There’s an interesting series of posts over at The Public Discourse on Lila Rose’s Live Action undercover stings of Planned Parenthood clinics in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.
Professor Christopher O. Tollefson makes the case that Live Action was wrong because they deceived Planned Parenthood employees in that they weren’t actually keeping 13- and 14-year-old girls from foreign countries as sex slaves. In short, Live Action lied and it’s not right to lie.
I encourage you to give all three articles a read, but I find Tollefson’s arguments too much like those of a philosophy professor (which he is) in his ivory tower who has little experience with the difficult existence of people in the real world.
Tollefson writes that lying is always wrong—and then he goes on to suggest that in cases where lying would appear to be the moral thing to do that we engage instead in word games intending to deceive.
Of course, the most stark example would be one of someone hiding Jews from the Nazis during WWII. Tollefson’s absolutism would have this individual, when asked by an SS officer if he was hiding Jews, respond not with an emphatic “no” (a lie), and instead respond something along the lines of “why would I want to hide a Jew?”
Of course, this tactic can easily be defeated by the demand that the question be answered with a simple yes or no. And then what? If you can’t lie, your two options are either to admit to hiding Jews or simply stay silent—both of which have the same end effect; more dead Jews.
Similarly, and maybe a more realistic scenario in this day and age, what if someone is being chased by a gang? This person runs past you and a few moments later the group of thugs brandishing weapons asks which way he went? For Tollefson, the right answer would be to play word games: “How would I know?”
On a less serious note: Don’t tell Tollefson if you’re planning on a surprise birthday party for one of his friends; he’s unlikely to be able to keep the secret.
Lying is wrong the vast majority of the time. But I think that there are definitely situations where it is the moral thing to do.
If by telling the truth, you aid evil, then you’ve done wrong.