Mike Huckabee was right when he said you can legislate morality. One example of morality-oriented legislation that you may be familiar with is The Ten Commandments that God handed down to Moses at Mt. Sinai, an event recorded in the Book of Exodus in The Bible.
Given the source of those laws or commandments, we can be pretty certain that they were designed to legislate morality, that is to make illegal that which is immoral.
By doing so, the state or government is given the right and the responsibility to enforce with all the powers and resources at its disposal the ban on such immoral behavior and punish those who break the law by engaging in such immorality.
Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, spoke about legislating morality during a speech at the First Baptist Church in Union in January. In his speech, Huckabee dismissed the idea that you can’t legislate morality, pointing out that a legislature legislates morality because it puts into law what is right and wrong.
He said that morality in a community is established by what a community decides is right and wrong and has those decisions enacted into law by their elected representatives.
As I pointed out at the beginning of this column, Huckabee is right, morality can be legislated and it can be legislated in the United States of America today just as it was legislated on Mt. Sinai thousands of years ago. The big difference is that whereas today a group of human beings would be the ones doing the legislating, in Exodus 20 God does all the legislating by Himself.
So yes, you can legislate morality. What you can’t do, however, is get people to behave in accordance with that legislation unless they want to.
There’s an old saying about not being able to make a horse drink water even after you’ve led the animal to it. The same is true with legislating morality because you can pass all the laws you want to, but people will still break them as anyone who has read the Old Testament knows.
Ancient Israel has a few very simple laws about living morally handed down to them by God and yet they repeatedly went against Him and broke those laws with the result that they were always getting themselves in trouble and suffering the consequences of their law-breaking.
The same is true today if you read the Crime Reports we publish on Saturday’s Blotter Page or, in some cases, on the Front Page.
People know they should not commit crimes like burglary, fraud, theft, grand larceny, armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, rape and murder as well as getting involved in various aspects of the drug culture and other illegal activities.
However, they do it anyway and sooner or later they end up facing the consequences of their refusal to live a moral life in accordance with the law.
The only way legislating morality actually works is when there is no need to legislate morality. That is, when people opt to live a moral life, not because the law requires it, but because they know it is the right thing to do.
Such people are living according to something else Huckabee touched on, The Golden Rule as enunciated by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.
A society populated exclusively by such people would be the only the way legislating morality could truly be successful. In such a society, however, morality would not have to be written into law because The Golden Rule would be written on the hearts of its people.
Charles Warner is a staff writer for The Union Daily Times and can be reached at [email protected] Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.