That is a very strange “feature” when you have, for instance, the hability to hide the object from the camera, without altering its influence in the scene AND set its alfa to -1 in the material tab, in the “sky” button under “options”.
The hability to hide the object from the camera , without altering its influence in the scene BUT without changing the alfa is a very good feature, known in max as “visible to camera”, and would obviously be found close to that sky button.
The thing is, blender lacks this feature as a real feature. And that behaviour in the render layers is a problem. Bug or not bug. And if it is not a bug, it should not behave as it does, and be found in the material tab, not influencing a whole layer, but just the object/material in case. I know that blender sometimes have some very miisplaced features, but this can not be one of them.
But I am scared of posting it as a bug because I do not think developers would be as polite as you are in trying to sell this as a feature.
But yes, they are changing it. And I pray they fix both the render engine and the material system. They are very, very below what we can find in other programs. I am using vray in blender, but it is of little use because, though the rendering is marvelous, the material system is still the same.
But at least I fixed this problem with vray. Let us hope for a better future. Blender evolves quickly and sometimes in surprising ways. I do not doubt that in one year we would have a better material system then in max.