Thursday, May 10, 2012

Legislating Morality

In the wake of president Obama's recent endorsement of gay marriage, I am hearing a lot of folks proclaim an old mantra that too many people on both sides of the political aisle have come to embrace.  The mantra goes something like this: "I don't mind people being religious... I'm religious!  But what I don't like is when people try to legislate morality.  That's just wrong."

My problem with this statement is that it's plain for me to see that all legislation has a moral underpinning.  Let's take a simple example like the law against speeding in a motor vehicle. This seems like a regulation that doesn't have any moral component whatsoever, but that is incorrect.  The foundational principal that upholds this law is that it is important to value the safety of others because life is precious, and because life is precious, it is immoral to legally allow people to drive at speeds that might jeapordize the safety of others.  So, even a simple driving law has moral roots, and is, in a very real way, legislating morality.

So, since pretty much any legal principle or law has at its base a moral component, it's difficult for me to understand why so many people think it's so wrong to "legislate morality".  Whether they realize it or not, when people say "It's wrong to legislate morality", what they're really saying is, "It's wrong to legislate."  I don't think it's wrong to legislate.

Which brings us to the real issue at hand.  It's not that people are against legislating morality, it's just that they are against people legislating a form of morality that isn't their own personal brand.  If you're gay, you don't want anyone legislating a form of morality that assumes that homosexuality is wrong.  If you're a Christian, you don't want anyone legislating a form of morality that tramples on Christian principles.  The question isn't "Should we legislate morality?", It's "Who's morality should we legislate?"

More to come!


Eric Hankins said...

Great post!

Denny Burk said...

Right in!