Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Legislating Morality

One of the more curious arguments against laws that would appear to have religious views as their origin is to say that one "cannot legislate morality." That is, if I understand it correctly, is that there is something inherently wrong with making laws that reflect a moral viewpoint.

After thinking about it for some time I had trouble coming up with laws that did NOT reflect a particular moral viewpoint. Oddly enough if one stops and thinks about such things we find that all law, in some form or another, is the imposition of a particular point of view from a moral perspective. From healthcare to abortion to welfare to the military every issue that is talked about today is talked about from a moral perspective.

This should not be a surprise if one thinks about it. The law itself is a set of rules that a society of people use to regulate interactions with one another at the political and social level. The intent behind all law (ideally) is to achieve the common good as well as the rights and liberties of the individual. In order to do this one must have a view about the human being, and this view must include how the human being as a person in a society interacts with other human beings. This view goes to the very fundamental nature of man, and as such it is only logical that at the political and social level the laws of a society reflect the views of man in a social context.

Yet some would have us believe that we must put aside our moral views when making law. The view that morality, be it from a philosophical or religious view, should be private and thus absent from the social and political discourse. Politicians for their part seem to have this notion that their "faith" should not affect their policy making decisions.

This view however lacks anything resembling reason or common sense. A religion or philosophical view considers the very essence of Man. It asks fundamental questions about the nature of Man and his relationship to nature. To say that these views about the nature of Man and the fundamental questions of being should not affect how we regulate at the social level is a view that the English language has no words to describe the folly. If anything, the moral viewpoint must come first before we start considering what the law should be.

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