Challenge the Leader

Chaperon background; freedom foreground.

Comments: 23

  1. You are dead wrong about the chaperone. No one who engages in these sorts of behaviors should be escorting children anywhere. Better safe than sorry--the writer will feel overwhelming guilt if the person in question turns out to be a molester as well.

  2. How does the person with access know these contacts are prostitutes? Was there a heading above this particular group of contacts that says "Prostitutes"? And did the letter-writer have permission to view this list, or merely have access to the president's computer and stumbled upon this list? As for the transvestites, the letter-writer has certainly shown us his/her distaste for this group of individuals.

    In this day and age, when we've come to realize that NY governors use prostitutes, congressmen have affairs, and even US presidents like to dabble in a cigar or two, it comes as no surprise that the head of a non-for-profit organization might use prostitutes.

    But it appears the ethical question in this case is not about whether somebody is breaking the law with prostitution, but about the letter-writer's fears and phobias under the guise of protecting children.

  3. So what's the answer on moving your family to a flaky country?
    I moved mine for a year to South Africa under apartheid, and did not regret it, but declined an offer to make it permanent because I didn't want my children tainted by their politics.

  4. I am a big fan of the Ethicist and I think you are doing a great job. However, your assessment in this weeks issue called "Challenge The Leader" strikes me as simply wrong. What if he had contacts for under age prostitutes in his email? Ok, under age may be too extreme a comparison to make. What if they were advertised as 18 year old "barely legal" prostitutes? Would you still suggest that merely having them there is thrilling enough for him and that we shouldn't jump to conclusions or invade his personal life?

    I think that you are missing the bigger point in this letter which is that at this person should not engage in ANY illegal activity however harmlessly it may satisfy his "appetite for risk."

    It would be one thing if this person were simply in charge of making sure any old cargo made it safely through Europe. That is not the case though. He is in charge of young lives who aspire to be "international leaders." If he were truly to do his job well he would have to accept responsibility for setting an example for his high school clients (as should we all) which means not breaking the law. No prostitutes of any kind, no recreational drug use, no embezzling a "little" money from the non-profit for personal use etc.

  5. As to the man in Bahrain wanting to bring his family over to Bahrain, it seems to me that he is willing to put a good living and more money ahead of the real possibility that in the near future, Westerners will become the target of the people's ire.

    Just because things are going well for Westerners now, the way the middle East is heating up in many countries, I would suspect that being a Westerner isn't going to as exciting as it appears at the present.

  6. Either there's a lot of morally agonized expats in Bahrain, or this guy wrote in to Dear Prudence recently with the exact same question.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2295500/

    Not a big deal or anything, just sort of interesting.

  7. Writer #1 and #4 both assume that the chaperone is having a wild time with the names in his contact list. That's a big assumption, and it even sounds faintly envious. #4 even adds a few more potential crimes and misdemeanors with which to slur this person, although so far, the only "crime" has been to have some names on a list (and, once again, exactly how did A.K. know that these persons are a)sexually active and b)transvestites?).

    I'm pleased that #4 can see the difference between chaperoning kids who aspire to great things and maybe, my kid. So because these kids have a big future, he should mind his P's & Q's, but otherwise a few illegalities would be ok?

    Many years ago, both the East and West Villages had a rather wild mix of people living in it. All kinds of people, with all kinds of proclivities could wind up in one's address book. So-and-so's a hooker, but she'll watch your cat when you go away for a weekend. Someone else is a drag queen, but owns a sewing machine when you need to repair something. What's-his-name smokes dope, but is a sensational cook. It's easy to know lots of colorful people without participating in every aspect their personal lives.

    And some people who work for non-profit organizations are also social workers. They know all kinds of dreadful people. Is it too painful to consider that this director has those names because he is trying to help them?

  8. Re: Challenge the Leader - How did the writer know these were transsexual prostitutes? Was there a category: transsexual prostitutes?

    More importantly, what was this individual's performance in the past, when leading these events?

    Shouldn't that have a higher weight than what was found in his contacts?

  9. I think the issue is not that prostitution is illegal. I assume that the ethicist is concerned with ethics and not with legality, for as we know, the two often part company.

    If the person in question has a large number of contacts who engage in prostitution, then he is unsuitable for escorting young people, and this would still be the case if the escorting was taking place in Nevada or in some country where prostitution is legal.

    The parents have a right to know about the chaperone's activities.

  10. What are the ethical implications of going through someone's e-mail contacts and then googling them to see if they're prostitutes?

    Also don't worry about living in Bahrain, they wouldn't be able to oppress their own people without plenty of help from the U.S. government, so you're just as culpable living in the states. You get the added benefit of realizing this instead of being distracted by real housewives and underwear shots on twitter.

  11. Ponderer (St. Louis) raises the defining issue (for me) about moving children to a country acting as Bahrain is: do you want your children to live in safety and privilege while other persons around them (including children) are treated cruelly? What will they learn from this? Perhaps it will inspire indignation, compassion, and dedication to careers serving compassion and human liberty; perhaps it will teach indifference; perhaps it will create a sense of superiority and entitlement. Do you want to take that kind of gamble with your children? And how will you answer the questions, "Dad, why do people do these things? Dad, can't we do something about this?"

  12. Re: the first letter...

    Have you considered that there might be some legitimate reason for him to have these people as contacts? What does the non-profit organization do? Are they involved in reaching out or providing services to at-risk communities? I'd want to know that first.

    If he's actually consorting with prostitutes, then whether or not they're transvestites is totally irrelevant.

    And if it turns out that there is no legitimate reason and he is just visiting sex workers, then the fact that he's got these contacts mixed in with his professional contact list says more about his lack of judgment than the fact of his patronage of them in the first place. I have little objection to what people do or who they sleep with on their own time, but not to show a little discretion is just dimwitted. Which takes me back to wondering if there's some utterly legitimate explanation such that he felt no need to conceal these contacts.

  13. I would never, ever send my child on a program in which the leader visits prositutes. It doesn't matter one bit if they are transvestite, male, or female. What matters is that prostitutes are often troubled YOUTH who have nowhere else to turn, or worse, cannot leave the profession due to a coercive pimp. Johns have no way of knowing (but they should care)about a prositute's situation or age. No one who visits prostitutes should be caring for children professionally. Period.

  14. In many European countries prostitution is legal. It is even legal in Canada. Just because he has a sexual interest in transexuals does not make him any greater threat to the children than your run of the mill heterosexual male.

  15. Regarding the president of the leadership program: what disturbs me most wasn't mentioned. That is that he chose to keep this highly personal and obviously controversial contact list in his professional files. That speaks of a lack of judgment and discretion which warrants action. Whether the appropriate action is exposure or just confrontation is indeed unclear, but those issues, I think, make acting essential.

  16. All employees have activities outside of work. An employee's activities should comform with the company's policy, rules and ethics. If s/he hasn't broken the rules or have affected his/her performences. There is no need to out the employee. The letter writer has given no indication that the solicitation has affected the safety of anyone, particularly the children.

  17. The youth leader could be involved in volunteer work in the areas of HIV prevention and better health care for persons who are HIV positive. He could also regularly be paying prostitutes for sex. The limited information revealed in the original letter fits either scenario -- and many others -- equally well.

  18. Unless the contact info included keywords like "transvestite hooker", it seems pretty clear that the letter writer has been doing some serious research into the employer's contact list.

    One wonders about the motivation for such an invasion of privacy.

    If the employer was engaging in risky/illegal behaviors, and the writer had knowledge or proof of that, then yes, of course that should be brought to the attention of parents and the board.

    If it's just a matter of suspicion and snooping, the writer should think very carefully about own motivations and possible repercussions of making such an accusation.

  19. I think that we are missing something important the Ethicist said - the writer has no idea what these numbers are for. And kudos to you, JPK, for pointing out the mystery of how the writer discovered this.

    To DJ, my fellow Chicagoan, a person who might know transvestites or be interested in transvestites is no way related to a child molester. That's like worrying that someone who eats oranges for lunch might also be a murderer. No connection there.

    Let's find out about the relationship between the leader and the transvestites before we jump to conclusions. As that, in and of itself, is highly unethical.

  20. The truth is we all hold our ideals a little higher than others'. The lesson, as I am also learning, is to measure our own responses to challenges and criticism. Although cell phones are now used for navigation, web surfing, Tweeting, Facebooking, gaming, videos, calendars.....the two-way talk function still works.

  21. I think that people making comments should take the statements in the letter as a fact and not make judgements based on different hypotheses. It is possible that the writer did not do his/her homework and did not check the facts carefully, but it is certain that people making comments are just guessing. In that regard, the Ethicist was right to give a careful advice based on various assumptions. However, I feel that the Ethicist avoided the responsibility of giving hard advice. Suppose that the list was in fact sex-for-hire and the boss did participate in illegal activity? (By the way, mentioning that they were transvestites could be a simple factual statement here.) What should the writer do? Confronting the boss will probably result in his denial and some cover-up explanation. I believe the right thing to do is to report this to the police. If this is a misunderstanding, the boss will have a chance to clear it up. Otherwise, he has no right to work with children. I am personally for legalized prostitution, but even if this was a story based in Amsterdam and not NJ, I still think this person should not be allowed to work with children. Talk to your boss, tell him you will talk to police. If he admits and quits his job, you don't need to report him. Otherwise, report this to the police. Also, stay safe and share this with someone you can trust.

  22. The quick answers to NAME WITHHELD's two question are NO and YES. Is there any possible ethical argument that says it is okay to benefit personally from a system you know is violently authoritarian and autocratic, not even considering the brutal violence its leaders are using against their own citizens who began peacefully meeting publicly and demanding the government redress their grievances (read our own First Amendment)? Regardless of how you and your family personally benefit, the very environment that allows you to prosper is maintained with the blood of innocents. There is NO way to separate the two issues. You either put your material advantages above your sense of morality and ethics, or you don't.

    Unfortunately, modern America, particularly in the neoconservative and libertarian ideologies, has embraced the 'virtue' of individualism and individual gain while rejecting and even ridiculing the idea that a sense of compassion and community must go hand in hand with individual freedom for any society to maintain a workable 'social contract,' as political scientists define it.

    Ayn Rand and her philosophy have recently come into fashion in America. Her basic premise was that each individual should strategize her goals on the sole criterium of what will best (in her eyes) advance her own interests. Rand once used the example of a person whose brother needed financial help for a life-saving operation. Her conclusion was that the person should NOT give money to the brother, solely because that means less money for the person going forward. Empathy is for suckers, we believe, and the fact that a recent nominee to the Supreme Court talked about it became a major point of vicious attack and ridicule from some sectors of our political spectrum. It should be pointed out that one of the core definitions of a psychopath or sociopath is the lack of, or inability to feel, empathy toward others. It is horrifying that we have made sociopathy into virtue.

    NAME WITHHELD should accept the moral responsibility of his plight. Not only is he supporting the status quo by taking personal advantage of it, but he is profiting from the violence and brutality that is being used to maintain the environment in which he feels he and his family can prosper. No matter how advantageous his personal situation might be, it is all blood money.

  23. The "What ifs" are back, as post 1, DJ, and post 4, Magda have posted.

    The letter writer is asking what to do and the Ethicist said to obtain more information as to the context of the content before acting.

    Acting on your worse fears of "What if he was..." or "What if he will..." or whatever is not in the best interest of anyone. That's like giving someone jail time for running a red traffic light because what if there was someone in the crosswalk at the time he ran the light. Or what if he hit someone when he ran the traffic light? Or what if he hit a child when he ran the traffic light?

    Others will mention prostitution being illegal. Does the letter writer have evidence of prostitution having occurred? Like the case of Congressman Weiner, when is talking dirty and sending photos of underwear covered private parts to another adult against the law? There has not been any mention of Weiner having physical contact with any of the recipients of the photos. That would be another matter.

    As long as it is just a list of names and numbers without any evidence of illegal activities the letter writer must obtain more information before destroying another person's reputation based on "What if..."