We Can (And Should) Legislate Morality

We have all heard it said. It is a common libertarian thought and since all conservatives/classic liberals have a libertarian streak, we have all thought it. Many of us have said it as well, I know that I have. I have said that “you can’t legislate morality.” That was the basis for my comments about same sex marriage – that the government has no business in the marriage business – that is for the church to manage – and it should only be the business of the government in a civil contract sense.

But it occurs to me that the absence of a willingness to create legislation regarding a moral position does present a significant problem.

When you look back at our founding, I think it is at least arguable that the Founders such as Jefferson and Adams DID intend for government, if perhaps not to directly legislate morality, at least to legislate to protect it. An oft cited quote of Adams about the Constitution is that it is only capable of governing a “…moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Jefferson acknowledged our Creator’s role in American public life by writing in the Declaration of Independence that we are “…to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…”

Reasonable people may also disagree but one must acknowledge that Divine Law played a role at our founding, being both the asserted basis for King George III to rule over the British Kingdom AND the reason cited for man’s natural state of freedom in the nascent United States of America. As the individual threads are woven in to cloth, Divine Law was woven into the fabric of this country and became the basis for much of the initial views of morality in America.

There are reasons that history records laws that prohibited abortion and the recognition of homosexual unions. Prohibition of abortion was based on one of the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt not kill.” Opposition to gay marriage is rooted in the Biblical construct that marriage is a union between one man, one woman in a covenant with God – furthermore, the natural necessity for this male/female pairing is procreation, something that is impossible in a same sex union.

Societies are fluid entities and culture changes over time – America was changed with a Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion and we have continued to change in our views regarding same sex marriage…but where does that lead? If the government has a duty to legislate morality, when is the appropriate time for it to step in?

I am vehemently against abortion and I simply don’t care about gay marriage – my issue with gay marriage is the expectation in the gay community that for straight people to tolerate it means that they must celebrate it, and I refuse to do that. For me the most frightening aspect of government excusing itself from the traditional role of protecting the founding tradition of Judeo-Christian morality is not abortion or gay marriage – it is the path that this moral recusal has put us on.

An example of the rationalization of immorality comes to us from a judge in Australia. This judge has said that incest and pedophilia may no longer be considered taboo – just as gay relationships are now more accepted than they were in the 1950s and 60s. There is an active movement in the US and the UK to “mainstream” the sexual fetish of pedophilia. Just this month at an academic conference at the University of Cambridge in England, a paper was presented that continued this shocking statement – “Paedophilic interest is natural and normal for human males,” said the presentation. “At least a sizeable minority of normal males would like to have sex with children … Normal males are aroused by children.” Similarly in America, NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association promotes the same idea -that there is nothing inherently unnatural or immoral about a sexual relationship between an adult male and an adolescent child.

Where do we draw the line? If governments do not have the authority to create legislative controls over abortion and homosexual unions, why would we expect them to be able to consider pedophilia a crime? Why would we be able to prevent any behavior that deviates from traditional moral codes? What about polygamy, incest, bestiality, prostitution or even euthanasia?

We should stop trying to fool ourselves – governments can and do legislate morality and furthermore, it is both expected and necessary to the maintenance of an ordered society. The question is not whether they can or should but what is the moral basis by which they do it. For the first two centuries of our country our recognized basis was the Christian Bible, now we have decided that following Divine Law is not only less than desirable, it is illegal (by virtue, not of a direct admonition in an of our founding documents but of a letter of Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists). We have lost this traditional anchor and now are drifting on a sea of societal fad and human whim.

I don’t know where this ends. Sooner or later the anchor must gain purchase on the sea floor and the ship of state will be yanked to a halt. In years past, the anchor chain made of Divine Law has held, it remains to see if one such chain made of man’s law will hold.

7 thoughts on “We Can (And Should) Legislate Morality

  1. It is so amazing to me that when I was a youngster there was no need to “legislate” morality. We KNEW what was okay to do and what wasn’t, and 99% of my acquaintances did what was right. Now 99% do what they want regardless of the law or consequence.

    • That’s because the government does what it wants regardless of the law…..and because there are NO consequences.

      This perfectly describes Obama, the Congress, Supreme Court, Eric Holder and the gov’t agencies ( IRS, EPA, BLM, Dept of Education and all the rest )….and is no filtering down to local Law enforcement as well.

      We have as Levin says a Post-Constitutional almost completely Lawless society that is sinking fast. The Civil Society is close to becoming completey unraveled.

      • Don,

        Scripture does not tell us of a coming, single entity known as THE antichrsit, but of a time when the majority of people will be lawless. They will do as they see fit in their own eyes. They will mock God, placing themselves in His place within their own hearts. They will speak of peace and of unity, but they will use it as a weapon to destroy. They will redistribute and destroy wealth. They will work false miracles (i.e. convince themselves that their technology is a miracle and they are gods).

        Now, I know skeptics will say this is so general it could apply to any time in history, but that is only because they do not know the rest of prophecy that goes with this. This is the picture of what the end will be like Christ was trying to describe when He said it will be “As in the days of Noah…” Jesus also wondered whether they would be faith at all when He returned. And, finally, we are told that had these days not been cut short, no one could be saved. Most Bibles translate the Greek as no one would survive, but the Greek says SAVED! That means man would turn from God’s ways and God’s Natural Law so badly that not a single person would believe in God anymore — not one.

        Now, tell me, how quickly are we approaching this point? In just 1, maybe 2 more generations, not only will no one believe in God, it is likely the governments of the world will have outlawed the Judeo/Christian faith all together — in which case, no one can be saved…

  2. If man will not God will. Abortion, homosexuality, stealing, lying and covetness are all sinful behaviors and when societies condone and make them acceptable divine judgement follows.

    The majority of American citizens have placed people (Obama, Pelosi, Reid, etc.) in power who have decided they know what is better for man than God. If this does not change America will reap what it sows.

    History will repeat itself.

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