Legislating morality

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Dear Students:

First of all, I would like to thank each of you for signing up for my class this semester at UNC-Wilmington. Part of my job as your professor is to dispel certain myths you learn in your other classes, especially sociology. If you decide to question these myths in Sociology 101, your professor is likely to assign you to sensitivity training sessions.

Because our university faculty is so overwhelmingly liberal, many of these myths constitute arrogant dismissals of conservative ideas – ideas that your professors would take more seriously if they had a little more experience interacting with conservatives. Some of your professors have never met a conservative and could only spot one from a distance based largely on the conservative’s physical appearance and grooming habits.

Needless to say, I can’t take on all of the myths you will encounter every semester at UNC-Wilmington. In fact, each semester I design a project that focuses on just one of those myths. This semester I will focus on the myth that society “can’t legislate morality.”

But before I deliver my first lecture on the topic, I have decided to give you a little homework assignment. Please take the time to a) read all of the following questions, and b) write a short paragraph in response to each. I’ll collect your answers before the next lecture on Monday:

During the 1990s, liberals stated that legislation designed to cut food stamps was “immoral.” But most liberals also adhere to the belief that you “can’t legislate morality.” How can a bill be “immoral” if it can’t be “moral”?

There are a number of reasons why the colonists declared independence from England. Is it fair to say that the primary reason was that the King was not legislating morally?

The First Amendment clearly prevents the federal government from establishing a national religion. Does it also forbid the federal government from establishing a national morality?

Was the 13th Amendment ban of slavery an example of Congress trying to “legislate morality”? If your answer is “yes,” is that sufficient grounds to reinstate slavery?

Those who say there is no objective standard of morality base their opinion on the inability of people to act in accordance with that standard consistently. But isn’t the absolute moral law more likely to be seen in people reactions, rather than their actions? Think about yourself for a moment. Sometimes you tell the truth, sometimes you don’t. But, do you not react with consistent moral outrage when people lie to you?

Those who say that “you can’t legislate morality” often talk about various “moral panics” and “witch hunts” over the years. This is done to suggest that morality changes over time. But, is it correct to say that the witch hunts were a product of a primitive morality? Isn’t it more accurate to say that the only thing that has changed is our belief about the existence of witches and their ability to commit murder? We’ve always been opposed to murder, haven’t we?

In the famous 1925 Scopes “monkey” trial, Clarence Darrow stated: “For God’s sake, let the children have their minds kept open – close no doors to their knowledge; shut no door from them. Make a distinction between theology and science. Let them have both. Let them be taught. Let them both live.” Have you ever met a 21st Century liberal who believes that both evolution and creation should be taught in schools? Or do they say “Let them have only one”?

Can you name the 1981 Arkansas case in which the ACLU (the ones who brought us the Scopes case) argued that teaching both evolution and creation is actually in violation of the First Amendment?

How many of our Founding Fathers attended seminary? (Hint: It is more than 26 and less than 28).

In 1796, an act was passed by Congress under President Washington regulating the land given to the Society of United Brethren for “propagating the gospel among the heathen.” The act was later extended by President Jefferson. Do you suppose that conflicts with his supposed insistence upon a “wall of separation between church and state”?

Have you ever read the 1802 letter from which the phrase “wall of separation of church and state” was taken? Is there any truth to the assertion that the letter was written to a group of Baptists in Connecticut ensuring that their church would be protected from the government by a one way wall of protection?

How did that letter produce the justification for keeping a high school girl from mentioning Jesus at her high school graduation?

Is it true that Thomas Jefferson set up the University of Virginia – using state funds – with rules including a ban on swearing and an expectation that students would “attend religious services”?

Given that Thomas Jefferson did not attend the constitutional convention, why is it that people often quote him when insisting that the “separation of church and state” is a “constitutional requirement”? Is it possible that many of these self-described liberals are unable to differentiate between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?

How many of the states that ratified the First Amendment had official state churches?

Is there any relationship between the ACLU’s love of communism and its hatred of religion?

For the answers to all of these questions, you can simply read Legislating Morality, by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek. Or you can come back to class on Friday* to hear me lecture on the topic of “legislating morality.”

*Part Two to follow on Saturday Oct. 13

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