Jon Rowe is back to blogging at his own place and has kept up the great writing he has been doing the last couple weeks. I'm gonna take a stab in the dark and guess that he hasn't been teaching because of holiday vacation and has had more time to write? Whatever the reason, you should look at this essay on public vs. private morality, which sets out to dig a little deeper into the question of whether the government should attempt to "legislate morality". He is correct that both sides tend to oversimplify and that it isn't merely a question of legislating morality, but of which moral questions are legitimately legislated upon and which are not. As an example:
Would there be a way to convince this person that his or her anti-homosexual sentiments are just fine within the realm of private, but not public morality? I don't know. We could start by demonstrating that there are many other moral tenets, ones even more basic and elementary to their religious traditions than homosexuality, ones that for which the Bible proscribes the death penalty, that we exclude from the realm of public morality.
For instance, while anti-homosexual tenets are nowhere the be found within the Ten Commandments, the First Commandment holds don't worship false Gods. Elsewhere in the Old Testament, God commands his worshippers to immediately execute others for proselytizing the worship of false Gods...
Therefore, when the Hari Krishnas at the airport hand out their literature with those neat and fancy pictures of all those Hindu Gods and encourage you to join, they are doing something that the Bible regards every bit as immoral and serious a transgression against God as homosexuality (if not more so). Yet, although we (ought to, in my opinion) respect as a legitimate private conviction a Christian fundamentalist's belief that the Krishnas worship and encourage others to worship false gods and therefore do something terribly sinful, we also properly exclude such a judgment from the realm of public morality.
And moreover, we grant the most fundamental constitutional and civil rights status to the rights of Hari Krishnas to violate the most basic tenets of Biblical morality.
An excellent example. While Christians are of course free to condemn the Hare Krishnas for proselytizing on behalf of a false god, they do not have the authority (or the right, if you prefer that term) to have that condemnation made into law. The government is specifically forbidden from imposing such a law by the Constitution, regardless of how large a majority might wish it would do so. Which goes back to the fundamental truth that so many Americans fail to understand about our Constitution: the Bill of Rights was intended to protect liberty from democracy.
Thanks. You got it. I'm blogging more b/c I'm on vacation. (And neglecting my preparation for 2 new courses I have never yet taught).
Once this next semester begins, look for the frequency of posts to go WAY down, unfortunately.