As soon as Christians gave into the lie that morality can’t be legislated, liberals began to legislate their view of morality on all of us!
All law is a reflection of some moral code. It is impossible to avoid imposing morality on people. There are tens of thousands of laws on the books that tell each and every one of us how we should live — from how fast we can drive our cars to how much money we have to pay in taxes. In each case, we are being controlled, and someone else’s concept of morality is being imposed on us.
With the moral universe now turned upside down, pro-abortion advocates believe it is immoral to deny a woman a right to an abortion. They work to impose laws on the whole society to protect the “moral rights” of those who want abortions.
When one concept of what’s right or wrong is set against another in the debate over legislation, an appeal to morality is inevitably used. Legislating morality is an inescapable concept. Back in 2003, Dexter Chambers, the communications director for the Atlanta City Council, claimed that he was against legislating morality: “I do not believe in imposing my morals on anyone else or anyone else imposing their morals on me.”1 But the City Council imposes someone’s view of morality on the people of the city of Atlanta on a regular basis. Some people like the Council’s rulings, and some do not, but there’s no escaping the fact the morality is being legislated.
“In a scene from the recent Western, ‘Silverado,’ set before law and order reached the frontier, an old black homesteader is murdered by ruthless cattle ranchers. When the old man’s son discovers the body he says sorrowfully, ‘This ain’t right.’”2 But why “ain’t” it right? What is the foundation for law? How do we account for what’s moral?
Morality is not based on the wishes of the few or the pressures of the mighty. Morality can only be secured when we turn to a law that rests outside the partisan interests of fallen men. Morality must have an objective reference point that applies to all equally, to civil officials as well as citizens. Should we appeal to the latest polling statistics to determine right from wrong? Is the Supreme Court the final appeal? In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that states could outlaw the practice of sodomy. In 2003, the court reversed itself in a 6-3 decision wiping out all anti-sodomy laws.
What happened in a period of less than twenty years that a prohibition became a fundamental right? Which decision from the Court is right and why? Why should we listen to Ted Turner who came up with his own set of Ten Commandments and not someone like Adolf Hitler? Harold O. J. Brown asks it this way:
“If there are no laws made in heaven, by what standards should human society organize itself? We do need laws by which to organize and structure our lives, but if God has not given them, where shall they come from? There is only one answer: We must make them ourselves. Of course, if we make our own laws they will have no more authority or force than what we ourselves possess and can assert by means of the power at our disposal. In other words, law comes to represent not the will of the Creator but the will of the strongest creatures. This became the widespread view, sometimes unexpressed but frequently explicit, of most Western societies in the first part of the twentieth century. America’s great legal statesman, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., thought no differently in this respect from the great dictator, Adolf Hitler. Both of them believed that laws simply represent the will of the dominant majority. Holmes was a courteous, urbane, sophisticated gentleman, but his idea of law would have offered no opposition to the enactments of Hitler, who for a time reflected the will of Germany’s dominant majority.”3
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg declared that the court’s most recent rulings were based on international law. But this only pushes the reference point for law back a step. What is the foundation for morality among foreign courts? Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent in the Lawrence v. Texas (2003) sodomy case that the court should not “impose foreign moods, fads, or fashions on Americans.”4
“The statement, ‘You can’t legislate morality,’ is a dangerous half-truth and even a lie, because all legislation is concerned with morality. Every law on the statute books of every civil government is either an example of enacted morality or it is procedural thereto. Our laws are all moral laws, representing a system of morality. Laws against manslaughter and murder are moral laws; they echo the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Laws against theft are commandments against stealing. Slander and libel laws, perjury laws, enact the moral; requirement, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’ Traffic laws are moral laws also: their purpose is to protect life and property; again, they reflect the Ten Commandments. Laws concerning police and court procedures have a moral purpose also, to further justice and to protect law and order. Every law on the statute books is concerned with morality or with the procedures for the enforcement of law, and all law is concerned with morality. We may disagree with the morality of a law, but we cannot deny the moral concern of law. Law is concerned with right and wrong; it punishes and restrains evil and protects the good, and this exactly what morality is about. It is impossible to have law without morality behind the law, because all law is simply enacted morality.”5
It’s time we challenge the lie that morality can’t be legislated. It’s making us slaves to the State in the name of progress.
- Quoted in Gayle White, “Vatican condemns same-sex unions,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (August 1, 2003), B5. [↩]
- R. C. Sproul, “Creating Justice,” Eternity (Nov. 1986), 19. [↩]
- Harold O. J. Brown, The Sensate Culture: Western Civilization Between Chaos and Transformation (Dallas, TX: Word, 1996), 88. [↩]
- The material on Ginsburg and Scalia is taken from Gina Holland, “Ginsburg: International Law Shaped Court Rulings,” Associated Press (August 2, 2003). [↩]
- Rousas J. Rushdoony, Law and Liberty (Tyler, TX: Thoburn Press,  1977), 1–2. [↩]