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Legislating in the Moral Gray Zone2 min read

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foggyStand to Reason has an interesting post on the liberal canard of “imposing your views.” Much legislation is moral/ethical in nature, and as with all moral issues, I think we have a classic black/white/gray problem.

Some legislation may be purely based on an ethic of not harming others – hence, do not kill, do not steal, do not lie.  Even though these are all religious commandments, in civil govt discourse, we may consider them on their ethicality alone.

On the opposite extreme are religious morals that are purely religious, and probably should not be legislated – keep the sabbath, don’t eat pork, whatever.

But there is a gray zone where we have difficulty.  Is adultery wrong because the bible says so?   Does it really harm people?  Maybe it harms the person who needs an extramarital affair to criminalize their adultery.  That may sound crazy, but proponents of open, group, and polygamous marriage argue that.  Does homosexuality harm people?  How about teaching our children that homosexuality is ok?  What about sexual exploration among teens?   What about teens sexually experimenting with adults?

In the gray zone, you are going to have to do two things.  One, you may have to develop a more complex ethic, but it may not be adequate or convincing in the public arena.  The other choice is that you can fall back on traditional (time-tested, in many cases) morality.

We will always have public arguments about legislating in the moral gray zone.

But I think that we must (1) preach morality first, rather than merely legislate, (2) educate minds about immorality and its cost, and finally, (3) legislate to a point, but in general, allow people freedom in the gray areas without giving them government sanction.

For example, homosexuality.  Now, I believe it is sinful and a maladaptation.  But I don’t want to criminalize it.  However, because it is a gray zone, I don’t want to legitimize it either via legislation like allowing gays to be officially married.  They can be gay, but they can’t foist their view on the rest of us by having it legitimized and taught to children if there is a chance that they are wrong and I am right.  And we will never really know, so we might as well live with the compromise rather than endlessly going back and forth on it.