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Legislating Morality? October 22, 2005

Posted by roopster in Bible, Christianity, church, faith, God, Religion, spirituality, Theology.
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In discussing the gay marriage issue with a friend, he told me the support of gay marriages is a ‘slippery slope’. I explain that laws are there to protect the rights of citizens NOT legislate morality. However, he stumped me with his response -‘then what about polygamy?’ I can’t say I support polygamy, but he is right in pointing out that there are no violations of a citizen’s right if there are consenting adults involved.

Then I began to think of other laws that are legislating a moral code vs. protecting the rights of citizens. Even though I do support gay marriage, am I willing to support the removal of all laws, like polygamy, that in some way legislates morality?

What about the laws requiring us to buckle up or to wear helmets while riding a motorcycle? What about an 18 year old who can be sent off to die in Iraq but cannot legally drink a beer?

I’ve stated many times on this blog my desire to be consistent in my beliefs. I sometimes wonder if this is even possible? We see these inconsistencies on a regular basis. Pro-abortionists are usually anti-death penalty. Liberals spew as much hate towards the religious right because they claim the religious right is hateful. There are those for free speech unless the speaker is in disagreement with their beliefs. Some support the rights of gays and lesbians but try to deny Christian kids the rights to hold Bible Studies in schools.

Is it possible to be totally consistent in our beliefs or do we live in a tainted world where this is not possible? I will continue to try, but please show mercy towards me when you see me being a hypocrite. So, I can say that I believe that we should not use laws to legislate morality but do I really?

[Originally written on 12 May 2005, updated today]

Here are some original comments to the blog:

Monk-in-Training said…

First of all the “slippery slope” comment is a red herring. Marriage law has changed all throughout history. Modern North American Marriage law has about as much to do with the culture of the Bible as my old ’78 Mercury Bobcat had with moutain lions. Clearly polygamy is an accpetable type of marriage in the Bible, the only restriction against it in the Christian scriptures is by Paul for Church leaders. Not for anyone else. Roman civil law has more to do with the Chruch preaching monogamous marriages than the Scriptures. I do not support polygamy, but I can’t deny it scripturally, either.To be consistant, you have to discover the basis of your morals, and for me it is love, justice, redemption, and freedom in Christ. If consenting adults want to form a union what is it of concern to me? Is each party free to stay or go? No one is being coerced? Then from a civil perspective, I say it should be permitted. After all, this country is about personal freedom, is it not? ….

Jacob said…

Ya, I’m really not a fan of legislating morality. I look at it like this: regardless of what my own convictions may be, the role of the legistators is to make laws that reflect the convictions of society in general. I would consider fighting against laws that I believe hurt innocent people, but not against those that allow adults to pursue lifestyles that I disapprove of. That means that should polygamy ever be legalized, the issue would not be whether I find it gross or even whether I disagree with it on moral grounds, but whether polygamous relationships are detrimental to children or others. (Which may in fact be the case.)I guess what I’m saying is that we should be legislating not morality but safety, freedom and wellbeing. And we shouldn’t be too concerned about changes in legislation, nor should we look at these changes as neccessarily being either progress or decline. Change happens……

Unregulated Female said…

The Founding Father of our country – Thomas Jefferson – was so for separation of Church and State, he didn’t use the Bible to be sworn into the presidential office. The separation exists for a reason, even though there is a “righteous” movement” trying to tear that safety down. Remember when our country was founded, people’s rights were extremely limited if someone did not belong to a particular faith. This belief only encourages others to behave one way in the public and another in private. It seems if the religious right have their way, our country would revert to this thinking. God forbid.Time is a good judge. There are some issues that just seem to be answered when we give them space to find out the results. This is the basis for my stance on gay marriage. We must stay open for dialogue and communication with those in both the gay and straight community, not separate because we are afraid of our own (or our children’s own) sexual identity.

Additional comments on this post are here.

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Comments»

1. Zoe Rebecca - May 12, 2005

We do have polygamy. And aren’t there laws against it in North America?

2. Monk-in-Training - May 12, 2005

First of all the “slippery slope” comment is a red herring. Marriage law has changed all throughout history. Modern North American Marriage law has about as much to do with the culture of the Bible as my old ’78 Mercury Bobcat had with moutain lions. Clearly polygamy is an accpetable type of marriage in the Bible, the only restriction against it in the Christian scriptures is by Paul for Church leaders. Not for anyone else. Roman civil law has more to do with the Chruch preaching monogamous marriages than the Scriptures. I do not support polygamy, but I can’t deny it scripturally, either.

To be consistant, you have to discover the basis of your morals, and for me it is love, justice, redemption, and freedom in Christ. If consenting adults want to form a union what is it of concern to me? Is each party free to stay or go? No one is being coerced? Then from a civil perspective, I say it should be permitted. After all, this country is about personal freedom, is it not?

I see you as struggling to be honest with that takes critical thinking and looking at one’s self from time to time. That is not easy, and most don’t even try, God bless you for traveling this road of self discovery.

3. Jacob - May 12, 2005

Ya, I’m really not a fan of legislating morality. I look at it like this: regardless of what my own convictions may be, the role of the legistators is to make laws that reflect the convictions of society in general. I would consider fighting against laws that I believe hurt innocent people, but not against those that allow adults to pursue lifestyles that I disapprove of. That means that should polygamy ever be legalized, the issue would not be whether I find it gross or even whether I disagree with it on moral grounds, but whether polygamous relationships are detrimental to children or others. (Which may in fact be the case.)

I guess what I’m saying is that we should be legislating not morality but safety, freedom and wellbeing. And we shouldn’t be too concerned about changes in legislation, nor should we look at these changes as neccessarily being either progress or decline. Change happens.

I don’t know if it’s possible to have totally consistent beliefs. I think the best we can do is to have beliefs that are consistent with what we know at the time, and be willing to alter our beliefs when presented with new knowledge. Complacency about inconsistency is dangerous.

4. Unregulated Female - May 12, 2005

The Founding Father of our country – Thomas Jefferson – was so for separation of Church and State, he didn’t use the Bible to be sworn into the presidential office. The separation exists for a reason, even though there is a “righteous” movement” trying to tear that safety down. Remember when our country was founded, people’s rights were extremely limited if someone did not belong to a particular faith. This belief only encourages others to behave one way in the public and another in private. It seems if the religious right have their way, our country would revert to this thinking. God forbid.

Time is a good judge. There are some issues that just seem to be answered when we give them space to find out the results. This is the basis for my stance on gay marriage. We must stay open for dialogue and communication with those in both the gay and straight community, not separate because we are afraid of our own (or our children’s own) sexual identity.

5. Denes de Sainte-Claire (Baron Del) - May 13, 2005

Polygamy? Oh-my-God! I can’t imagine having to deal with more than one wife!!! Just kidding.

Paul,

In the abstract, I think you’re trying for a “perfection of thought.” You ain’t-a-gonna-ever-make-it!

In the actual, good topic for interaction!

6. zuhn - May 13, 2005

In terms of a slippery slope, the argument that same-sex marriage can potentially lead to the possibility of legislating polygamy is flawed. One can argue, to be consistent, that the legislation of heterosexual marriage as the laws state today can lead to allowing polygamy in the law books as well. Since no one really makes the latter argument, I think we can legitimately conclude that there is an inequality in the way that heterosexuality is often seen as a baseline of normativity.

7. 'Thought & Humor' - May 13, 2005

You have a riveting web log and undoubtedly
must have atypical & quiescent potential for
your intended readership. May I suggest that
you do everything in your power to honor
your Designer/Architect as well as your audience.
Please remember to never restrict anyone’s
opportunities for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.

There is a time for everything, a season for every
activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time
to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time
to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and
a time to rebuild. A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to
scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time
to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose. A time to keep and
a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time
to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak
up. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for
war and a time for peace.

Best wishes for continued ascendancy,
Howdy
Editor

‘Thought & Humor’
Cyber-Humor & Cyber-Thought
http://ilovehowdy.blogspot.com/
Harvard Humor Club
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Harvard_Humor_Club/

8. Novato - May 13, 2005

LAW absolutely is the legislation of morality. To ignore or deny that fact reveals a basic lack of understanding regarding what law is. The real issue here is whose morality will we legislate?

We used to accept certain truths as self-evident. Things like dope is bad for you, pedophilia is bad for kids, etc. We didn’t need to spend million of $ on a 10 year study to prove it to us. I remember not too long ago TIME magazine featured a ground breaking cover story that men and women are indeed different. NAMBLA keeps telling us that man / boy love is normal and healthy. We don’t believe it….yet. But 50 yrs ago nobody would have believed that we would be embracing sodomy and lesbianism as good, healthy, and normal alternatives.

So, whose morality are we going to legislate? I like mine the best.

Novato

9. totaltransformation - April 17, 2007

It is an interesting subject. Of course, if such were to be applied evenly, we would have to take from our books laws related to polygamy, bestiality, and incest laws (when it involves consenting adults- not children). About the only laws which could sustain justification are those regarding sex with children. But then again, to say that sex with children is wrong, is another moral choice.

A certain amount of morality is inherent in any law. Law is often representative of a societies collective moral condemnation turned in statutes that provide actual punishment. Even our statement that “laws should only apply to those who actually harm people” is a moral choice in and of itself.

That said, where do we draw the line?

Although conflicted, I can see room for civil unions provided by the government and whatever churches are willing (not compelled) to perform ceremonies. Polygamy? Sure, why not. While God allowed polygamy (never particularly endorsing it either), one would do well to note that almost all polygamous marriages in the bible resulted in serious problems for all parties involved.

10. Rob V. - April 25, 2007

Have to echo similar sentiments of Novato and totaltransformation.

Is it illegal to murder someone? is it morally wrong to murder someone?

Ah…. so we DO legislate morality then!

Case closed.

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