Suppose I live in a country that has long denied me a basic civil right, but recently, for a brief interval, that civil right became available to me. Suppose, too, that one cause of my losing this civil right was a gift from the chairman of a large philanthropic organization. Might it be possible to argue that the philianthropist's money has corroded the moral character of the country that I live in? If a philanthropist guilty of such an act of political oppression bought intellectual credibility by paying a number of professors and writers to hold a series of lofty debates, might he be said to have corroded their characters as well? As it happens, John Templeton, Jr., chairman of the Templeton Foundation, was the third-largest donor to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign in California, which in November took away from California's gays and lesbians the right to marry. I'd be curious to know how you folks at the Templeton Foundation reconcile the high rhetoric displayed here with the rather low and brutal practice of taking a civil right away from a minority group. And I'd also be curious how the public intellectuals that you paid to join you in this high rhetoric feel about their relationship to you now. Hey, it could be the topic of your next series: 'Is marriage a civil right?' And you could give snappy headlines to the answers, as you seem to like to do: 'Not in America.' 'Yes, for straight people.' 'Only in months that don't contain the letter R.'
That's my pro bono contribution to an online debate over the question "Does the free market corrode moral character?" being held at the website of the John Templeton Foundation, whose chairman John Templeton Jr. contributed more than $1 million to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign. You can add your two cents as well. (The ostensible longterm goal of the Templeton Foundation, by the way, is to persuade the public that religion and science have something to do with each other, which in my opinion they do not.) (And no, I don't live in California. That part is hypothetical.)