This is how the ST. James Ethics Centre describes itself:
The Centre was launched in 1989, with the aim of helping businesses make ethical decisions. More recently, we have worked to take ethical concepts into the wider community, by encouraging a healthy public debate through our events including the celebrated Intelligence Squared (IQ2) live debate series and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, held annually in partnership with the Sydney Opera House.
This week their “ethical concepts” included the morality of honour killings.
AUSTRALIA’S Islamic leaders have demanded radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir stop voicing its vile sermons in public, hate-filled messages which they claim are tarnishing the entire Muslim community.
The stinging rebuke comes as the religion’s leaders prepare to intervene in the activist group in a last-ditch attempt to calm its members’ aggressive and scandalous approach and curb its fundamentalism.
So we have an organisation purportedly promoting ethics, that others describe as being “vile sermons in public, hate-filled messages”.
I’ve been wondering how and why an “ethics” group could get something so wrong. So I went and had a look at their governance structure. So they’re incorporated in NSW and have a board comprising 7 men and 3 women (strange gender imbalance for a ‘progressive’ organisation). So how did those fine men and women get it so wrong? This is the same organisation that tells us:
We do so at a time when our work has never been more important – offering some ‘light’ in ethically ‘dark’ times. Parliament (politics more generally), churches, corporations, sport – wherever people look they find evidence of ethical failure.
Yes. Well. Indeed. Get those people a mirror.
I found this gem. Despite having a board, one man gets to make the actual decisions:
It should be noted however that the Board of the Ethics Centre is not responsible for any editorial policy or practice. Our Executive Director, Dr Simon Longstaff, has complete independence as ‘Editor-in-Chief’ – where the Centre’s principal obligation is to ensure balance and accuracy.
So the Board does not actually have control over the organisation? Sounds like the ABC. The Executive Director has control over what is considered to be ethical or not? Why then have a board?
Others have pointed to their strange financial declaration (emphasis original):
As an independent not for profit organisation, we don’t receive government funding, but instead rely on the generosity of donors like you; people who can help us to expand our reach.
Yet we see government agencies as the ABC being sponsors, and the Australian Government’s The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority too.
Update: Simon Longstaff responds in comments:
Just a couple of points of clarification – to avoid misunderstanding. The Ethics Centre does not receive a single cent from the ABC. The acknowledgement on our website is in recognition of the fact that the ABC records and broadcasts our debates, talks, etc. For example, our last two debates have been on the topics: ‘That history’s judgement will vindicate our treatment of boat people’ and ‘The Queen should be the last Australian Monarch’ respectively. As to governance arrangements more generally, as a professor you would appreciate the importance of having the freedom to explore and advance ideas free from the direction of a university Senate, Vice Chancellor, etc. Amongst other things, this allows the Centre’s Board to defend and promote the general remit of the organisation without being bound to the particular views we might advance. Sinclair, one of the most interesting aspects of commentary about this issue has been the relative silence of those who might otherwise be found defending free speech – even if it offends and outrages. Much to discuss – but not here, at least not now.