested above) while opening up the possibility for dialogue on those views.

  8. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    The following is my latest addition to the thread at Legal Ethics Forum and it is not far from the letter and spirit of the above comment:

    In the end, a boycott probably hurts the workers at the hotel far more than it does the owner. Does it help to change the owner’s mind? Hardly. Does it make those boycotting the hotel feel holier than thou: most certainly. I think it might prove helpful to read what those who worked to develop the art and science of nonviolent activism had to say about such things. Gandhi, for instance, attempted to develop stringent criteria for resorting to a boycott. In the case of a boycott, for example, he “held that a nonviolent boycott is legitimate when when we are required to compromise with what we believe to be an untruth, but he felt that it would be a dangerous thing if we were to adopt *social* boycott when there are differences of opinion.” Indeed, Gandhi averred that a “summary use of social boycott in order to bend a minority to the will of the majority is a species of unpardonable violence. [....] We may not make people pure by compulsion. Much less may we compel them by violence to respect our opinion [keep in mind here that Gandhi was not simply speaking to physical violence but, more importantly, violence of the heart and mind]. It is utterly against the spirit of democracy we want to cultivate…. [I]t would be wisdom to err on the right side and to exercise the weapon even in the limited sense…on rare and well-defined occasions.” Again, a boycott is essentially a withdrawal of cooperation from an unjust social or economic institution or practice. How does that apply in this case? We might keep in mind that although such things as self-interest, prejudice and moral inertia can be the root causes of many conflicts, it also happens that “men of good-will” can take very different view of what human happiness and well-being consists in and thus it behooves us to realize that individual differences of belief and value may run so deep that there is no way to overcome or resolve them and, especially in the instant case, a boycott does nothing to promote concrete conditions of mutual trust, understanding and dialogue which, one thinks, would be prerequisites to any attempt to get the owner to change his views. Recall that where possible, a Gandhian satyagraha can “loosen up the moral and emotional rigidity of participants [in a conflict so as to create] a climate conducive to a relaxed and sympathetic dialogue.” A boycott here assures the elimination of that probability or possibility! There is nothing in the economic practices and policies (e.g., unfair discriminatory practices) of the hotel that warrant a boycott and there are far more creative (and perhaps more effective) ways to communicate one’s beliefs about the owner’s political views (several of which were suggested above) while opening up the possibility for dialogue on those views.

  9. juandos says:

    david says: “As someone who works for a Jesuit law school and who is organizing in support of this boycott I find your list a little bit silly. The Jesuit campuses on the West Coast support marriage equality. In fact, we have far more openly gay and lesbian faculty members than we do priests“…

    So now you are claiming that the Jesuits in defiance of the Pope’s edicts are now OPENLY SUPPORTING pervs?

  10. Rob Sterling says:

    “If the argument here is that you can’t dislike SSM marriage and be a good person, then I think that the movement for marriage equality is making a bad tactical choice.”

    Dave, they’re not merely arguing that people who don’t support SSM are bad people, they BELIEVE that. Basically, the left expects people to completely shift their moral framework every eighteen months or so to embrace the left’s latest cause, and if you’re not willing to do that then you’re written off as a hate-filled reactionary.

  11. austex says:

    “The jesuits are subservient (of course) to the catholic church, which doesn’t support SSM.”

    First, that’s not true. Jesuit campuses are not subject to the authority of the Vatican. We neither receive, nor give, any money from the church.

    ALL Catholics, priests and lay people, are subservient to the teachings of the Catholic Church and, yes, the moral authority of the Vatican. It has nothing to do with money (are you serious?). If you support SSM, join an Anglican Church near you and find nirvana but don’t call yourself a practicing Catholic.

    Thanks for the head’s up, though. None of my Catholic kids or my Catholic money will go to support any Jesuit institution on the west coast.

  12. KSM says:

    So, does my belief that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman make me a hate-filled homophobe? Does my belief make me less qualified for a job, or to provide you a good or service?

    Who you marry (and have sex with) is your choice. It is a conscious decision and an action, unlike your ethnicity.

    The AALS has a right to boycott who they wish, but it makes them look intolerant and narrow-minded. They are trying to discourage people from making their opinion known. If I were a memeber of their group I would have to consider withdrawing.

  13. KSM says:

    So, does my belief that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman make me a hate-filled homophobe? Does my belief make me less qualified for a job, or to provide you a good or service?

    Who you marry (and have sex with) is your choice. It is a conscious decision and an action, unlike your ethnicity.

    The AALS has a right to boycott who they wish, but it makes them look intolerant and narrow-minded. They are trying to discourage people from making their opinion known. If I were a memeber of their group I would have to consider withdrawing.

  14. John says:

    Should AALS graduates of Jesuit Schools stop sending alumni dues/donations because the “owner” of the schools (the Catholic Church) is also against SSM?

    Why should they reward the Church even though the school does not follow all of its edicts?

  15. Brickle says:

    I thought the AALS boycotting because the hotel owner gave money to Thompson in the primary.

    HAIL OBAMA!

  16. AlanR says:

    This is just bullying and intimidation to force someone to stop expressing an opinion the AALS doesn’t like. Hurt them bad enough and they will shut up. AALS is too civilized to break the guys knees, so they’ll just threaten his livlihood.

    The real glass house is the donors — individual and law firms — to the law schools mentioned in the post. Suppose all the supporters of traditional marriage boycotted the law firms and flooded the individual donors with mail, or protested at their homes? Easy enough to look up. Be careful AALS. Karma.