The moral duty to think

The Virginia GOP has derailed a nomination to a state judgeship for the specific reason that the nominee is gay.

Delegate Bob Marshall said he will seek to remove the name of Richmond prosecutor Tracy Thorne-Begland from a list of proposed District Court judicial appointments. “I don’t even think it’s proper to put his name forward because of his behavior,” said Marshall, who called Thorne-Begland “a homosexual activist,” in a press release.

Thorne-Begland has been nominated to serve as a judge for Richmond’s General District Court, but, Marshall challenges the nomination on the grounds of the prosecutor’s sexual orientation.

The GOP-controlled House of Delegates upheld Marshall’s objection:

The House of Delegates, voting in Tuesday’s early morning hours, blocked an openly gay Richmond prosecutor from appointment to a General District Court judgeship in the city.

And that’s that: A career and all of its years of hard work thrown away in deference to the beliefs of a tribe of genocidal Bronze Age goatherders.

I encountered a few years ago an essay written in 1877 by a British mathematician named William Clifford, and republished it here in its entirety, The Ethics of Belief. If you have never read it, you should.


It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone,
to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.

William Clifford


The gist of Clifford’s argument is this: Private beliefs have public consequences, and this fact imposes upon us a moral duty to strive toward accurate beliefs lest we unjustly work injury to others.

This case of a frustrated judicial nomination is a good example of Clifford’s point. Has there been a showing that Thorne-Begland is not competent? No. Indeed, the issue appears never to have arisen.

But he is gay, and the ‘inerrant’ Bible condemns homosexuality, and if you’re one of those poor sad fools who thoughtlessly accepts the claim that the Bible is an adequate guide to morality — well, that’s enough to know.

Which is why the words “I am a Bible-believing Christian” shame and disgrace a man.

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