Legislating Morality Cannot Be Avoided

One of the arguments against Santorum is that he’s talking too much about social issues, and that’s going to spell doom for Republicans because they need to concentrate on the economy. We need to get something straight here: when people divide issues between “social” and “economic,” they are creating an artificial separation. As Santorum clearly explains, both in his book and his public appearances, the social traumas we face—family breakdown, abortion, a pleasure-for-me-first mentality—are at the root of our economic woes.

All the relevant statistics show that poverty abounds in single-parent homes, while the poverty rate in two-parent homes is something like 6%. Children growing up in broken homes are far more likely to end up on public assistance, either via welfare or the prison system, the latter being at taxpayer expense also. Government policies that serve to discourage marriage and penalize through taxation those who are responsibly raising children should be a primary concern for politicians.

Freedom of religion was important enough to the Founders to have it mentioned first in a list of freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Churches have always been exempted from taxation because they promote a public good. Now the Obama administration wants to throttle freedom of religion in the guise of providing healthcare. It’s not hyperbole to insist that the current occupant of the White House harbors a certain animosity toward those who hold to conservative/orthodox Christian views.

The old bugaboo that critics of social conservatives continue to repeat is the canard that “You can’t legislate morality.” They emit dire warnings about the “theocrats” who want to invade your bedroom and force an outdated morality on the nation. This criticism is essentially dishonest on all points.

The idea that you can’t legislate morality begs for a definition. What is morality? Well, it deals with the distinction between right and wrong. What are laws? They are statements of what is right and what is wrong. Murder, for instance, is against the law because it wrongly takes the life of the innocent. I would argue that abortion fits into that category as well. Theft is wrong because the thief purloins property that belongs to someone else. Fraud is wrong because it is deception and lying. Murder, theft, fraud. Does anyone really want us to stop enacting and enforcing such laws simply because they have a religious basis? After all, the Bible speaks out against all of these. So when we pass laws to punish those who do such things, are we stepping into an area where government is not supposed to enter? It would be completely foolish to believe so.

Bottom line: all laws are statements of morality. It’s not that we cannot legislate morality; it’s that we cannot avoid legislating morality. The only real question here is whose morality are we going to legislate?

When President Obama imposes mandates on religious organizations that run counter to their deeply held beliefs, isn’t he legislating morality? He’s saying, in effect, that withholding contraception is “wrong.” Soon, he will demand abortion services be provided as well because he believes it is “wrong” not to do so.

So let’s do away with the dishonesty. Morality is the basis for all laws. So-called social issues are at the heart of the spiritual, emotional, and mental health of a nation—and yes, of the economic health as well. The two should never be separated. Rick Santorum is correct to make the linkage.