Should We Legislate Morality? Essay

1264 words - 5 pages

If something is immoral should it also be illegal? In America, we should not pass laws where the primary concern is morality; we should only pass laws which have civil values as their primary concern. Civil values in this case are values which either ensures the safety or order of a society, such as, traffic laws or zoning laws. Also involved are more important values such as freedom, democracy, and liberty which have been laid out by our founding fathers.

I have two basic reasons for holding this view. First, we live in a secular society. There is a supposed wall of separation between Church and State, and I think rightly so. Church and State should only be united in a theocracy America is not one of those and could not become one without changing the character of the nation. However, I am aware that the moral basis for the tradition of English law that the U.S. legislative and judicial systems are deeply rooted in, are based on essentially Christian principles. As I think that morality without Christ is ultimately empty, then to legislate true morality would be to legislate Christianity, thus violating the Church and State separation.

Seeking to mend the religious backsliding in the United States by this sort of method is not right. It is trying to get the government to cover a moral problem by redefining it through political change rather than dealing with the spiritual issues first. That is to say that legislating morality is an attempt to control behavior without dealing with the spiritual roots of the problem. This case offers both a secular argument and a religious argument. Having a religion based law is fine, but if that is all you have then you should not vote for it. To become a law, there must be some secular reason as well.

The claim that we should not legislate morality does not mean that we should not legislate anything for which there might be a moral argument what is meant is that if there is only a religious or moral argument on behalf of the law, then it should not be passed. There should be consideration on whether there is also some other secular or civil reason for the law, then maybe the law is a good idea. Many people feel that moral laws are a black and white matter; if there is anything they regard as immoral that is illegal, then it must be legitimate for them to make anything immoral also illegal. If it is ever wrong for them to make illegal something they think is immoral, then it must always be wrong, even with things like murder. They completely fail to see the nuance that additional secular or civil reasons for a law need to exist

Rather than basing morality on what is legal, it seems more reasonable to try to make the law accord with what is moral. We do not want to have laws that would require us to do something immoral, but it is not clear that we want laws always requiring us to act morally. This is because there may be some areas of life which we regard as private, which...

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