These continue to be tumblesome times here in Moscow, and there is both good news and bad news intermingled. The bad news is that critics continue to multiply, but the good news is that they are getting progressively squeakier. The charges are increasingly crazy-out-there and, with reference to their goals, counterproductive. For an example of this, consider the recent “boarding house” complaint. Never mind for a minute that some of the people mentioned in the complaint (like me, for instance) live in a zone that allows boarding houses, flat out. Never mind that a bunch of others fall under the heading of what the code calls a “functional family,” also a-okay. In other words, the complaint is a trumped up one.
But how is this counterproductive for them? First, consider that we are a small college town where a good portion of the economy depends on renters, apartments over the garage for let, renting out an extra room, and live-in lesbian partners. Such things are common in our town, and as far as the housing issues go, there is absolutely nothing unique with some of our people housing NSA students. But this complaint, although aimed at NSA, affects everybody else. That is to say, this move would have been a shrewd ploy to get every landlord in Moscow to start sympathizing with NSA and Christ Church, had that been the intention, which it wasn’t, and so I don’t know how to account for it. Maybe I am paying these people secretly to do this.
Second, every last person listed in their complaint was associated with NSA. They wanted to target a particular group of people, and use the code (as they read it) to harass that group. Everybody else, as long as they go to church somewhere else, and as long as their boarder is a. attending the UI and not NSA, and/or b. are engaging in illicit sexual activity with a roommate, is fine with them, code or no code. The problem with this approach is that it is selective enforcement of the law (even if their reading of the law were correct, which it isn’t), and this kind of selectivity is illegal and expensive. Had I been given the opportunity to give them counsel on this (did they even ask? no), I would have said not to make your motives so darn transparent. Put some other people on the complaint. Get some atheists on the list, some sociology profs at the UI, and one or two NSA types. Then you can stand up in public and say that it really is all “for love of the code.” You would still have the first problem listed above, which is that “equitable” enforcement of this peculiar understanding of the code would wreck Moscow’s economy, but at least it would be an even-handed really bad idea. If you attack one group only, this is what liberals used to call “discrimination,” a practice they used to be against. I heard about that in history class once.