The following letter by Adrian Sobers appears in the current issue of The Barbados Advocate. I was struck by its simple truth.
Throughout history good people have worked hard to implement good laws aimed at changing societal and individual behaviours. Yes you CAN legislate morality because most folks will follow the law and the public heart follows the law even if it takes a few generations to take effect.
Anti-slavery legislation was one of the biggest and best examples of the public’s heart following changes in the laws. Yes, there was also a lengthy campaign that was the vanguard of change, but the real change happened when the law was passed.
Here is the letter from The Barbados Advocate. And no, (may God bless him) Dr. Martin Luther King wasn’t always 100% correct about everything.
You probably should head over to The Barbados Advocate to read the letter, but just in case they take it down, here it is…
“Morality cannot be legislated but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m continually puzzled by this popular notion that morality cannot be legislated. This is simply not true. In his essay “Legislating Morality”, Michael Bauman writes, “All laws whether prescriptive or descriptive legislate morality. All laws, regardless of their content, arise from a system of values, from a belief that some things are right and others wrong, that some things are good and others bad, that some things are better and worse. In the formulation and enforcement of the law, the question is never whether or not morality will be legislated, but which one. That question is fundamentally important because not all systems of morality are created equal.” Repeating “we cannot legislate morality” does not make it true; irregardless of how often or who repeats it. Perhaps those who take this stance mean to say that all morality should not be legislated. That would make more sense.