The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been known for its insistence on “corporate neutrality” in the culture war, that corporations neither support nor condemn one position or another. Until it became inconvenient for them to do so. Rushing to the defense of Chick-fil-A’s bigoted anti-gay position (“Guilty as charged,” President Dan Cathy says), corporate neutrality was quickly forgotten.
Therefore, when they rushed to attack General Mills for opposing an amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota, NOM went after the corporation for allegedly violating its own diversity policy. There is nothing quite like fundamentalist Christianity’s embrace of moral relativism in pursuit of a goal. That the end justifies the means has been a benchmark position for the Church since they rounded up the first Jews and Pagans sixteen hundred years ago.
NOM approaches this delicate directional shift with its usual embrace of a blunt-force approach:
Your diversity policy claims to respect “not just the primary areas such as gender, race and sexual orientation – but also cultural aspects including values, preferences, beliefs, and communication styles.” However, your public opposition to the Minnesota Marriage Amendment overtly disrespects the values and beliefs of many of your employees. To avoid misleading the public and potential employees regarding the true position of General Mills, I ask that you remove this misrepresentation from your website and any written materials unless or until you decide to actually follow through on your commitment to true diversity.
You would think from this that General Mills is being hypocritical: saying one thing and doing another. But they’re not. Take a look at what General Mills actually says:
Diversity and inclusion
At General Mills, diversity is both a value and a business strategy.
Embracing diversity helps us attract and retain top talent while driving innovation and consumer engagement around the world.
General Mills creates a diverse workforce by recruiting the best and brightest talent from all communities.
“Diversity plus inclusion equals business value. We connect with our consumers, customers and communities. We reap new ideas and innovation. And we recruit and retain the talent to win now and in the future.” - Ken Charles, vice president, Diversity and Inclusion
We cultivate an inclusive environment by considering all dimensions of diversity – not just the primary areas such as gender, race and sexual orientation – but also cultural aspects including values, preferences, beliefs and communication styles.
General Mills fosters inclusion by living all of our core values, including respecting, developing and investing in our employees.
Now here’s the concept NOM doesn’t understand – probably willfully since the other option is that they’re congenitally stupid – diversity. Diversity is about inclusion, not singling some out for exclusion. Cornell University’s ILR school explains the concept very well (I’ve emphasized the points central to our discussion here):
As a concept, diversity is considered to be inclusive of everyone. In many ways, diversity initiatives complement non-discrimination compliance programs by creating the workplace environment and organizational culture for making differences work. Diversity is about learning from others who are not the same, about dignity and respect for all, and about creating workplace environments and practices that encourage learning from others and capture the advantage of diverse perspectives.
“Inclusive of everyone” and “dignity and respect for all.”
General Mills, by opposing that bigoted Minnesota amendment, has stood by its word and by its diversity policy. It has not, as NOM claims, violated it.
What NOM is insisting upon is that General Mills not stand by its diversity policy but to abandon it by showing prejudicial, non-inclusive behavior toward those NOM deems members of the despised class known as the constructed other: in this case the LGBTQ community (it could as easily be atheists, Pagans, Muslims, or what have you).
NOM is claiming that the “values, preferences, beliefs” of some override/have more value than the “values, preferences, beliefs” of others. NOM is saying that if some in the workforce find gays and lesbians abhorrent that they should be excluded.
Leaving us to ask: what about “inclusive of everyone” does NOM not understand? There are only two sides to this particular argument: inclusiveness and exclusiveness. If you exclude anyone, even one person, you are not being inclusive.
The idea of toleration is that a person tolerate things of which he or she does not approve. Toleration is an essential ingredient in a policy of diversity, corporate or otherwise. What General Mills is saying is that yes, we will include you who oppose Marriage Equality, and we will include you who endorse Marriage Equality, and we will include you who have no position on the matter. We will include ALL of you, regardless of your values, preferences and beliefs.
If you want to talk hypocrisy, look at NOM. Though as ThinkProgress wrote on July 23, they have abandoned the old “corporate neutrality” talking point, they have not really abandoned it altogether. Remember what I said about moral relativism? Take a look at their new spin on last month’s corporate neutrality talking point:
It’s not the role of corporate management to unilaterally endorse a controversial political issue unrelated to a company’s core business – particularly when doing so will alienate a large percentage of customers, employees and shareholders. I urge you to reconsider your decision to support same-sex marriage and to publicly oppose the Minnesota Marriage Amendment.
Rather than corporations remaining strictly neutral the call now is for corporations to remain neutral if it is “a controversial political issue” that is at stake if it is “unrelated to the company’s core business” and “particularly when doing so will alienate a large percentage of its customers, employees and shareholders.”
No call here for inclusion. It’s exclusion all the way, based on the will of those who make it a part of their preferences to condemn others for not being like them. But if Chick-Fill-A, which is not mentioned here (for good reasons, I would think – it would draw attention to the essential hypocrisy of their positions) finds their anti-gay position valid (and NOM seems to think so from their endorsement of Chick-Fill-A) then how is General Mill’s position in support of diversity any less justified or relevant? They are two sides of the same coin, after all, inclusion and exclusion and marriage equality/”traditional” marriage. How is the cultural issue at stake (marriage equality) less controversial for Chick-Fill-A than for General Mills?
What NOM wants, what every fundamentalist Christian wants, is not equal application of the law, or even of logic and common sense. What the forces of bigotry do want is to plead special rights: that the laws of the universe no more than the laws of humanity apply to them; that “there is no crime for those who have Christ.” When the means justify the ends, it is perfectly permissible for groups like NOM to say one thing about one company and another thing – in complete violation of the processes followed in formulating the first position – about another.
It is no different than when a Republican insists that legislative action is required to impose a certain view (say, contraception or abortion) and when that legislation fails, to insist it’s not the place of a few lawmakers to impose such a position but for a popular amendment voted on by the people (Chris Christie comes to mind). Conversely, if the amendment approach is tried first and fails, it is perfectly permissible in their eyes to insist that the proper way to do these things is to legislate them into or out of existence, as the case may be.
No one and I mean no one is more morally flexible than a fundamentalist Christian.
The “Church” (to use the language of fundamentalism) which has long asserting itself to be the bulwark against the dark Pagan forces of moral relativism, is in fact the champion of moral relativism. The Church, in its quest for a greater, capital-T Truth, finds all lesser truths irrelevant and even to be despised, and will Machiavelli-like use all the weapons at its disposal, including lies. The spirit of the Inquisition is alive and well not only in conservative Catholicism but in conservative Protestantism as well. The Pythonesque joke is that “nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition” when the truth is, we all should.
Just ask General Mills.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.