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George Bowers Sr.: Legislating morality

George Bowers

By George Bowers Sr.

How many times we've heard it quoted, "You can't legislate morality." This statement is usually thrown around as an excuse to reject proposed or existing laws because they might have some connection to Biblical or Christian standards. Combined with a badly twisted interpretation of a Jeffersonian letter regarding church and state, these two work hand and hand to oppose any legislation that seeks to recognize traditional morality.

Ultimately, however, every law has a moral basis. By definition, laws that are passed become that which is right or wrong. We can't make someone follow them, but consequences are prescribed for those who fail to do so. We can't demand someone think a certain way, but every law demands that we act a certain way, whether it be not stealing corn from our neighbor's garden or not parking in his handicapped space. These are two examples of very good laws that are based on moral understandings of the right to own property and respect for the disabled. We must recognize, however, the moral underpinnings that motivated such legislation. In these instances, we do in fact, legislate how we will all morally live with our neighbors whether we agree or not.

Why did Obamacare pass? Because a majority of Congressmen thought it was the right, or moral thing to do. And when the law dictates that I must purchase health insurance, I either must abide by their judgment of right and wrong, or face a financial penalty. Morality was clearly at the heart of that and all legislation. The Civil Rights Act was a moral decision. Gambling and pornography are moral issues. Mandatory education is a moral dictate. Gun control advocates and opponents both base their differing views on morality and how to best protect our citizenry. Protecting our citizenry itself is a moral choice.

At its very core, every law is based on some sense of morality. The question has never been, should laws be moral, but rather which morals should they be based upon? In dictatorships, the morals of the one on the throne become those of the kingdom. But in America, according to our founding documents, that power was delegated to the people through the right of voting. Sadly, our collective morals are now being dictated by courts and judges who overturn even Constitutional amendments that have been approved by large majorities of our citizens.

We all base our morality on something. Just because some chose to base theirs on millennia of societal precedent or on religious belief, these should not be excluded from public policy debates. Each of us needs to determine what are own morals are and more importantly, what we base them on. As the fall campaign season heats up, let us not be hoodwinked into believing that certain candidates must be eliminated from our consideration just because they espouse religious beliefs, ideas, and morals. This, in fact, should be a primary consideration for Christian voters regardless of political party. Politics represents a marketplace of ideas about right and wrong, about what is moral and what is not, and about what the consequences should be for failing to abide by society's legal (based on moral) standards. Please allow your moral beliefs to inform your political choices. Blessings, George

George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, "Wit and Wisdom of the Woods." He can be reached at gabowers@shentel.net.


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