In my work as a professor of social entrepreneurship, I often hear do-gooders express exasperation over the failure of government regulators and private companies to adopt measures embodying basic social values. The problem, of course, is that choosing among moral principles is a rather tricky business.
Consider the Modesty Survey, part of what is ostensibly a teen "rebelution" against poor social values. As publicized recently over at Sociological Images, the poll offers a revealing inventory of what Christian men deem to be immodest, from short skirts to prints on tights, decorated jeans pockets and a purse strap across the chest. Particularly noteworthy, given recent hostility toward Muslims expressed in opposition to the recent decision to allow a mosque to locate in the vicinity of the World Trade Center: The Rebulution's using an image of a woman under the veil to symbolize Christian moral virtue. (thanks Michelle!)
Meanwhile, the application of sharia law in Sudan has resulted in a court sentencing men caught in women's clothing and cosmetics to thirty lashes and a fine, while al Qaeda has called women themselves to become "holy warriors" in the "most important battlefield" -- namely, opposing the controversial proposal in France to ban the hijab and niqab.
Differing notions as to what constitutes social responsibility and fundamental values helped give rise to the secular state, and moral complexity has similarly shaped the limited moral rhetoric of commercial business. As Judge Vaughn Walker indicated in his landmark ruling on the definition of marriage, whatever the authority cited for one's particular worldview, there are clear pragmatic reasons why courts do not recognize "moral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest," as a rational basis for law.