Of those readers who responded to an unscientific poll on my column's blog, 66 percent believe that it is simply wrong to shoplift, regardless of the circumstances, while 34 percent agreed with Rev. Tim Jones, an Anglican priest in York, England, who told his parishioners that it is sometimes OK for people in extreme situations to shoplift.
"The moral imperative for us ... in making such judgments is to recognize that, in addition to taking an item, we are also taking someone else's autonomy," writes Sean O'Leary of West Virginia. "That is usually the significantly larger `taking.' Therefore the offsetting benefit must be immense indeed."
Susan Hammond of Mission Viejo, Calif., agrees.
"As a leader in a Christian church," she writes, "Jones should have appealed first to well-supplied members of his own congregation to help meet the needs of their fellow congregants. If they are all in need, then Jones should appeal to the wider Church for help."
Maggie Lawrence of Culpepper, Va., takes a firmer line.
"Oh, baloney!," writes Lawrence, who accuses this "so-called religious leader" of having forgotten that the commandment doesn't read: "Thou shalt not steal - unless, of course, you're, like, really desperate and you only steal from big corporations."
Check out other opinions here, or post your own by clicking on "Comments" or "Post a comment" below.
Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of http://www.jeffreyseglin.com, a Web log focused on ethical issues.
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