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To what extent can religious morality be imposed in a secular democracy?

In responding to this query, my initial thoughts are, as follows:

Church and State: Per the Bible, there is a distinction or separation of “church” and state,  with each having definite and distinct spheres of responsibility.  Both are appointed by God and are designed for good purposes (Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-7).

The primary purpose of the government is to protect against and restrain evil.

The primary purpose of the Christian church is to spread the message of the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, help people have an intimate, meaningful and personal relationship with God, and help and serve others.

Secular laws are generally based on what people (and/or government officials) believe are best for society and/or best for themselves.  What people believe are best for society and/or for themselves depends to a large extent upon their "world view."  People's world views are shaped by various influences, for example: Parents, schools, church, friends, government propaganda, and the media.

In a democracy, voters seek to elect government officials that, to the extent possible, have similar world views and moral beliefs and/or that promote their self-interest.

Morality is in fact legislated.   "Do not murder."  "Do not steal."  Etc.  These are moral laws written in our criminal codes and also in the Bible.  Some morals like the above examples are believed by both religious and non-religious persons to be good to enact as the "law of the land ."

But in a democratic republic, laws must allow freedom of speech and religion.   We must allow ideas and opinions to be presented and offered into the "marketplace of ideas" even if sometimes the words are offensive to many listeners...and even if the words are perceived or believed by the majority as discriminatory or hateful.  Where freedom of speech and religion is hindered, ultimately tyranny infiltrates, politically incorrect ideas are silenced, and individual freedom and individual autonomy are substantially reduced.

Of course, there are limits on speech that can be imposed, such as not permitting one to falsely yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre for just one example.  Laws against defamation, libel and slander are another limitation on expression.

“Time, place and manner” restrictions on speech are also justified to a certain degree.

Thus, while morality may be imposed in a democracy, it should not impose upon us to force us to adhere to a particular or any religious faith and to prevent us from presenting our beliefs in the “marketplace of ideas.”   In the United States of America the First Amendment of U.S. Constitution among others strongly supports these values.

2014 by Matthew B. Tozer Esq.  All rights reserved.


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