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One of the oddest, most harmful political beliefs to emerge in the past 50 years is the notion that one cannot legislate morality. What utter nonsense. Man has always legislated morality. Sir William Blackstone, the central legal mind the post-1787 U.S. courts looked to for guidance wrote, “The primary and principle objects of the law are RIGHTS and WRONGS.” That’s clear enough.
I agree. With the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion being so prevalent in the MSM and in our legislative and judicial systems I often hear people say something to the tune of “The government shouldn’t tell me what to do inside my bedroom.” Well, if they can tell you what you can’t do inside your car, office, kitchen, or classroom, why is the proverbial bedroom any different? Some things are right, and some things are wrong—regardless of where they take place.
We make laws because we believe that some things are right and other things are wrong, that wrongs left unchecked hurt individuals, families, neighbors, communities, nations — or else: the environment, the economy, and so forth.
The author then defines morality:
Observe [J.J. Bulamquie’s] definition of morality: “Law being the rule of human actions, in a comparative view we observe that [human actions] are either conformable or opposite to the [law]; and this sort of qualification is called morality.”
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary was also in agreement. Defining morality it noted: “We often apply the word to actions which accord with justice and human laws.”
Simply: morality and the law — in the founding era — well understood as solidly linked.
Indeed, morality and the law were often intertwined in the early days of our nation. Has this understanding changed? I submit that it has. In our day we see a staggering amount of moral relativism jading most of our decisions, policies, and actions. Lobbyists and liberals seek to dichotomize law and morality, when in fact the survival and integrity of our nation depends on their union.
Three quarters of a century later, President Theodore Roosevelt so perfectly understood the fixed nature of this link, he reminded judges that they have a duty to “unhesitatingly disregard even the wishes of the people if they conflict with the eternal principles of right as against wrong. [A judge] must serve the people; but he must serve his own conscience first. All honor to such a judge.”
King Mosiah had something similar to say to the judges in his day:
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law-to do your business by the voice of the people.
And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 29:26)
Interesting how similar their counsel was. Basically, it becomes each of us as citizens to uphold that which is right and moral to prevent the judgments of God from coming upon us. We must choose the right (ring a bell?) and stand up for what is morally correct. As the article mentions, Ronald Reagan agreed:
“Right and wrong matters. We must understand that basic moral principles lie at the heart of our criminal justice system, that our system of law acts as the collective moral voice of society. There’s nothing wrong with these values. nor should we be hesitant or feel guilty about [punishing] those who violate the elementary rules of civilized existence. Theft is not a form of political or cultural expression; it is theft, and it is wrong. Murder is not forbidden as a matter of subjective opinion; it is objectively evil, and we must prohibit it.”
He continues, “But it has occurred to me that the root causes of our other major domestic problem, the growth of government and the decay of the economy, can be traced to many of the same sources of the crime problem,” that is, “a tendency to downplay permanent moral values.”
Basically, President Reagan is arguing that government growth occurs because of the moral decay of its citizens. While I would argue that there are several other contributing factors, this sure is one of them.
Perhaps the highlight of the article is the quote near the end from Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
“I suppose persons who mouth the slogan [‘Don’t legislate morality’] think they are saying something profound. In fact, if that is an argument at all, it is so superficial that an educated person should be ashamed to use it. As should be evident to every thinking person, a high proportion of all legislation has a moral base. That is true of all the criminal law, most of the laws regulating family relations, businesses, and commercial transactions, many of the laws governing property, and a host of others.”
So yes, we legislate morality. Simply because one might disagaree with such legislation does not necessiate altering the law to work in their favor and give them the “rights” they desire.