DURING ALMOST ANY discussion of issues such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, gambling, or beverage alcohol, someone is virtually certain to say that ought not to be any laws against such things because “you can’t legislate morality…”
Even Christians may become convinced that it is futile to seek legal protection for unborn children, for example. They might say we should concentrate on changing people’s hearts instead of changing the law. Although we agree that ultimately the battle will be won or lost in the hearts of people, we also uphold the Biblical truth that civil government has a sacred duty to protect us from those who have no heart (or whose hearts have become hard).
Part of the problem is that the cliché, “You can’t legislate morality,” is interpreted differently today that it was several decades ago. When the saying was first used, people simply meant that passing a law was not going to eliminate moral evil. A law against gambling, for example, would not automatically end all gambling. There would still be those who would violate the law rather than stop gambling. You cannot legislate someone into moral behavior. Now, however, when someone says, “You can’t legislate morality,” he usually means there ought not to be laws pertaining to moral issues. Everyone is supposed to have the right to formulate his own private moral code without any interference from the government.
Obviously, passing laws will not guarantee that every citizen will become a paragon of virtue; in that sense, it is true that we cannot legislate morality. But does it follow that we should have no laws pertaining to moral issues at all?
If the truth be known, all law is based upon morality. Even the speed limit has a moral basis. Driving over the speed limit endangers lives and property; were is not for this moral problem, there would be no reason to limit the speed at which one may travel in an automobile. Likewise, “truth in advertising” laws are based upon the moral principle of honesty. Without morality there would be no basis for any law at all.
Few, if any, of those who claim, “You can’t legislate morality,” would want to live in a society that did not legislate morality. For example, we have laws against rape. Why? Because rape is immoral. Have the laws cause everyone to behave morally, thus ending all incidences of rape? Of course not! Legislation will not cause everyone to become moral. Should we then repeal all the laws against rape? Who would support such an absurd conclusion? Yet this would be logical result of the current mania against “legislating morality”! Anyone knows that if the laws were repealed, even more rapes would occur.
We also have laws against stealing. Why? Because stealing is immoral. Did all theft end when the laws were passed? Obviously not! Entirely too many people violate the law, stealing in spite of the legislation against it. Does this mean we should repeal all laws against stealing? How utterly foolish that would be! Even more stealing would take place if we did that.
The same principle can be applied to other moral issues. Suppose elective abortions were made illegal again. Would the abortion rate plummet to zero? Of course not. There will always be desperate mothers who seek to solve their problems through the destruction of their children. Beyond question, though, far fewer abortions would occur if they were illegal.
Can we legislate morality? Of course we can. We’ve done it for thousands of year, and we’re still doing it today. The real question is, “Whose morality will we legislate?” Will we legislate the morality of the humanists, which says man is the highest authority in the world, that right and wrong are relative, and that killing unborn babies is simply an act of “reproductive freedom”? Or will be legislate Biblical morality, which holds that God is the supreme authority, and that human life, in His image, is sacred? Joe Slater
“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29
— Mike Benson