Feb 26, 2014

Republican Judges Ignore Natural Law

Judge Rovner Embraces Her Short-Haired Judicial Sister 
Republican appointees to the 7th Circuit, Rovner (Bush) and Easterbrook (Reagan), addressed the constitutionality of a public school's requiring the boys' basketball team, but not the girls', to have short hair.

Longish-Haired Easterbrook: Over the Ears and Collar
Ignorant of Natural Law?

Our Republican judicial champions of legal conservatism found that male-only, short-hair grooming rules unconstitutionally discriminate on the basis of sex: 

"... no rational, let alone exceedingly persuasive, justification has been articulated for restricting the hair length of male athletes alone." Hayden v. Greensburg Community School Corp. (7th Cir. Feb. 24, 2014), p. 25.

It's depressing to see Republican appointees supporting this kind of social radicalism in the name of the Constitution. Respecting society's overwhelming preference for maintenance of conventional difference in sexual appearance is not rational? Did the ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment really oppose different hair-styles for boys and girls? Did the People really want federal judges to determine the appropriateness of high-school grooming rules as a matter of constitutional law? It's a good reminder (along with McCain and Romney's opposition to religious freedom in Arizona) of how unreliable the Republicans really are.

But for those interested in natural-law theory, this decision is an interesting one because it conflicts with what appears to be the clearest instance of natural-law reasoning in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 11:14-15:

"Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?"

Nevertheless, Christian advocates of Aristotelian natural law rarely quote this passage or give sex-based hair-length norms any discussion.

Why not? For one thing, Aristotelian versions of natural law have a very difficult time accounting for the ethical significance of sexual differences in appearance. Also, this passage strongly suggests that the "nature" Paul is talking about in this and other passages is not continuous with the φύσις of Aristotelian philosophy. Here is the full context of the passage:

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
According to this passage, "nature" teaches that hair glorifies women "for [because] long hair is given to her as a covering." "A covering," here, is a means of symbolic relation to the "image and glory of God." Therefore, the "nature of things" that Paul discusses is the relation of humans to the image and glory of God, not the Aristotelian φύσις. Aristotelian ethics relates man to his own nature or essence, humanity. To be good is to be what one is fully. Paul's discussion relates man, not to his own essence or excellence, but to God's glory. For Paul, the fundamental ethical fact is "everything comes from God." To God, all must return. 

If we think about ethics based on the Pauline "nature of things," we will be concerned with the significance of human actions for our relation to God, to glorifying Him and responding to Him. If we follow the Aristotelianism urged on us by some, we will be looking to our inward relation to ourselves. These are very different ethical impulses and very different laws of nature.

1 comment:

  1. The school should force the girls team to cut their hair. All the girls quit. Great outcome all around. Cuz who needs girls bball anyway? Having a girls and a boys team is totally sexist anyway. There should be one team. Open tryouts. Problem solved.