It is correct to say: “We cannot legislate morality.” But it is also correct to say: “All good legislation is based on a strict moral principle”. Laws can never make people better or compel people to be socially responsible. Good legislation, however, is consistent with the moral principle of the natural and God-given right to our lives, our liberty, and our property. Conservatives and liberals misuse the law when they attempt to use it to improve people or society at the expense of the moral commitment to individual God-given rights.
The Founding Fathers understood God-given rights and presented us with the most unique political document ever known in history – our Constitution. This set of laws demonstrated a moral commitment to liberty and was written principally to establish once and for all a new concept – that sovereignty shall be placed in the hands of the people, not in the power of the state. For this reason, the Constitution’s entire theme is the limitation of government power – prohibiting the government and the law from being a social and economic planner or individual moralist.
The Founding Fathers did not advocate “legislating morality,” but they did outline a legal framework based on a deep moral commitment to the principle that the life and liberty of everyone are gifts of the Creator and not a grant from the state. The purpose of the law to them was to protect life and liberty from the foreign invader, the gangster, the embezzler, the bureaucrat, and the politically ambitious. This concept of morality and law could serve us well, but the conflict between those “legislating morality” for various reasons – such as those who want to improve social and economic conditions and those who want to make people better -- will end in social upheaval and the total destruction of the moral foundation on which a free society is built.
The two, “moral law” and “legislating morality,” cannot exist together. One ultimately replaces the other. Today, we are in a transition, and the battle is becoming more vicious as social and economic conditions and personal morality worsen. Each side blames the other, but each compounds the error by responding with more bold and enthusiastic attempts at “moral legislation.”
Although our experience with a Constitution which was committed to moral law was unique and successful, many leaders pursue and continue to drag us down the path toward a tyrannical state. The battle to determine the final outcome between these opposing forces is now in process. The odds of our losing the concept of moral law and of the “legislators of morality” winning are great. Throughout history, the tyrants – those who know what’s best for everybody else, whether it’s social or personal – have generally been in charge. I believe, though, with the correct efforts being made and with commitment to understanding our Constitution, our country can survive intact. The 1980’s should tell us this.