You Can(not) Legislate Morality?
by Dr. Michael Brown
If we mean by that question, “Can you make people moral through laws?” the answer is plainly no. If we mean, “Are laws put in place to govern people’s moral behavior?” the answer is plainly yes.
Morality is actually one of the main things that we must legislate, and my suspicion is that even those who bristle at this statement actually agree. As Frank Turek observed, “It never fails. Whenever some conservative takes a stand on a moral issue, some liberal somewhere will indignantly claim, ‘You can’t legislate morality!’ How many times have you heard that worn-out phrase? Incredibly, it’s not even true.” (From the book, Legislating Morality: Is it Wise? Is it Legal? Is it Possible? by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler.)
To be sure, virtually all of us recognize that the attempt at Prohibition was a failure and that it did not help to improve American morals. And this failed policy is commonly pointed to as proof that morality cannot be legislated.
But do we really believe that the law has no place in restraining immoral or illicit or socially destructive behaviors? Don’t we actually welcome such laws? Or would anyone suggest that we should not have laws against things like human trafficking?
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