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William D. Bontrager, J.D.

1710 C.R. 121, Hesperus, Co. 81326

970-259-3384

wdb@frontier.net

THOUGHTS ON LEGISLATION STATING MORALITY

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LEGISLATION PENALIZING IMMORALITY

All legislation does, at some level, establish someone's moral sense of things. Thus, to say that we cannot legislate morality is nonsense. At the same time, it is also true that you cannot force a person to be moral.

And it is true that not all immoral acts are capable of being brought before the law even if made legislatively immoral. The same is true of efforts to enforce all promises as contracts -- we simply make too many promises, and some are made with no thought that they represent a contract enforceable under the laws of the land.

A further problem is whose "moral yardstick" shall we use, or is there an absolute "moral yardstick?" I firmly believe that there is an absolute moral yardstick available -- its source is God, Christ, and the Bible. At the same time, I acknowledge that not all will agree with that statement, and even those who do agree may disagree on how the yardstick should be applied in a given situation.

Having said all that, I also must say that I believe law may and ought to be a vehicle for statements of truth, and that law can provide for enforcement of truth in ways other than the normal method of punishment. Let us consider just the matter of abortion, as an example.

The Bible says that the taking of a human life, except in execution for a capital offense or as a result of manslaughter (which is biblically defined differently than we define manslaughter), is murder. The person causing the death is to be executed.

Medical science now agrees that the individual human being is genetically totally and distinctively complete as of the instant of the creation of the third cell -- a time so close to what we consider conception as to be make the use of "conception" as a point in time appropriate. Thus the medical aborting of a fully complete human being is, under the Bible, murder. Both mother and medical personnel participating in the procedure stand guilty before the law of God.

But how ought the law of man deal with such a matter?

Obviously, one way would be to declare the biblical and medical truth of life and liability for taking life, and pass a law which punishes with death those who violate the law. In such a situation, there is no room for either grace, mercy, or partiality. That seems to be unacceptable in our pluralistic, self-centered, and hedonistic societies of today. By unacceptable I mean "not likely to be enacted into legislation." Because I have a certain degree of pragmatism within me, I start looking for options.

Another possibility would be to declare the biblical and medical truth of life as a standard by which laws will be judged and rights established. At once, we get some changes in what the state of the law is today. For example, today the father-to-be of the child has no rights to prevent an abortion; the only right recognized is the right of the mother to control her own body. Without a legislative statement that this is a human life within her, no argument for the rights of that life are allowed in Court. So the mere legislative proclamation of a portion of the truth offers the possibility of altering the status quo on a case by case basis.

A third possibility would be to legislate the biblical and medical truth of life and then legislate some responses to known situations short of calling for death. For example, the right of the father-to-be could be legislatively declared rather than await the common law development. Likewise, if a woman submitted to an abortion and was injured by malpractice, legislation might provide either (1) no right of recovery (she bears the risk of her choice), or (2) strict liability on the part of the entire medical force doing the procedure (they can offer no defense other than the defense of no actual injury and must pay all damages sustained). Another legislative requirement could address the medical safeguards required -- personnel, facilities required, etc. One result of legislation such as I am suggesting would be to likely reduce the number of facilities offering abortion services -- cost and hazard would be too great (a "free market" economic concept). There are likely a number of other pieces of legislation which it would be proper to piggy-back onto the prime declaration of truth, but those I have listed should start us in our discussion.

A fourth possibility would be to distinguish between public acts (for which a penalty might be imposed) and private acts. This might even align with the biblical requirement of death for certain actions such as homosexual acts. The Bible requires two eyewitnesses in a capital case. Private acts would not likely have the two witnesses. If there were the two eyewitnesses, then possibly the full weight of the biblical "penalty" would apply. What this would mean towards peaceful demonstration -- gay power parades for example -- I do not know. I am here offering an approach rather than calling for specific action. (And it should be noted that the Bible also allowed ransom from the death penalty, and offered exile as another option. These might have some modern day versions.) [See also Comments on Abortion Protests]

Turning from abortion to homosexual behavior, we find that some private acts may become public problems. We need only think of the immense cost to the health care system of the U.S. from AIDS to see such an impact (some of which cost is born by the taxpayer rather than the recipient of the services). Thus legislation could first declare the biblical truth: the practice of homosexual acts is wrong and warrants death. Then legislation could be considered which would reasonably piggy-back on this truth. One might be the denial of free medical care to those whose chosen behavior (homosexual acts; intravenous drug use) caused the medical condition for which treatment is needed. Other legislation might deny various "rights" to same-sex relationships: for example, no access to the courts for determination of property rights, no welfare benefits as a "surviving spouse," and, I am sure, a number of other possibilities.

[Please note that this legislation would not prevent acts of grace and mercy by individuals and/or charitable organizations where there is no direct cost to society. Also note that there is no penalty for the person who contracts AIDS through a tainted blood supply or some other non-chosen act.]

Another simple thing which results from the legislative declaration of truth is the ability to freely teach such truths, the Source of such truths, and the justifications for such truths in the education sector -- not to speak of teaching the falsity of the alternatives so often being taught today as truth. This ought to have a salutary effect upon behaviors to be chosen by the next generation. In contrast, teaching many of these things is today not permissible.

Well, this is short. Its purpose is to call the Christian community to dialogue on the concepts presented in the hopes of presenting a larger degree of unity on the issues with which we daily struggle.

Next in this series is Thoughts on Church and State Relationships.