The New Elephant: Can Morality Be Legislated? An In-Depth View

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can Morality Be Legislated? An In-Depth View

In today's political environment, it is common to hear the term "Values Voter." However, few people truly understand what a real "Values Voter" entails. To many people, the term refers to a person who votes for candidates who espouse conservative ideals and conservative opinions on today's hot-button political topics.

Oftentimes, self-proclaimed "Values Voters" seek to change society through the enactment of "Christian" legislation. While it seems reasonable to think that a country with "Christian" laws will be a nation of Christians, nothing can be further from the truth. This paradigm begs that the age old question of whether morality can be legislated be asked.

Can morality be legislated? To be able to come to an educated and reasonable conclusion regarding this question, there must be a standardized meaning of "morality." The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes "morality" as: "A doctrine or system of moral conduct." This definition is not helpful to us, as we are essentially seeking "What is the meaning of morality?" The same dictionary describes "moral" as: "relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior." While moral relativists will tell us that there is no absolute right or wrong, most people with any inkling of a moral compass knows what is basically right and basically wrong.

Essentially, when people ask if morality can be legislated, they are asking if principles of right or wrong can be legislated into the character and moral fabric of people. Can principles and character traits be legislated?

Many people say that legislation cannot be divorced from morality. It has been said that a call for a ban on abortions (which I would wholeheartedly favor) is legislating morality. Nothing could be further from the truth. A ban on abortions is not a system of principles of right and wrong in a person's character. A ban on abortions is a legal framework that creeps in the medical field are required to work within.

The actual belief that human life is sacred from the moment of conception is a moral position. Perhaps it can be said that morality can affect legislation but morality itself cannot be legislated. A ban on abortions has no effect on an individual's moral code. Example: a person, although they abide within the framework set by the ban on abortions, can still have the immoral belief that human life is not sacred.

To accomplish the infusing of morality into the moral fabric of a culture would require the basic transformation of that culture's belief system. It is the responsibility of the legislative branch of government, indeed, to propose legislation that has its roots in morality. It is the responsibility of the people of that culture to educate themselves what is absolutely right and absolutely wrong. Therein lies morality.

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