Much has been made here of my usage of the phrase “community standards” in defense of actions by local governments to reflect the opinion of the majority of citizens in the law. Many propose that a simply solution is that each person simply live their life according to their own standards and leave the government completely out of it. While I agree with that sentiment on the majority of issues, I can also see the need for smaller governments to enforce a joint morality. A personal example may help explain.
In theory, I hate arguing that the government should have the power to establish moral standards. I despise giving the government any more power. It is dangerous to give the majority the veto power over morality standards of a community. Our nation saw the deplorable actions that can result during the civil rights movement. Having said all that, here is my limited defense of that practice.
First of all, I would never dream of giving the power to the federal government. In that case, you force everyone in the nation into the same standard. San Francisco would have to live with the same rules as rural Alabama. That would be unfortunate for both sides and cause even more conflict on controversial issues. (There are exceptions to the avoidance of national standards, but that is for another time.)
The power to establish community standards should be limited to towns, possibly states on less frequent occassions. This allows the government to better mirror the positions of the citiznes living there. The coasts could continue to be liberal, while the South and Midwest could continue to be conservative. The laws would reflect the people.
There would always be national safeguards to prevent egregious violations of Constitutional rights. Local governments should not be allowed to remove rights from individuals that have been enshired in our nation’s founding documents. Allowing for community standards should never be interpreted as allowing for a Constitutional rewrite.
But to my personal example, recently my son’s 4K class had pajama day. All the kids came to school wearing their pajamas and one of their favorite books. My son loved to wear the zip-up, footed pajamas. He has several different ones – some with dinosaurs, sports and other things. He wore a blue one with a dog on the front to school and he was excited about it.
I hadn’t really made the connection at that point, but I knew he had not been wanting to wear those type of pajamas anymore. He used to ask, “Is it cold tonight?” because we would only let him wear them when it was really cold outside. Now, we can’t get him to wear those.
My wife found out why. At least one of the boys in his class were picking on him for wearing those to school. Many of them were wearing super hero pajamas and other things that were older and “cooler.” My son has super hero pajamas and he watches super hero cartoons on TV. I have no problem with that, but because other children decided that what my son was wearing was not old enough their standards have been forced on my son and my home.
Lawanda gives the example of her daughters having problems at school with violence, sex and drugs running rampant. She is forced to respond to standards she does not agree with because her children were at a school where those standards are being displayed in front of her daughters.
Here is my point, when you say that Christians or any other group of people that hold to a certain type of moral behavior cannot expect that from others, you force those with the higher standard into the lower one. We become a land of the lowest common denominator. Because one person desires for a behavior to acceptable, everyone else must agree to it or be condemned.
In a small way, my son and my family were forced to respond to the morality or standards of other families. In a much larger way, Lawanda was faced with the same task.
For years, those advocating looser regulations on television have said that parents who do not want pervasive immorality on TV can simply change the channel. The advice for numerous issues is: change the channel, go somewhere else, etc. In essence, the lowest morality wins and the higher is forced to change and adapt.
Then, however, many people point to Christians homeschooling their children and other means of isolation as Chrisitians trying to “indoctrinate” or remove all outside influences from their children. However, the Christians are simply following the advice secularists have been giving us for years – change the channel, get out of the way and let us do what we want.
Many homeschooling parents are simply changing the channel. They were faced with a view of morality they didn’t agree with and they opted out, going their own way. It’s easy to charge indoctrination, but if the schools were teaching Christianity and creationism as fact, secularists would be forced to make decisions about homeschooling, private schools or other means to prevent viewpoints they disagree with from overwhelming their child.
An area will have a standard of decency and, for the most part, it will simply drop to the lowest level allowed by law. Those who seek a higher standard must answer the opposite charges of isolationism and forced morality.
The removal of community standards harms both those seeking to continue traditional standards and those wishing to establish new ones. How have the great moral changes of our society happened? They began at the local level, continued to the states and then forced the federal government to respond. Take virtually any issue past or present and if a lasting change in the morality of the country has taken place it has been initiated at the local level, through community standards.
From slavery, to sufferage to current issues such as gay marriage – the way to achieve change is by having communities and states change the current moral law and demonstrate the impact the changes have made.
As an example of what not to do, look at the abortion debate. It is still as heated, if not more so, as it was in the 1970’s. Why, because the Supreme Court made it a national issue and forced every state to recognize a moral issue they did not agree with too early. Yes, the court forced issues such as abolition, etc. on disagreeing states, but that is after it had been debated and fleshed out in other states for an extended period of time.
If you force every decision to be made on a national level from the start, not much will ever get changed and the contenious issues will be even more devisive. That is why we should allow for differing community standards. It allows people to represent their views in the government closest to them. The great thing about this way of governing that the founders understood all too well is that it allows you the maximum freedom for everyone – majority and minority. If one city outlaws something you enjoy, go somewhere else where they allow it. If a state allows something that you do not want to be around, go to a state to bans it.
There will always be differing opinions on what should be allowed. To me, the best way to work through these issues is through local standards of morality. In this, I am not allowed to force my beliefs of what should be acceptable on Los Angeles, but neither is Boston allowed to tell rural Arkansas what they must accept.