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Monday, March 18, 2013

Writing Our Own Moral Code

Ohio GOP Senator Rob Portman, who, for the last several years has frequently been in the conversation for national office, recently reversed himself and declared his support for same-sex marriage. According to Portman himself, two years ago, his son Will announced that he was gay. Not wanting to stand in the way of his son’s opportunity “to pursue happiness and fulfillment,” is, evidently, what led to Portman’s change of heart when it comes to the definition of marriage.

Writing for New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait (a supporter of same-sex marriage) describes Portman’s decision as a “moral failure, one of which he appears unaware.” According to Chait, this “moral failure” is due to the fact that Portman “opposed gay marriage until he realized that opposition to gay marriage stands in the way of his own son’s happiness.”

Chait goes on, “Portman ought to be able to recognize that, even if he changed his mind on gay marriage owing to personal experience, the logic stands irrespective of it: Support for gay marriage would be right even if he didn’t have a gay son. There’s little sign that any such reasoning has crossed his mind.”

Notice that? Chait is appealing to a moral standard (one of which he appears unaware). Chait decries Portman’s “moral failure” while appealing to logic, reason, and what is “right.” What makes Portman’s seemingly self-serving conversion a “moral failure”?

After all, isn’t looking out for one’s children noble behavior? Why must Portman think of others (or, as Chait puts it, “consider issues from a societal perspective”) to be considered moral, himself? What standard is Chait using?

Of course, Chait is appealing to Natural Law. He has rightly recognized Portman’s apparent hypocrisy. However, as I noted in my last column, by appealing to what is “right” in one situation, but ignoring it in another, he is sawing off the limb upon which he is sitting. For millennia, guided by Natural Law, civilizations the world over have deemed homosexual behavior as immoral.

No less than the U.S. Supreme has said so. As recently as 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court declared, “Proscriptions against [homosexual] conduct have ancient roots. Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law and was forbidden by the laws of the original 13 States when they ratified the Bill of Rights. . . . In fact, until 1961, all 50 States outlawed sodomy, and today, 24 States and the District of Columbia continue to provide criminal penalties for sodomy performed in private and between consenting adults. Against this background, to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition,’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ is, at best, facetious [silly].”

Of course, the Court reversed itself in Lawrence vs. Texas in 2003, declaring that, “The petitioners [Lawrence and Garner] are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

In his dissent, Justice Scalia correctly concluded that, “Today's opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.... [T]he Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed.”

Unsurprisingly, after gaining the legal justification for homosexual sex, the next moral domino in the sights of the homosexual agenda has been marriage. On November 18, 2003, just four-and-a-half months after the Lawrence decision, the Judicial Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruled in favor of legalized same-sex marriage. Thus Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. to grant marital rights to same-sex couples.

The Chief Justice of the Massachusetts court, Margaret Marshal, referenced Lawrence in the ruling: “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”

But “mandating our own moral code” is exactly what supporters of the homosexual agenda seek to do. Again, what existing moral code are they using to justify homosexual behavior? They rarely, if ever, appeal to one. The argument is simply, there are some people who want (it makes them “happy”) to engage in homosexuality, thus “liberty of all” dictates that it should be allowed.

The majority in Lawrence also concluded that, “[Liberty] gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex.” Of course, no such conclusions have been reached when it comes to prostitution, or polygamy, or incest, or bestiality. In other words, liberals have decided that homosexuality deserves special privilege when it comes to the law and “private sexual conduct.”

And thus we see the real goal of the “so-called homosexual agenda:” the legal legitimization of homosexuality across all of America. After all, if it makes liberals “happy” then it shouldn’t be illegal. And if it’s not illegal, well then, it must be moral.

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.

Legislating Morality

Being a lifelong fan of football, I have never had a problem with NFL instant replay. I’m in my early forties, so I can remember well the days before instant replay. Whatever the shortcomings of instant replay—and there were some significant ones in the early days—to me, the benefit of the official getting the call right always trumped any inconvenience that might result from a video review of a play.

Unsurprisingly, I find that most NFL fans approve of replay—especially when it is their team on the wrong end of a bad call. Don’t we all wish that there was an “instant replay” for life—a chance for an “official review” always to get things right?

Of course, “getting it right” means that there is a standard, much like the rules in the NFL, to which we all are (or should be) held. Despite notions to the contrary, as we argue and debate the issues of our day, ultimately each of us relies on such a standard, or some notion of right and wrong, or fair play, or rules, or morality, or whatever you want to call it.

What’s more, the very foundation of our government depends upon such a notion. In fact, the foundation of any good government, culture, society, or virtually any situation where human beings interact with one another rests upon what used to be called Natural Law.

Our Founding Fathers understood this well. However, the idea that liberty, good government, and just laws have their roots in Natural Law, or “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” did not begin with the founding of America. For millennia many philosophers, politicians, priests, and lay people alike knew the role that Natural Law should play in the “Governments [that] are instituted among men.”

Jim Powell, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and an expert in the history of liberty, credits the Roman philosopher and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C. to 43 B.C.) with expressing the “principles that became the bedrock of liberty in the modern world.” Cicero was the leading lawyer of his time, and Thomas Jefferson credits him not only with influencing the Declaration of Independence, but also with informing the American understanding of “the common sense” basis for the right of revolution.

“True law,” as Cicero called it, is the “one eternal and unchangeable law [that] will be valid for all nations and all times, and there will be one master and ruler, that is God, over us all, for he is the author of this law…”

“[The] Law of Nature” wrote English philosopher John Locke (who also profoundly influenced our Founders), “stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men’s actions must…be conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e. to the will of God…”

Sir William Blackstone, another renowned and favorite English jurist of our Founders, declared in his presuppositional basis for law that, “These laws laid down by God are the eternal immutable laws of good and evil…This law of nature dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this…”

C.S. Lewis concludes that, “Natural Law or Traditional Morality [whatever one chooses to call it]…is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained.”

Throughout the early colonies, the incorporation of Natural (or “Divine”) Law was prevalent. The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (the first constitution written in America), as well as similar documents in Rhode Island and New Haven, specifically mentioned that their civil law rested upon “the rule of the word of God,” or “all those perfect and most absolute laws of His.”

References to, not vague religious babble, but specific biblical texts, such as the Ten Commandments, can be found in the civil law of every original U.S. Colony. It is a fact of history that throughout our pre-Colonial, Colonial, Revolutionary period and beyond, America’s lawmakers and laws were steeped in Natural Law.

Thus we can conclude that from the beginning our government has been “legislating morality.” All law is rooted in morality. “Laws without morals are in vain,” said Ben Franklin. Not only that, but as I implied above, every debate we have is rooted in morality.

It is absurd and ignorant to lament conservative Christian efforts when it comes to abortion, marriage, and so on as some attempt to “legislate morality.” The other side is attempting the very same thing! In fact, the lamenter (whatever his political persuasion) has also taken a moral stand. Thus, he is like the bank robber who calls the police because his get-away car gets stolen.

What’s more, those who attack Natural Law (because an attack on a position that stems from Natural Law is an attack on Natural Law) do so with arguments that are derived from Natural Law. It is a self-defeating effort. They are attempting to saw off the limb upon which they are sitting.

As Lewis puts it, “The effort to refute [Natural Law] and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There never has been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) ‘ideologies,’ all consist of fragments from [Natural Law] itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to [Natural Law] and to it alone such validity as they possess.”

Sadly, recent examples of such nonsense come not from Democrats or their liberal friends in the media, but from self-described “Orthodox Christians” within the GOP. Michigan GOP representative Justin Amash recently complained that “We can't legislate morality and force everyone to agree with us.” It appears that Amash was trying to impress John Stossel and his gathering of a “thousand young libertarians.”

Stossel likes the fact that “Amash focuses on government spending.” In addition, conservative author Arthur Brooks implores republicans to focus on “improving the lives of vulnerable people” through the appropriate conservative policies instead of “imposing an alien ‘bourgeois’ morality on others.”

Libertarians and their like-minded friends want to focus on government spending or conservative fiscal policies, but they often fail to realize that one does not leave morality at the door when entering the realm of economics. If you want to make the moral arguments in favor of proper (“right and good”) economic policy (which, of course, are ultimately based in Natural Law), then you must accept the other moral conclusions (killing a child in the womb is wrong; marriage is only between a man and a woman) that go along with them.

In other words, it is folly to make moral arguments in favor of sound fiscal policy, all the while turning a blind eye toward killing children in the womb or the evils of homosexual behavior.

(See this column on American Thinker.)

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason

Friday, March 15, 2013

Liberal Morality In Action

How dare they! See, I told you (again and again) that liberals are forcing (legislatively and otherwise) their morality upon us. ABC News is reporting (and linked to by Drudge) that “The National Football League has been warned against inquiring into the sexual orientation of prospective players and urged to do more to make sure teams do not ask those questions, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said today.”

Displaying an uncanny ability to take a moral stand, Schneidermann declared that, “Employment discrimination is ethically wrong and illegal no matter who the employer is.”

He is wrong on both fronts. First of all, employers discriminate all the time. They check credit and criminal backgrounds; they drug-test, check references and former employers, look at school transcripts, etc. This is especially true if the prospective employee is interviewing for a position that pays millions of dollars.

As Al Mohler put it last year (and as I noted in a previous column), “Discrimination—even ‘obvious discrimination’—is not necessarily wrong at all. Indeed, any sane society discriminates at virtually every turn, as do individuals. The law itself is an instrument of comprehensive discrimination.”

Of course, such “discrimination” is completely ethical as well. But you see, Schneidermann’s ethical conclusion is rooted in a moral position. His worldview tells him that it is wrong for an employer to even give the appearance that they might not hire someone because they are homosexual. Many Americans operate from the worldview that homosexual behavior is immoral.

What’s more, for most of the history of this nation our laws were rooted in such a worldview. As I have also noted before, as recently as 1960, every state in the U.S. had laws against sodomy. In upholding such laws, as recently as 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court declared “Proscriptions against [homosexual] conduct have ancient roots. Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law and was forbidden by the laws of the original 13 States when they ratified the Bill of Rights. . . . In fact, until 1961, all 50 States outlawed sodomy, and today, 24 States and the District of Columbia continue to provide criminal penalties for sodomy performed in private and between consenting adults. Against this background, to claim that a right to engage in such conduct is ‘deeply rooted in this Nation's history and tradition,’ or ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty’ is, at best, facetious [silly].”

You see, just as the marriage debate isn’t really about “equality,” this isn’t really about employment “discrimination.” Again, as I have said before, marriage [or employment “fairness,” or whatever the cause at the moment] is just the means to a more sinister end for the homosexual movement. This is about sex and about legitimizing, through the American judicial system [and of course, eventually the public schools], a sexual lifestyle many Americans find immoral.

Americans simply have to decide whose morals are going to guide us.

Copyright 2013, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World