By Tera Ertz December 24, 2011
There has been a lot of talk over the years, and more in recent times as we’ve seen the GOP primaries heat up about the concept of social issues. One of the greatest claims used by both the liberals and the libertarians is “You can’t legislate morality.” This is a truism I have been hearing since the time that I was a child, and it was one of those things that I had absorbed as part of my worldview without ever really considering the premises involved. I mean, after all we live in a country founded in individual liberty, with religious freedom enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Of course you cannot legislate morality, because that would be legislating religion, or so the assumption goes. You do know what they say about assumptions, right? Since this topic has come up in several conversation, I decided to mosey on over to dictionary.com to see exactly what it was we are not supposed to be allowed to legislate in this great nation. And what do you know, I think our politicians and pundits have once again confused their contexts.
2. Moral quality or character.
Now, on the surface, this assertion of not legislating a person’s character seems pretty accurate. After all, character is made up of a person’s motives, thoughts, and beliefs. It seems a pretty ridiculous idea that anyone would believe we could create laws to govern such things, even the Bible tells us that know man can fully know another’s heart so how in the world would we expect to be able to make laws about it?
Of course, those same folks are out there making hate crime laws trying to make it more illegal to beat someone to a pulp or kill them if you did it because you had hateful motives or beliefs. They are out there trying to make hate speech laws because you should not be allowed to say things that might make people feel bad. They are out there making laws to keep folks from showing mommas ultrasound pictures because it might make them think uncomfortable thoughts, it might speak to their character. They are making anti-bullying laws to try to make kids have a higher moral character so they won’t say or do mean things that make another kid either kill themselves or go shoot up the school. But, you cannot legislate character. A point on which I agree, which is why I also think these laws are absolutely ludicrous and are bound to fail, wasting a lot of tax payer dollars and the lives of those caught up in them in the process.
But, there is a different definition of morality that is the target of these folks use of this phrase:
1. Conformity to the rules of right conduct
Now, this kind of morality you actually can legislate. It isn’t based upon a person’s motives, thoughts or beliefs, it is based upon the accepted definition of right conduct, in other words, a person’s actions. There is a tangible, definitive behavior that can be judged as morally correct or morally incorrect, right or wrong. And if we look carefully, we can discover two important things. First, in this country, there is a framework for determining a code of right conduct from which to legislate morality. And second, every law, whether it is built within that framework or not, is based on someone’s concept of right conduct, or their concept of morality. There are no amoral laws, only moral and immoral.
First the framework. Our founders built this nation on the notion of self-governance, with a limited government that allowed a population to govern their own behavior based on the moral codes taught in the Judeo-Christian value system. Because the people agreed to be self-governing, the government could stick to protecting the God given rights of the people from folks who refused to govern themselves by the Judeo-Christian value system. Please note, they did not require people to be Jews or Christians, just that they adhere to the values taught by these two religions as a foundation for civilized society. As a result, we have a Constitution that mandates the governments at all levels protect the lives, liberty and property of the people and provide services that either the individual or the smaller units of government would not normally be able to provide for themselves that benefit the society as a whole. Thus, the moral imperative of thou shalt not kill is enforced at the federal level by maintaining a military that will protect the people from foreign invasion, at the state level by laws and courts that deal with catching, prosecuting and punishing murderers, and at the local level by providing police protection to help deter such crimes and assist the state in its endeavors. The same could be applied to any other just law.
Second, the concepts of morality. When we being to look at laws such as abortion laws or homosexual union laws, we are told that Judeo-Christian values may not be applied to these situations because that would be an infringement on the rights of the complainants because the government would be imposing religious views on them, and you cannot legislate morality. As abortion, homosexual unions, and any other so called social issue involves actions rather than thoughts, this statement is patently untrue. As our system of government was founded on a civic acceptance of Judeo-Christian values without a requirement to adhere to the religious beliefs that promulgated them, it is also patently untrue that anyone is attempting to impose religion. They are however asserting that the system of morals of society is the framework which laws must adhere to. And that abortion and homosexual union do not adhere to the rules of right conduct within that framework. For those seeking to block legislation on the false premise that you cannot legislate morality, start with the definition of morality above and try a little Socrates:
You: If law cannot define right conduct then what purpose does it serve?
Lib: Well, none I suppose (the more likely response will be a blank stare or a sputter)
You: Then you agree that the only useful purpose of law, aside from killing trees to print them on, is to define right conduct.
Lib: Well, yes I guess that must be true.
You: Then since the only purpose of law is to define right conduct then we only legislate morality. Then why do you object to (insert social issue legislation of your choice).
Lib: Because that law is based on Christian religion, and would be a violation of the Establishment Clause.
You: Does the law require you to worship Christ or the Christian God?
Lib: Well, no.
You: Then how does it violate the Establishment Clause?
Lib: It legislates Christian morality.
You: Since we have agreed that all laws legislate morality, and the country was founded on Judeo-Christian morality, and the majority of the citizens agree with the code of right conduct contained within the morality, and since a just law must be applied equally to all citizens within a country, what other morality would you suggest laws be based on?
Sit back and watch the heads explode. All laws are based on someone’s morality, the key is to understand that and make them defend theirs. Learn the Lingo, and be wary the wielders of words.
Tags: Tera Ertz, politics, social policy, morality, Judeo-Christian values, abortion, homosexual unions