Can Morality Be Legislated?



Have you ever heard the claim that "morality can't be legislated"? I have heard it too many times, and it has often been said by religious people. I'm afraid the majority of people in this country have bought into this lie, which has been propagated by the liberal left.

Those who argue in favor of abortion often insist that morality should not be legislated. They say that the pro-life movement should not force their morals on society. In fact, the Supreme Court seems to have bought into the lie. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court said,
Some of us as individuals find abortion offensive to our most basic principles of morality, but that cannot control our decision. Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code...at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.
But to say that morality cannot be legislated is to betray an ignorance of what laws really are. All laws declare one behavior right and one behavior wrong, which is the very definition of morality. When people say morality cannot be legislated, they should be saying that legislation cannot change hearts. While this is true, changing hearts is not the purpose of laws. Regardless of one's personal convictions, laws encourage a certain behavior by citizens. Legislation cannot be divorced from morality. All laws mandate morality. The question is not then can we legislate morality, but whose morality do we legislate?1

The Supreme Court claimed that they were not legislating morality in their decision. By making abortion legal (overstepping its authority, I might add), however, the Supreme Court declared that abortion was right. This is a moral statement, a legislation of morality. Some misguided individuals will argue that legalizing abortion is the government's way of remaining neutral on the issue--they aren't forcing anyone to have an abortion, nor saying that it is a good thing; they're just giving women the option. The same argument is used for prostitution and the use of narcotics. Legalization of an activity, however, is an endorsement of that activity. If it were not, why do we need laws in the first place? Why doesn't the government remain neutral on the issue of rape? The government doesn't have to force men to rape women or say that rape is a good thing, but shouldn't they give men that option? Do I hear some pro-choicers out there saying that rape is wrong, and it should be illegal? Who are you to force your morals on society? Morality shouldn't be legislated!

The purpose of having laws that prohibit abortion would not be to convince people that abortion is wrong (though they would, eventually, like the laws against slavery, gradually change public opinion). The purpose would be to save innocent human lives. It is the Christian's duty to persuade people that abortion is wrong by using logical arguments. The duty of Congress and the Supreme Court, on the other hand, is to protect people living in the country, born and unborn.

Like the authors of Legislating Morality, it is my opinion that we should not legislate the morality of the right or the left. We should legislate the morals that are written in the hearts of all men.2 These morals are known as the Moral Law, or Natural Law. It is this Law that tells us that the right to life should outweigh a temporary loss of personal freedom. The logic of the Moral Law goes something like this: (1) It is morally wrong to take the life of an innocent human being (any thinking human should agree with this statement); (2) since it is a fact that unborn babies are innocent human beings from the moment of conception (this is a medical and scientific fact), (3) abortion, which takes the life of an innocent human being, is morally wrong.3

So, "can morality be legislated?" Yes, morality can be and is legislated. It is time for Americans to stand up and fight for the right morality.




1. Geisler, Norman L. and Frank S. Turek III, Legislating Morality (Minneapolis: Bethany House) 1998, 25. Click here to buy it from Amazon.com
2. Ibid.,113
3. Ibid.,125