Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Descent into Decadence: Breast Milk Ice Cream in London, Incest in New York - Why Not?

From the What Are We Coming To? Department. An ice cream store in London recently sold breast milk ice cream until the local council banned it. The flavor was a bestseller and the first to sell out, despite the "yuck factor it elicited. (There are several video clips on the web. The Telegraph's story and clip may be found at .)

At least they banned it. Is the "yuck factor" not enough? Compare the proposal in Switzerland - following the case of the progressive academic at Columbia University, David Epstein, accused of a 3-year affair with his 24 year-old daughter - to legalize consensual incest.

Epstein's lawyer, Matthew Galluzzo, commented to with ABC News:
"Academically, we are obviously all morally opposed to incest and rightfully so," Galluzzo said. "At the same time, there is an argument to be made in the Swiss case to let go what goes on privately in bedrooms."

"It's OK for homosexuals to do whatever they want in their own home," he said. "How is this so different? We have to figure out why some behavior is tolerated and some is not."
Galluzzo also said that even though Epstein's daughter had emerged as a victim in the case, she could "be best described as an accomplice."

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Galluzzo questioned if prosecuting incest was "intellectually consistent" with the repeal of anti-sodomy laws that resulted from Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. "What goes on between consenting adults in private should not be legislated," he said. "That is not the proper domain of our law."

In both cases - breast milk ice cream in London, father-daughter 'consensual' incest in New York - the troubling aspect is not so much that such behavior (like every kind of immoral or socially disapproved behavior) occurs. Rather it is that, in what Michael Sandel calls the "procedural republic" where the state is imagined to be neutral about moral matters, the intellectual resources are lacking to say why such activities should not be legal and, indeed, protected from discrimination.

This last point comes to mind because the British High Court has upheld the banning of a couple in Derbyshire from caring for small children as foster parents because they consider homosexual behavior to be immoral. The black couple, Pentecostal Christians in their 60s, withdrew their application after a social worker expressed concerns when they said they could not tell a child a homosexual lifestyle was acceptable. (See )

In that case, the court discriminated between kinds of Christianity, saying that some Christians (i.e., the secularized, liberal kind) might well make good foster parents, while people with traditional, orthodox Christian views on sexual morality like Mr and Mrs Johns might well not.

Such views, said the judges, might conflict with the welfare of children.

The court said that while there was a right not to face discrimination on the basis of either religion or sexual orientation, equality of sexual orientation took precedence. Thus, in Britain's ultra-secularized society, orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others are marginalized and may legally be banned from mainstream child welfare activities.

Why then, should people who are unwilling to tell the small children in their charge that incest among adults or the sale of breast milk ice cream are acceptable behaviors not also be excluded from fostering or adopting children - or being hired as social workers?

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