Welcome to a new month here at Young Patriots for Liberty! This month we are going to be talking about government, some of the roles of government, and how our three branches of government work. We also have a special Independence Day post coming tomorrow, so be sure to check it out! Without further delay, we’re going to dig right in…
“You can’t legislate morality” is an old saying that is used frequently by liberals and conservatives alike when trying to describe the role of government. Many say it with emphasis. Some say it to sound smart, and probably most people who use the term say it to shut up anyone who has a higher moral standard than they do and want to make sure everyone knows about it. “Don’t tell me I shouldn’t be able to shoplift a dime-store! You can’t legislate morality!” “How dare you tell me I can’t marry someone of my same sex! You can’t legislate morality!”
Basically, the term “you can’t legislate morality” means that it is wrong to make any laws that enforce any moral or religious standard. The term is accepted by almost all political sects. Libertarians like the phrase because they are at their core, antigovernment, and would rather the government not legislate anything, so not legislating morality is a good start for them. Liberals like the phrase because they know that voters are human, and generally deteriorate towards immorality. Conservatives like the phrase because they have misunderstood the true meaning of the separation of Church and State. Consequently, the term “You can’t legislate morality” has become a cornerstone in American politics.
What in the world does that phrase imply? Let’s use an example. Murder is universally recognized as a capitol offense. There is an age old understanding that murder is wrong. But what if society embraced the term “you can’t legislate morality” when it came to murder? Voters would elect candidates who believed that the government was not to say whether or not murder is a crime. Those candidates, now lawmakers, would ease the punishment on convicted murderers and even introduce laws decriminalizing murder. The end result is a rise in murders and a decrease of justice. Decriminalizing murder doesn’t stop murder, it increases it.
When it gets down to it, “You can’t legislate morality” is complete hogwash! In fact, it is the government’s specific duty to legislate morality. All legislation has something to do with morality; laws against murder and manslaughter echo the sixth commandment “You shall not murder”, laws against theft echo the sixth commandment, and so on. The point is, all laws are attempts to enforce a moral code. Without a government that penalizes wrongdoing, there will be no real liberty. Rather, society will deteriorate into lawlessness and chaos.
Admittedly, there are different views of morality. Buddhists have a moral code that they enforce when they are in charge of the government. Muslims too, have a moral code that is enforced by their government. Humanists have a moral code, anarchists have a moral code, everyone has a moral code, and that code will be enforced in the government. Now, one could argue for a government made up of diverse religions—like our current government, a melting pot of world religions all endeavoring to enforce their moral code. The problem is, that form of government doesn’t work. There will inevitably be a dominant worldview in the halls of government, and that worldview will be the code by which laws are made. Say what you will, but our nation was founded on the Biblical principles of freedom by God-fearing men. The only religion truly compatible with the US Constitution is Christianity, both socially and legally.
What happens when a government legislates morality according to the Bible? In the book of Judges, we read about what happened when righteous judges who feared God ruled the land of Israel. When righteous men judged Israel, prosperity reigned as well. The people lived happily and there was a minimal government that simply protected them from outside enemies and punished them for breaking God’s law. As soon as a judge would die, the people would go back to their sinful ways. Soon they would end up captives at the hands of their enemies.
In the end, only a land that governs its people the way God has ordained will be free. Just as freedom and prosperity go hand in hand, so do law and liberty. There is no freedom without law and order.
The reason there was such a focus on debunking the myth “you can’t legislate morality” is because like I said earlier, it is the Government’s Biblical duty to punish wrongdoing and to make just laws against crime — in essence, to legislate morality. In our modern world, we are used to the fact that the government has control of most of our lives when in reality, the Biblical role of government is simple; protect the people from wrongdoing. There are many nuances to the role of government that will be addressed this month here at YPL, but the foundation is simple; the government must legislate morality.