Many people claim that morality cannot be legislated.  However, all laws legislate morality, this is unavoidable. The question is whose morality should be legislated. The case will be made that legislating morality is Constitutional, it is enforceable and it is ethical.

Legislating morality is Constitutional. All laws determine one behavior right and its opposite wrong. All just laws uphold a moral standard. It is the responsibility of government to impose just laws to ensure a safe and civilized society. Our Constitution sets the standard for a national morality. As we author laws today we should use the same standard.

Legislating morality is enforceable. Whether a law is easily enforced does not determine morality. People who argue this point say, “you can’t legislate morality, look at prohibition.” But prohibition was more successful than most people think. Domentic problems due to alcohol plummeted during this time in American history. This case of over-legislation does not prove that we should not legislate moral views. We legislate against other things that are hard to enforce like murder and child abuse because those behaviors are wrong. To say people will do it anyway misses the point of legislating morality. We should not withdraw laws against these behaviors because they are not easy to enforce. Ease of enforcement does not determine morality.

Legislating morality is ethical. First, our American forefathers determined that we cannot establish a national religion, but requires that we establish a national morality. Secondly, all just laws uphold a moral absolute. Even people who argue against this point use it. All laws legislate morality, this is not only unavoidable, it is ethical. It is the responsibility of government to establish a just morality to ensure a safe and civilized society.

Objections:

You can’t legislate morality, just look at prohibition. 

Prohibition was more successful than most people realize. The 18th Amendment was ratified due to concern about a morally reprehensible behavior endangering our health and safety. Due to prohibition most people obeyed the law and family crisis due to alcoholism dropped, admissions to mental hospitals due to alcoholism diminished and health problems and death due to alcohol dropped. The law acts as a good teacher regulating behavior. We still regulate alcohol today with age restrictions and consumption laws. This case of over legislation does not prove that moral views should not be legislated.

You can’t make people be good.

No, but most people obey the law which is good. The law acts as a teacher restricting and regulating behavior and most people do obey the law. For instance, if all the speed limit signs were removed tomorrow, most people would continue obeying at the previously posted speed limits because they have been trained to drive at a safe speed. Obedience ensures a good and safe society.

It’s a violation of the separation of church and state.

Our Constitution disallows establishing a national religion, but sets the standard for a national morality. Our American forefathers ensured that religion would be free from regulation, not that the government would be free from religion. Twenty-seven of them went to seminary so naturally their Christian worldview influenced the construction of our federal laws. Our government even funded missionaries. If we could not legislate against laws that are consistent with religious laws we could not legislate murder, rape or incest, etc. Our religious laws and our national laws are similar because the source of our morality is the same. James Madison wanted to ensure that we would be free to worship as we chose. The current interpretation of the law did not formalize until 1947 with Everson vs. the Board of Education. Jefferson’s letter to Danbury stating his desire for a impregnable wall of separation between the church and the state was taken out of context. He wanted to protect the church from the government not the other way around.

You ought not impose your morals on me!

All laws impose someone’s morality on someone else. Even someone arguing this point is imposing their morality. All just laws uphold a self-evident moral standard – our morality, not just mine or yours. Don’t confuse “what ought” with “what is.” Laws are prescriptive telling us the  way we ought to behave, not descriptive. To legislate laws that uphold a moral standard is not only unavoidable it is ethical to ensure a safe and civilized society.

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Comments
  1. ibrahim binshahbal says:

    nice article.

  2. morsec0de says:

    I think what is meant when people say “you can’t legislate morality” is “you can’t legislate arbitrary morality”.

    In America (which I assume it where we both live), it is a secular country. In order for something to be deemed illegal, there must be a secular reason for it. This is why laws against murder, assault, theft, rape, etc are all legislated.

    When coming across morals that have no secular reason behind them (don’t blaspheme, you have to cover your head, gays can’t be married), then you can’t legislate them.

    You can follow those morals, of course. But when there is no secular reason behind them (meaning, you can’t demonstrate that what you are trying to stop will demonstrably harm others) you can’t force others to follow them.

  3. manupmen says:

    You can legislate ethics, not morality. Ethics says, “The right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.” Morality says, “Jesus told me I could hit your face.” Ethics is based on reason, morality is based on belief. Beliefs have no place in legislation.

  4. CeCe Benningfield says:

    Amen!

  5. Jim G says:

    The point is not whether we can, but whether we should. For me, the Biblical way is to hold oneself to God’s moral standard—perfection. Only after we’ve achieved that, can we take the position of the morally superior, judging, instructing, and coaching the moral inferior.

    Until then, we ought to be allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, making us salt and light in the world. We ought to be serving our brothers and sisters with love—as well as all men, women, boys, and girls. We ought to be visibly separated (sanctified). We ought to be working with our hands and minding our own business (1 Thes. 4). And we ought to be sharing the Gospel with our tongues and with our lives—make disciples as we go into the world.

    Oh, and manupmen, your blatant Christian bashing is inaccurate, untrue, and stupid. You’ve created a flimsy straw man. Jesus said no such thing, and no right-thinking, Bible-believing Christian would make such a claim. Try going out into a public square and making an equivalently slanderous statement about Islam and see what it gets you.

  6. morsec0de says:

    “Try going out into a public square and making an equivalently slanderous statement about Islam and see what it gets you.”

    Don’t answer a strawman with another strawman.

    First you make the erroneous assumption that he would be two afraid to insult Islam. You add that with the even more erroneous assumption that all Muslims are violent and would harm anyone who disagreed.

    Both are strawmen.

  7. Nance says:

    manupmen-
    so you are saying that anyone who has not heard or does not believe in Jesus has no morals they only have ethics? Are you kidding?!

  8. Nance says:

    What is it with secularists and strawmen?! If you cannot refute an argument you simply stamp your foot, point a finger and shout, “Strawman! Strawman!”

    If you could stop emoting and making personal attacks, then maybe we could reason together.

    By the way gays do marry. Marriages between men and women are recognized by the state because those unions are necessary for the continuation of a civilization. Homosexuality is harmful to the participants that is why it is not beneficial.

    Imagine a nation where everyone were involved in a monogomous homosexual relationship. That nation would cease to exist.

  9. morsec0de says:

    “If you cannot refute an argument you simply stamp your foot, point a finger and shout, “Strawman! Strawman!””

    Do you understand what a strawman argument is? It is altering someone else’s argument into a simpler and inaccurate form in order to make it easier to refute.

    Pointing out that someone is using a strawman IS refuting their argument.

    “Homosexuality is harmful to the participants”

    In what ways? Studies would be nice to back up those claims you may have as well.

    “Imagine a nation where everyone were involved in a monogomous homosexual relationship. That nation would cease to exist.”

    When someone says they want to make everyone in the country into homosexuals and legislate it to make it happen, then you can worry about that.

  10. Nance says:

    Studies showing homosexuality is harmful to participants:
    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2007_docs/CameronHomosexualFootprint.pdf
    Recent analysis of the age of death in Norway and Denmark for gays who are legally married suggests that engaging in homosexual behavior reduces the lifespan by 24 years. These results were presented by Drs. Paul and Kirk Cameron at the annual convention of the Eastern Psychological Association on March 23, 2007.

    According to their data for Denmark, the country with the longest history of gay marriage, for 1990-2002, married heterosexual men died at a median age of 74 years, while the partnered gays died at an average age of 51. In Norway, married heterosexual men died at an average age of 77, compared to 52 years old for the married gay men in the study.

    With respect to women, Danish heterosexual married women died at an average age of 78 years, compared to 56 years for the lesbians studied. In Norway, women married to men died at an average age of 81, compared to 56 years for lesbians.

    http://www.traditionalvalues.org/pdf_files/statistics_on_homosexual_lifestyle.pdf

    The Midwest AIDS Prevention Project published
    the following statistics on substance abuse among
    homosexuals in 2004:
    Nearly 10% of gay and bisexual men responding to a Michigan Department of Community Health survey reported that they had engaged in unprotected sex when they were high or drunk. Among gay male teenagers, 68% reported alcohol use; 44% reported drug use; among lesbians: 83% had used alcohol; 56% had used drugs.

    In a 1992 survey of San Francisco lesbian and
    bisexual women, 30% had used drugs other than
    alcohol; one in seven women had experienced violence when drunk or high; and 29% reported sexual abuse.

    A 2004 issue of the The British Journal of
    Psychiatry, published a study of the high rates of
    mental illness in gay males, lesbians, and bisexual
    men and women.

    The study surveyed mental health problems faced
    by gays and bisexuals in England and Wales between September, 2000 and July, 2002. The survey was of 2,430 gays and bisexuals over the age of 16 years.

    It found high rates of planned or actual deliberate
    self-harm among these groups: 42% of gay males; 43% of lesbians; 49% of bisexual men and women.

  11. morsec0de says:

    From a Slate article about Dr. Cameron: (http://slate.msn.com/?id=2098)

    “Cameron’s method had the virtue of simplicity, at least. He and two co-authors read through back numbers of various urban gay community papers, mostly of the giveaway sort that are laden with bar ads and personals. They counted up obituaries and news stories about deaths, noted the ages of the deceased, computed the average, and published the resulting numbers as estimates of gay life expectancy.

    What do vital-statistics buffs think of this technique? Nick Eberstadt at the American Enterprise Institute sums up the reactions of several of his fellow demographers: “The method as you describe it is just ridiculous.” But you don’t have to be a trained statistician to spot the fallacy at its heart, which is, to quote Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistician John Karon, that “you’re only getting the ages of those who die.” Gay men of the same generation destined to live to old age, even if more numerous, won’t turn up in the sample.

    Other critics rattle off further objections. The deaths reported in these papers, mostly AIDS deaths, will tend to represent the community defined by such papers or directly known to their editors. It will include relatively more subjects who live in town and are overtly gay and relatively few who blend into the suburbs and seldom set foot in bars. It will overrepresent those whose passing strikes others as newsworthy and underrepresent those who end their days in retired obscurity in some sunny clime.”

  12. morsec0de says:

    The link for the article is http://slate.msn.com/?id=2098

    The emoticon was unintentional.

  13. Jim G says:

    Morsecode, not that this is about Islam, but have you ever heard of Salmon Rushdie? Or the Denmark cartoons? Are those straw men? I believe they are an OPEN HIT CONTRACT and a world-wide intimidation campaign to silence opposition. Can you name a single 20th or 21st century equivalent involving somebody who allegedly defamed Jesus? Not in out lifetime, or that of our great grandparents!

    I didn’ t say manupmen was afraid. I may have implied that his remarks make him look less than honest, that he was not a skilled sophist, and maybe that he was stupid. But I didn’t comment at all on his courage.

    I also didn’t say that all Muslims are violent. In fact, come to think of it, I didn’t say that ANY Muslims are violent. In fact, I didn’t say anything about ALL Muslims. Why are you assuming that my position is uniform with your prejudiced view of “what Christian think?”

    Also, Nance, just to be equally disagreeable to all sides, I am not sure, in the secular sense, that homosexuality can be shown to be any more harmful to the participants than fried foods. We don’t outlaw potato chips. I think it’s a little disingenuous to say that the movement to outlaw same-sex marriages (a movement whose motives I agree with, by the way) doesn’t spring from the fact that it is called an abomination in the book of Romans and elsewhere in the Bible.

  14. Jim G says:

    Also, Morsecode, I think it is odd that you would pick an argument on a minor point of a post that overwhelmingly supports your position. Do you just want the world to know that you refuse to agree with anything any Christian says…because of … you know…the way Christians are?

  15. morsec0de says:

    I know of all those people you speak. You seemed to present the assumption that he would not speak out against Islam because he was somehow afraid of them, or afraid to offend them. I did not see him say or even hint at that, and I find it disingenuous to imply it.

    “Also, Morsecode, I think it is odd that you would pick an argument on a minor point of a post that overwhelmingly supports your position”

    Sorry, but I have no idea to what this refers.

    “Do you just want the world to know that you refuse to agree with anything any Christian says…because of … you know…the way Christians are?”

    I agree with many Christians about a great many things. And I have absolutely no problem with that. However, I feel no compunction to remain silent about the things I do disagree with.

  16. CeCe Benningfield says:

    Wow…..ok, I just read the comments. First of all, let me throw my ten cents in here. 1. Although I am called to love gays, it is a sin to act on the feelings of being gay but not anymore than any other sin. However, it was the only sin that was answered with burning down Sodom and Gomarrah. (I think I misspelled that but I don’t have my Bible with me..sorry) God feels pretty strongly about this one. He created man and woman to be together not any other option.
    2. Islam is a false religion. Believing in Christ is the only way to get to heaven. Jesus is the only way. No buts, no arguments, and you can spin around claiming whatever but I can not argue anyone to the cross. Islam is not the way and it is dangerous. Take it from someone who has family fighting in Iraq. The people there are good people for the most part but the extremist are dangerous and following a god that does not exist. And yes, radical Islamics tend to be violent.

  17. morsec0de says:

    “The people there are good people for the most part but the extremist are dangerous and following a god that does not exist.”

    Funny. This is exactly how I feel about Christians.

  18. Nance says:

    morsec0de-

    “The people there are good people for the most part but the extremist are dangerous and following a god that does not exist.”

    Funny. This is exactly how I feel about Christians.”

    Cute.

    So, how do you know without a doubt that God does not exist? Just curious about your faith.

  19. morsec0de says:

    Sorry, but I don’t have faith. In anything.

    Trust and hope, yes. Faith, no.

    And I don’t “know without a doubt” that there is no god. Never said I did.

    What I do know is that there is no good evidence for any god. And until there is, I won’t believe in one. It’s the same way I feel about big foot, the loch ness monster, and alien abductions.

  20. Nance says:

    So you have faith that God does not exist, just as I have faith that He does. Neither of us have difinitive proof to substantiate our claim. We just believe our view to be true.

    You do have faith and, in my opinion, far greater faith than I. I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.

    Next question, in what do you place your hope and trust?

  21. morsec0de says:

    “So you have faith that God does not exist”

    Wrong. I have no good reason to believe that god exists. If ‘faith’ means ‘having no good reason to believe something’, then you can say I have faith.

    Otherwise, I’m sorry, but I have no reason to answer your other questions if you refuse to listen to my answers.

  22. Nance says:

    Have it your way, thanks for the chat.

  23. morsec0de says:

    Should you change your mind and respond to what I actually say and not what you think or want me to say, then I’ll happily come back and continue the conversation.

    Cheers.

  24. Nance says:

    Well, now wait a minute. Why am I not allowed to write what I think if you are? I am only attempting to understand your point of view. One way to do that is to repeat or rephrase what someone says to comprehend shared thoughts. What exactly is it that you are opposed to? That I think you have faith? Why does that offend you so much?

  25. morsec0de says:

    You are by all means welcome to write what you think. This is, after all, your blog.

    What I would appreciate you not do is write things about me that I have specifically said are untrue.

    I said:

    “Sorry, but I don’t have faith. In anything.”

    You responded:

    “So you have faith that God does not exist, just as I have faith that He does.”

    If you want to show evidence or have an argument for me having faith despite my saying specifically that I do not, then present it.

    But if you merely contradict what I said with nothing to back it up, you are misrepresenting what I say, and I will not stand for that. And I would hope no one would stand for it if I did the same thing.

  26. Nance says:

    I stated, “Neither of us have difinitive proof to substantiate our claim. We just believe our view to be true.”

    Which is my argument that you have faith.

    Webster’s defines faith as:

    1faith \ˈfāth\ n
    pl faiths \ˈfāths, sometimes ˈfāṯẖz\ [ME feith, fr. AF feid, fei, fr. L fides; akin to L fidere to trust — more at bide] 13c
    1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty
    b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises
    (2) : sincerity of intentions
    2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God
    (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
    b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof
    (2) : complete trust
    3 : something that is believed esp. with strong conviction esp : a system of religious beliefs 〈the Protestant faith〉 syn see belief —on faith : without question 〈took everything he said on faith〉
    ———————

    You seem to me to have a strong conviction to a system of beliefs emerging from an atheist worldview. Atheist believe and you have stated that God does not exist. Would you also agree that you hold this belief without an examination of evidence? If not, what evidence convinced you that your view is true?

    Another synonmous definition would be:

    be•lief \bə-ˈlēf\ n
    [ME beleave, prob. alter. of OE gelēafa, fr. ge-, associative prefix + lēafa; akin to OE lyfan — more at believe] 12c
    1 : a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing
    2 : something believed esp : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group
    3 : conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon esp. when based on examination of evidence
    syn belief, faith, credence, credit mean assent to the truth of something offered for acceptance. belief may or may not imply certitude in the believer 〈my belief that I had caught all the errors〉. faith almost always implies certitude even where there is no evidence or proof 〈an unshakable faith in God〉. credence suggests intellectual assent without implying anything about grounds for assent 〈a theory now given credence by scientists〉. credit may imply assent on grounds other than direct proof 〈gave full credit to the statement of a reputable witness〉. syn see in addition opinion

    Perhaps you would feel more comfortable with the statement that you have belief, rather than that you have faith. If that is the case then it seems that this is nothing more than a disagreement of semantics.

    Now, will you answer my question? You said you have hope and trust, in what do you place your hope and trust?

  27. morsec0de says:

    “You seem to me to have a strong conviction to a system of beliefs emerging from an atheist worldview. Atheist believe and you have stated that God does not exist. Would you also agree that you hold this belief without an examination of evidence? If not, what evidence convinced you that your view is true?”

    I have a system of beliefs that I follow (secular humanism) because the evidence shows that people treat each other better and have better lives when following it.

    Atheists (at least this one) do not believe that god does not exist. We lack belief in god. The difference may be subtle, but it is there. It is easier to explain by simply looking at yourself: Do you have faith that Allah does not exist? Or do you simply not believe in Allah? Do you have faith that every god other than yours doesn’t exist, or do you just not see any good evidence for them?

    That’s the difference.

    Atheism is certainly a statement of belief. But that statement is one of disbelief. There’s no positive conviction there.

    And my opinion and belief are ALWAYS contingent upon the evidence. Which is what, I think, differentiates it from faith.

    As to your other question:

    I have trust in my family, friends and loved ones. I have trust in the scientific method. I have trust in my senses. None of these trusts are absolute, however, and could change given the evidence.

    I have hope in humanity, and the future of our species and our planet. Some days that hope is more optimistic than others.

  28. Todh says:

    I think you need to understand the definitions of words to think this through.

    Morality is the ability to make distinctions between right and wrong.

    Ethics are the rules you employ to make distictions between right and wrong.

    Ethics flow from morality. You base ethics on something. On a sense of what is right and wrong.

    What do you base what is right and wrong on? If not some absolute – then right and wrong just can shift around and so can your morality.. and your ethics.

    I would hope there would be some understanding that the importance of basing your morality on something that is true and unchanging is a good thing.

  29. manupmen says:

    Morals are often espoused by believers. Non-believers tend to seek out ethics. We would have far less wars if people did not believe in morals.

  30. Nance says:

    “We would have far less wars if people did not believe in morals.”

    HA, HA, HA, HA, HA ! ! ! !

    Let’s test that theory, shall we? The belief in a relative moral standard or ethics as you like to call it has led to the extermination of millions. Atheist communist regimes are responsible for mass murders, forced labor camps, tortures, and genocide.

    Stalin is responsible for around 20 million deaths, Hilter killed 10 million, Mao Zedong’s regime murdered 70 million all performed their atrocities upon their fellow country men. Not to mention Lenin, Pol Pot, Castro and other infamous atheist who apparently had no “morals.”

    Nope, it doesn’t appear that history supports your ridiculous statement.

  31. morsec0de says:

    “TOTALITARIAN atheist communist regimes are responsible for mass murders, forced labor camps, tortures, and genocide.”

    Fixed that for you.

  32. manupmen says:

    Atheists will never catch up to the number of murders done in the name of God.

  33. Nance says:

    “Atheists will never catch up to the number of murders done in the name of God.”

    That so? Know any Christians responsible for 70 million murders?

  34. morsec0de says:

    Hitler is in the millions.

    And according to his writings and his speeches, he believed in Jesus Christ, which seems to make him a Christian.

  35. manupmen says:

    Nance, of course I know of Christians whose killings are in the millions. The Crusades alone were horrendous, certainly Hitler’s murder’s were atrocious, and the Spanish Inquisition, the bomb at Hiroshima, yes, the total Christian killings in in the millions.

  36. Nance says:

    Are these the words of someone who values Christianity?

    “Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism, the destroyer…. The decisive falsification of Jesus’ doctrine was the work of St.Paul. He gave himself to this work… for the purposes of personal exploitation…. Didn’t the world see, carried on right into the Middle Ages, the same old system of martyrs, tortures, faggots? Of old, it was in the name of Christianity. Today, it’s in the name of Bolshevism. Yesterday the instigator was Saul: the instigator today, Mardochai. Saul was changed into St.Paul, and Mardochai into Karl Marx. By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea.” Hitler

    So are you saying that people who believe in God and people who do not believe in God commit murders and cause wars? And you would agree that this behavior is bad, would you not? Your argument implies an objective moral standard by which we may measure bad verses good behavior.

  37. morsec0de says:

    It seems like Hitler is writing against St. Paul, not Jesus.

    “Your argument implies an objective moral standard by which we may measure bad verses good behavior.”

    I don’t know if you’re referring this to me, but why does ‘war and murder bad’ mean objective morals? Certainly doesn’t to me. It’s purely situational and personal…I don’t want to have war waged against me, and I don’t want to be murdered. So I’ll be a nice guy and extend that and not wage war or murder others.

    Nothing absolute or objective about it, really.

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