When I read in last month's copy of The National Review that Valley Views on the Law would be doing a show on the connection between morality and law, I had to laugh. The problem with liberals in general, and you commies at KFCF in particular, is that you have no morals. You change your values to suit your convenience. Right and wrong are established by God, and His rules don't change because a bunch of hippies want to make drugs legal or because women decide they want to dress like sluts and leave their children in day care so that they can take jobs away from men. When you and I were young, Professor Purvis, the law was based on morality--the races weren't forced to mix together, men and women knew their appropriate roles in society, being homosexual and getting an abortion were both crimes, and everyone respected the authority of the police. But starting in the 1960's, our nation set aside its commitment to the eternal verities, and laws were often changed simply to suit political attitudes that were popular at the time. Only by bringing the law back into conformity with morality can America regain the greatness we had under Presidents like Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. I understand that you worship Satan, Professor Purvis, so I don't expect you to agree with me, but I pray that with the help of moral men like Ben Carson and Donald Trump, we can reconnect morality and law and return to a Christian America.
--Geraldo Falwell, Lynchburg, Virginia
You make me feel young again, Mr. Falwell--evoking the culture war that erupted in the 1960's when members of my g-g-g-generation rejected many of the conservative political and moral values that had previously dominated American public life. If I granted your unstated but inherent premise that there is one set of absolute, immutable moral rules that govern our universe, determined without human participation by a supernatural being, then it might make sense to say that the only question worth asking is whether law conforms to those god-given principles. But as I and some others interpret the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, only those moral principles given special protection by that Constitution have a privileged status in our law.
One such moral principle is expressed in the First Amendment, that the government shall not "establish" a religion nor interfere with the free exercise of religion. Ultra-conservative justices such as Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas understand that to mean that there is a fundamental right to follow the Christian religion, or possibly, monotheistic religions, and that the majority may use government power to promulgate and support its Christian beliefs. But even they would probably agree that the Constitution permits Americans to believe in whatever religion they wish. Supreme Court precedent describes freedom of belief in absolute terms, which in my view is incompatible with the notion that our law recognizes one true religion, or that a majority may enforce the tenets of their religion as binding law. A legislature may certainly base its law-enacting on moral principles, so long as the resulting law does not violate the Constitution, but no legislature can enact moral rules that are incompatible with the Constitution. A majority of the Supreme Court has said, in cases such as Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges, that the legislature may not give a moral rule the force of law solely because it represents the religious values of the legislators.
In my long struggle against the nonreason of religion, I have frequently encountered the argument, which you may also endorse, Mr. Falwell, that if we do not accept an absolutely binding supernaturally mandated set of rules for human behavior, then morality is meaningless and represents at most the opinions of certain humans. Therefore there is no good or evil and I can kill you and take all your stuff. I agree with legal philosophers like John Rawls, and I am presenting my own interpretation of his position, that humans should use reason to develop moral and legal rules that make sense in light of widely shared moral axioms. For example, we could start by agreeing that cruelty is wrong. We may not be able to provide an ineluctable proof of that assertion, but if enough of us in a self-governing society accept it as true, then we could derive other moral rules from it, such as that it is wrong for a presidential candidate to publicly taunt a disabled person for being disabled. It is really necessary that we fear some divine retribution in order to foster a moral society, and to promulgate moral laws?