Why Would We Want to Legislate Something Other than Morality?


If you’ve tried to argue a political point from a Christian perspective, it’s likely someone’s used this phrase to scold you into silence: “You can’t legislate morality!” They’re afraid your Biblical views on right and wrong will have some influence on American civil law, and then it’s a slippery slope until we’re all living under a Christian Taliban or something like that. You know, like it happened when all those stuffy, religious guys got together and ratified the Declaration of Independence. You remember those dark days, surely.

“You can’t legislate morality!” Okay, what’s the alternative? Immorality?

Someone will suggest that American civil law should be morally neutral. Try not to laugh at them when they say this, as they may genuinely believe it.

All law is moral in nature. It’s not possible for it to be otherwise. How’s that? Because every law that gets dreamed up and foisted upon us started out as someone’s idea for how to “make things better,” or how to make sure people act “the right way,” or don’t do things that are wrong or bad. All law hopes to tell its subjects what they should and shouldn’t do. And all these words we’re using here, about things being “better,” and distinguishing between right and wrong, and what “ought” to be done, all of this is the language of morality. There is no escaping it.

On the “macro” scale, we now have Obamacare, because a bunch of gormless statists came to the conclusion that forcing one group of people to pay the bills for another group is “good” or “right” or “fair.” (All moral concepts.) On a smaller scale, we have speed limit laws on the freeway because some legislator somewhere proposed that limits are reasonable in the effort to make things safer. This reflects a previous moral judgment which says that “safe” is to be preferred over “unsafe.” We have local leash laws in my town as a result of similar moral reasoning.

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