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A Tolerant Tyranny

(I've already supplied these links to WWWTW's contributors, but want them available to readers as well. Gotten via friend Jeff Culbreath.)

This one's to an NCR piece about a recently passed law in England making it "illegal for a teacher in any school, including a Catholic school, to state that homosexual activity is morally wrong..."

The other concerns an effort of the Oregon legislature to "eliminate attitudes opposing homosexuality," although the scope of the measure is not clear to me.

There is also a move underway in California to repeal Prop 22, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

And now we have news of a video making the rounds of public schools and television stations.

I suppose, in terms of its horrific immediacy, the English event is the one to be most concerned about, though I fail to see what's to prevent America from swiftly following suit. Maximos wrote via email that he wished he "could come up with something more analytical to say about all of this, but I'm just too stupefied to muster the strength. I always felt that this sort of iniquity was 10 years down the road, not literally imminent." (Ten years, Jeff, sounds pretty imminent to me.)

Well, back in 2003, in the wake of Lawrence v. Texas, I entered a dissent:

The law, in short, is a signal from society, a badge of shame that need not be worn in public but serves nonetheless as an ever-present, nearly invisible reminder that we do not accept what they do, and never will. It serves as a quiescent rearguard against talk of other things, like gay marriage, the cacophony of which argument will now, through the media, assault our sensibilities daily, and our personal lives more intimately.

What, for example, do you think is going to happen to certain textbooks in your children's schools? To the free speech rights of students and teachers who have moral objections to homosexual behavior? To the public posture of gay teachers of children who heretofore have found discretion the better part of a valorous "coming out?" To our civil rights laws, now that the right to a degrading sexual practice, like the right to abortion, has been enshrined in our constitutional law?

And yet, I do not think these harbingers are peculiar to, or solely to be blamed on, the agitators for the "homosexual agenda," for much more than tolerance is being required here. Tolerance, being an attitude, cannot be "required" in any case. The thought police know that thoughts cannot be controlled, but they do know that obedience can be compelled, and that only the organs of government (of which the public schools are one) can accomplish it. That government's embrace must now extend to include even those areas, like Catholic schools, where people possessed of an intolerant, absolutist morality thought they were free to husband what's left of their resources, the patrimony they would pass on to their children. To any place where people gather in some semblance of community - wherever it might seem that the 'future of society' is at stake, that a breeding ground for dissent is under cultivation - the government's invitation to oversight must be an open one.

Many would attribute this tyrannical tendency to the multiculturalist imperative, the demands of the diversity doctrine, devotion to which creed requires that all who were once deemed 'different' must now be accepted. All formerly useful distinctions must be abolished. Our differences will make us one. Or is it rather this: that no difference is worth elevating above the others, nor worth deploring as beneath the rest? This sole absolute, though oxymoronic, truth seems to underpin the entire doctrine. But even that cannot be right, for if you are different in a particular way, you will be persecuted. Melissa's story, for example, so dear to Lydia's heart, is evidence of this. And I'll bet that if someone started a private school for Nazis, the German government would close in. And many would see this as a good thing. But it would also be an odd thing to see Nazis and Christians persecuted with equal vigor. We have yet to discover, by the way, the limits to Liberalism's tolerance, which beliefs and behaviors are to be accepted, and which not. Things are still evolving.

(As an aside - in light of Daniel Larison's post - I can't help but wonder what someone like Hitchens would think of it all. He brags that "We do not hold our convictions dogmatically," which seems the same as saying he has none. Yet I know that he does not disapprove gay marriage. Does this mean he could tolerate a Supreme Court decision that imposed it upon the populace? I know that he thinks religion positively bad, but would he endorse a Germanic means to the positively good end of obliterating it? Perhaps not. "I would not prohibit it even if I thought I could." I suppose, as good Christians, we ought to trust him on this, even lacking assurance that, in his furious desire to see the world rid of its religions, the will to power is not one of his weaknesses. Most annoying of all, however, is that, after reading his peace, I confess to not knowing what 'freethinking' means, unless it is that one is truly free only when one thinks some things and not others, which sounds very dogmatic to me.)

Not being a particularly astute diagnostician, I still haven't figured out the underlying principle, and so welcome the speculations of others. Maybe it's that we will all be equal only in the absence of judgement. But to persecute Nazis or Christians or homophobes requires a judgement...and there we go again. I do at least harbor a suspicion, that in these cases where the demands of diversity are enforced by the rulings of courts or the laws of legislatures, the real object of attack is the family. They might go after the Church first, as in England, but it is from the family that the Pope gets his divisions. If it falls, all the rest will follow. It may be true in the end that your children are not your own.

Comments (24)

I will make a stab at discerning the underlying principle: the liberal order of modernity posits as the normative principle of existence the exercise of ungrounded (save in the nominal sense that the operation originates in the desires of the abstract self) volition in acts of self-creation; consistent with this, even the very fabric of our humanity, the very givenness of our nature and identity, may be conceived as either so much raw material upon which the violence of self-creation is to be wrought, or as a massive obstacle to acts of self-creation.

Because it may well be objected that, formally at least, one might elect to author oneself as a believer in some traditional, orthodox religion, the liberal dogma requires a corollary, which explains the curious hostility towards certain judgments, towards certain exercises of liberty. That corollary would be that it is performatively inconsistent to author oneself within a tradition which denies both the possibility and legitimacy of such self-creation; that is to say, within a tradition which imposes upon one the necessity of self-limitation, of asceticism. According to the liberal dogma, one would, in such cases, be negating one's freedom in the exercise of freedom; and the widespread propagation of such doctrines would subvert the foundational precept of the established order: what concourse hath self-creation with self-limitation?

This is not to state that the liberal doctrine is either coherent or possible; someone who authors himself as a homosexual has limited himself no less than someone who practices the Christian religion. But modernity has lost sight of such things as quality and virtue, and so cannot perceive the obvious. The modern order of liberalism (by which I mean the whole of modernity, more or less, and not a recent deformation of some pristine classical liberalism, which in reality was merely a moment in a continuous devolution) thus preaches, and increasingly enforces, as dogma the ideal of self-creation shorn of the necessity of self-limitation, of the necessity of acknowledging limits and givenness; man is pure potentiality, pure volition. That this idea originated in certain late medieval corruptions of the doctrine of God, and that moderns are merely living out their forbears' perverted concept of the Imago Dei, is a fact also lost upon them. One might even say that modernity is performatively inconsistent, in that it cannot escape its religious origins.

I'm not sure there is an underlying principle. To begin with, there's a whole set of them--X is not only normal but a right, so is Y--and so forth. These are then combined with an overarching principle that it's really incredibly evil for parents or schools to teach their kids anything different from the first set.

I gather that a really die-hard liberal views a parent's teaching his children that homosexuality is wrong rather as I view the Palestinians' teaching little children (as you know if you've seen various horrifying videos) that suicide bombing to "kill lots of Jews" is wonderful. When you think that, you at least become open to the idea that schools shouldn't be allowed to teach the thing in question. You may (as I would) draw the line at trying to stop parents from saying the thing in their own homes. But I'd certainly consider saying that a school in the U.S. that could be shown to be teaching children how great it is to blow yourself up and kill Jewish civilians should be made to stop. The craziness is that people with a certain attitude about "homophobia"--the really doctrinaire liberals--really believe it's just about on a par for a school to teach merely that homosexual acts are immoral. The move from that to, "Hey, everybody, go out and murder homosexuals" is in _their_ minds scarcely worth bothering to mention. These are the people who blame Dr. Dobson when some homosexual person gets murdered.

So what's the underlying principle? Well, I mean, they just have crazy ideas and no sense of perspective about what other ideas are dangerous and horrific and must be stopped. I'm not sure there's anything much more profound to say.

One commonality between _banning_ the teaching that homosexuality is immoral and teaching that killing jews is wonderful is that both are happening in other countries.

I continually read serious blog posts that cite the (admittedly lame-brained) English law as an example of where very reasonable American civil rights laws might lead us, but I have yet to read a liberal or libertarian blog citing Sharia law in another country as an example of where reasonable religious civil rights laws might lead us.

I'm sure that kind of sloppy thinking is out there, but the example du-jour on conservative blogs involves schools in Britain, which is just as much a foreign country as is France, Iran, Egypt, and China.


In the strictly sense what you say about England is true (that it is a foreign country), but in another sense I think it's not quite on track. America tends to follow the trends in England far more than it follows the trends in Egypt. Intellectuals in the U.S. tend to admire intellectuals in England a lot more, and so forth. England and Canada are bellwethers for American politics much more than is China.

And the sentiments about not allowing parents to convey "bigoted" ideas to their children are held in America by liberal thinkers, and not (I believe) entirely by immigrants from foreign countries. Check out this article:


Daniel Dennett, of "disarm and cage" fame, with _specific_ reference to parental teaching, is an American thinker.

Here's an interesting quotation from the above Hitchcock article, apropos of the opinion given by a justice in a dissent in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970:

"The 1970 Yoder case, in which the Court upheld the right of Amish parents not to enroll their children in public high schools, also focused on these issues. In dissenting in the latter case, Justice William O. Douglas got to the heart of the matter in asking whether parents had the right to “impose” their beliefs on their children, or whether on the contrary the state might not have an obligation to expose children to the opportunities of “the new and amazing world of diversity which we have today.” (Douglas believed that 90 percent of people were not even fit to be parents.) Logically this left it at best an open question whether parents possess the right to raise their children in a particular religion."

So these ideas really are very prevalent among what Bork calls "the chattering classes" in the U.S. and what Sowell calls "the Anointed." This just isn't true of ideas about killing Jews. There's an asymmetry there, and that should be no surprise given the similarities between intellectual British culture and intellectual American culture.

Consider, too, that already in the U.S. we have cases where Catholic charities have been shut down because of a refusal to accommodate various aspects of the liberal social agenda. In Boston, a Catholic adoption charity was shut down because it wouldn't place children with homosexual couples. There have been other cases in a similar vein: Several people were temporarily arrested in Philadelphia for supposed "hate crimes" merely for passing out evangelistic literature near a gay pride rally. They were eventually released and not charged, but the direction is there. A family in Vermont has had to defend itself (I don't know how the case came out) for supposed "discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation. The family runs at its inn a wedding planning service. A lesbian couple wanted them to plan their civil union party. The father merely said that he wouldn't be able to "put his heart into it" as he was Catholic. Bang! Lawsuit. His lawyers in his defense had to emphasize that he hadn't refused the service, so the law is that far already.

I think you have to see trends here. And Bill, of course, cites the Oregon case, too, with bills for various forms of propoganda to change attitudes on the subject.

Thanks, folks. I'm sure there is much truth in all of that. Jeff, I tend to see Darwin's ghost hiding in every shadow, and I was wondering if you thought the virtual wholesale imposition of that theory has anything to do with this liberal compulsion to self-creation.

Lydia, your remarks remind me of Larison's thesis, that Liberalism has no vision of the Good, which makes distinctions impossible. I know they think they have such a vision, but I'm having trouble understanding what it is, what draws them to it, and makes them so excitable.

Phil, you need to update your blog.

Well, I think that Darwin's thought may have much to do with it, but largely in the negative sense in which, for those inclined to scientism, Darwin's theory made it possible for one to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. Interpreted strictly as a scientific analysis of origins in terms of the limited array of causes recognized by modern thought, I don't see that it has much to do with liberal notions of self-creation, which antedate the theory anyway. There is, to be sure, a hoary tradition of interpreting evolution as "proving" that man, having no inherent, essential nature, may recreate himself as he wills, once he has mastered the process; but I would consider this more a matter of scientism than the theory of evolution proper. Though it must be conceded that not even Darwin saw fit to observe the proprieties there.

"...a matter of scientism..."

Yes. I'm just inclined to feel that its assumptions have so thoroughly invaded the bloodstream of our cultural awareness that it provides a powerful, often unspoken, behind-the-scenes justification for much of the liberal project. But we can get to that another day.

I think perhaps it's hard for me to take someone seriously who writes things like
The law, in short, is a signal from society, a badge of shame that [serves as an ever-present] reminder that we do not accept what they do, and never will.

In essence, Bill Luse is arguing _for_ free-speech rights but arguing against the right for consenting adults to make love in the privacy of their own homes. While you could muster a Constitutional argument that sex just isn't dealt with, anyone who doesn't follow that interpretation with a wholehearted endorsement of an Amendment _protecting_ the rights of adults to have sex is endorsing the worst kind of nanny state. That is hardly a resounding free-speech argument; it is, rather, a call for draconian suppression of expression with which you disagree.

If I'm familiar with the libertarian part of your views, Lydia, I'd guess that you do not support laws against private, consensual sex. You do bring up some appropriately extreme examples where the government infringes on personal rights in support of the left. I cannot accept that the solution to such problems is a call for a nanny-state supported by the right.

I'd agree with the following statement: "Under the law, homosexuals should have the same rights as Jews, women, and albinos."

Would you agree with that, Bill and Lydia? I'm happy to condemn laws that punish private schools for the content of their lectures. I just don't think the answer is to impose prison sentences for buggery, which is what Lawrence v. Texas was about.

If you can't take me seriously, then why bother refuting me? And how you got "a call for a nanny state" from anything I said is a mystery solvable only by you. The nanny state takes children from their homes. The dalliers in Lawrence were discovered by accident.

"Under the law, homosexuals should have the same rights as Jews, women, and albinos" is certainly true, but is far from saying that any of them have the "right" to indulge a degrading sexual practice, unless, of course, your notion of rights is without moral boundary. And the fact that two people consented to it is an irrelevant shibboleth. As usual, the libertarian impulse would privilege the virtuous and the venal in equal measure.

If that's the case, I think our disagreement is more than philosophical. I would argue that a woman has the right to have sex with a man, and so a man should have the same right. I certainly disagree that doing so is a "degrading sexual practice;" it can actually be a warm, loving act that bonds two people together. I cannot fathom that you'll agree with that statement, and there is certainly no argument you could pull out of a hat to convince me otherwise.

We could list off sexual practices (certainly, any government that would ban fellatio is a government that needs to be overthrown), but I would contend, that, ultimately, consent _does_ matter when we're talking about the law of a land. To imply that the government should compel behavior that is in line with your religious views is to advocate religious tyranny. Certainly, an argument can be made for religious tyranny. I just thought I'd call you out on it.

The dalliers in Lawrence were discovered by accident.

Yes, they were discovered by accident when an officer of the law broke into their home on an unrelated case and then arrested them and took them to court for the sex they were having. If that's not a nanny state, what is?

Phil, let me put it this way: Passing legislation, repealing legislation, and overturning legislation by courts are all important types of political acts. And they are not the same type. Lawrence was manifestly wrongly decided and an incursion of the judicial power into the legislative sphere. Moreover, it was clearly a shot fired in the culture wars.

If I were in a state where homosexual acts were not per se criminal, I might very well not endorse _new_ legislation criminalizing them. If I were in a state where such laws were on the books, however, I probably would not endorse repealing the laws. As Hadley Arkes has rightly pointed out, even laws that are not directly enforced have ramifications for other aspects of law and society. One of Arkes's best examples of this is of a prostitute who takes her client to small claims court for refusing to pay. The judge points out that, er, the transaction was technically criminal. Even if the prostitute isn't arrested, she has placed herself outside of the protections of law for contractual arrangements by making one that is criminal. Similarly, Arkes has pointed out that where homosexual acts are criminal on the books, even if these laws are not directly enforced, this lends legal backing to adoption agencies and other private organizations that refuse to give formal recognition to homosexual relationships. It is hard to see, for example, how it can be criminal for an adoption agency to refuse to place a child with a homosexual couple in a state where their sexual acts are formally illegal. The agency can simply have a rule that they will not place children with any couple that advertises the fact that they regularly engage in illegal acts. Something similar could go for private employers who do not wish to give domestic partnership benefits.

Confronted with more of a tabula rasa political situation, I would probably seek to insure the freedom of these private entities to "discriminate" on this basis by another route. But confronted with a political situation where the acts are already illegal, I would probably leave the status quo in place, complete with rare prosecution for the acts per se, and allow that fact to have its other, and to my mind desirable, effects in the system as a whole.

I should add that the whole issue of private consensual acts is less clear than some who use the phrase seem to think. For example, consider the bondage and sado-masochism "conference" in St. Louis a few years ago. Sado-masochists rented an *entire hotel*, including big downstairs rooms, for group SM sex, and they advertised it all over the place, including the Internet, as a "beat me in St. Louis" conference. Off-duty police officers were hired to supervise the group sex, though what they were supervising for, I don't know. (People who might come and try to stop them? People who got _hurt_?) Do these count as "private, consensual" acts? Surely it is at least questionable, particularly as regards the "private" terminology. Speaking for myself, I would have been _thrilled_ if that whole thing had been decisively shut down by the forces of law, and the hoteliers told they couldn't rent out for such a thing again, on the grounds that the acts taking place were illegal. Let's face it: We start with the plea that all of this is "private" and that people should be left alone to engage in private acts, and then we end up with parades, advertisements, and hotel-renting sex parties that put it very much "in your face." I have read (don't have the reference at hand) that in Britain homosexual activists have argued that parks at night should be regarded as "private" spaces, so that trysts that take place behind bushes and such in parks at night do not count as public sex but as private sex.

Why this all is, I don't fully understand. Not all homosexuals seem to have this "in your face" attitude, this urge to force acceptance. But there are, I'm afraid, a substantial number of people who engage in practices often deemed deviant who do want to force societal acceptance in various ways.

I would probably leave the status quo in place, complete with rare prosecution for the acts per se, and allow that fact to have its other, and to my mind desirable, effects in the system as a whole.

Nothing in the law as written guaranteed that the prosecution would be rare. The principle I'm detecting in your line of thinking here is "the ends justifies the means," which certainly isn't the most ethical way to run a government. Countless heinous and intrusive laws could have positive social effects, but if they are bad laws in principle, they poison our entire system.

That's why I have a problem with the state interfering in religious education. While I think it's admirable to try to prevent Catholic schools from passing on irrational outdated moral judgements about homosexuality, such interference has the effect of allowing state control of religious _belief_, and that is untenable in principle, even if I think that it's a social good in practice.

Laws against consensual sodomy protect no one; they are simply laws against a class of people that you don't like. The sodomy itself is simply a construct if you're not there having it.

Assuming that you don't attend the S&M conference, what's the difference (as for as your life is concerned) between someone holding the conference, advertising the conference on the Internet, or talking about the conference in a televised comedy special?

I think, Phil, that there are some things that definitely should not be illegal, even though they are wrong. Here's a sort of trivial example: Telling your neighbor as a gratuitous act of rudeness that his dog is ugly. Here's a much less trivial example: Teaching your children to use racist epithets.

I'm afraid that where you and I disagree is this: When it comes to some immoral sexual acts, I think that outlawing these falls into a sort of intermediate area. I would say that ideally they would not be illegal but rather would, where I think them immoral, be "punished" by society only in indirect and passive ways. For example, I think heterosexual fornication is immoral, but in the ideal political situation it is not illegal. On the other hand, in a strongly moral society, a guy who is living with his girlfriend isn't allowed to come and stay with her in his family's house when he visits. So there is this social pressure to marry her, to stop sleeping with her, or *at least* to hide the fact that he is sleeping with her rather than to parade it around by living openly with her and daring everybody to say anything negative about it. Similarly, in that sort of society, he and his girlfriend have trouble finding anybody to rent them an apartment together, and his landlord won't renew his lease when it next comes up once he (the landlord) learns that the guy is having his girlfriend over all night regularly. And so forth.

However, the question of whether heterosexual fornication should be illegal is a grey area in my book and partly depends on how severe the penalties are and the police intervention in people's lives. *For sure*, I'm going to say that you shouldn't be able to be jailed or physically harmed by law for heterosexual fornication. I would say, too, that the police shouldn't be able to get a warrant _just_ to check for evidence of fornication. But what if we're talking about something on the order of a parking ticket? Then I'm probably not going to get too worked up about it, and I'll admit that this is in part because I think guys shouldn't be sleeping with their girlfriends. I also don't actually think that it's likely that having a law like that on the books is "going somewhere" in the direction of having morals police storming houses and having people stoned. Moreover, having such a law on the books may be relevant in, for example, child custody cases when a divorce takes place. If the ex-husband is living with his girlfriend and this is illegal, this might help the innocent wife to get full custody of the kids.

I would never say as a general rule that the end justifies the means. And of course I wouldn't say that for "heinous" acts, including acts of government. But some matters of law are _obviously_ justified on consequential grounds. Parking tickets and speeding laws, for example. Laws against littering, for another example. Could there not be consequential arguments for morals legislation? It seems to me there could be unless you think it a moral absolute that, for example, people should have a legal right to rent an entire hotel for a sado-masochism conference. In that case, it would be an absolute wrong to outlaw such a thing. But such a statement about rights and absolute wrong is far from obvious to me.

As to your question, having a thing like that on that scale and publicized really, in my view, pollutes the moral atmosphere. Suppose I walk past the hotel and my child, who is just learning to read, reads off the marquee, "Welcome Beat me In St. Louis conference." "Hey, Mommy, what does that mean?" I think that's entirely sickening. It certainly is "in your face." I'm surprised that you can't see that. You see, this whole "If you don't go, what difference does it make to your life" approach can be very facile. It's like saying, "If you don't buy pornography, what difference does it make to your life if your next-door neighbor does?" Well, it could make a lot of difference. It takes only a little imagination to see how.

Prudentially, speaking solely for myself, I would align my positions fairly closely with Lydia's on these matters. But I should add the caveat that, being quite sceptical of the modern notion of "rights", I would accent the prudential aspect of the judgments regarding morals legislation.

In reality, it is neither animus nor a taste for jackbooted adventures that undergirds morals legislation, but rather a concern for the common good, and the common good conceived as more than the some of individual satisfactions. Indeed, as something largely other than a matter of preference-satisfaction. Our civilization lost the capacity to articulate this conception of the common good well before morals legislation came to be viewed as archaic and oppressive; such is the nature of social evolution, or devolution, depending upon one's view. That older view of the common good would regard 'rights' as derivative of the duties upon the fulfillment of which true human flourishing is contingent - flourishing being understood as the realization of the intrinsic goods of the sort of beings people are - and this was therefore very much a teleological, essentialist understanding of human nature.

Morals legislation, on such a view, might be understood as a societal hedge about those institutions that embody inherent goods, as tutelary, given the weaknesses of human nature, and as a sort of 'broken windows' approach to the protection of the principal institution of civilized society, the family. The integrity of the family is, as a matter of deduction and empirical observation, more likely to suffer when such things as adultery, fornication, etc. are not merely tolerated in silence but given the sanction of the law. The maintenance of morals legislation, in a healthy society, communicates the centrality of the family and a social order conducive to the raising of children. The sort of sexual bacchanal that we have now - well, not so much.

I do not find the alternative conception of individual rights, and of sexual "expression" as integral to the "right" to to "define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" persuasive, for it swiftly generates absurdity, such that society is obligated to secure and defend certain of its members in the performance of acts that are corrosive of the stability of the social fabric. Society cannot be obligated to sanction acts which tend toward increasing disorder and, if our urban communities are indicative, dissolution itself. Prudential considerations indeed counsel some measure of restraint in redressing these matters; but what seems obvious is that rights have very little to do with it.

Lydia and Maximos,
Where’s the bright line in your articulation of morals legislation? The only consistent principle seems to be “Things that I disagree with, eh, I don’t care that much if they’re banned by the state.”

The “common good” is neither common nor particularly good when it is imposed by a totalitarian state. That most people are not stirred to act against totalitarianism when they agree with its aims is human nature, and one reason perhaps that liberals do not condemn the UK’s restrictions on religious education as strongly as they should.

Authoritarian control of sexual expression takes different forms depending on the state and the religious tyrant opposing it. It can take the form of forced genital mutilation, forced celibacy, or the (common around the world) practice of arranged marriages. In all such systems, the assumption is that the best person to determine an individual’s sexual “expression” is not the individual but an external, decision-making authority.

I fail to see how state-enforced religion is different in a meaningful way from state-controlled religion. Bully for you if the state ends up enforcing your own religious beliefs, but shame on you for the tacit acknowledgment that the state has the right to do that in the first place.

"...it can actually be a warm, loving act that bonds two people together."

It bonds them, all right, though as a physical seal to a spiritual covenant, it is a grotesque parody of that which transpires between husbands and wives. And since "no argument" will help you to see this, I won't bother, but be content with pointing out that you continue to do what I accuse you of: eviscerating the moral content of our notion of rights, such that free speech and sodomy are made to sit together at the table.

Lydia, I appreciate especially your adoption example, which demonstrates the manifestly desirable background effect of such laws, nicely echoed by Maximos' pithy contention that "The maintenance of morals legislation, in a healthy society, communicates the centrality of the family and a social order conducive to the raising of children."

I don't think I said a word about state-enforced religion. There you go again, as a famous man once said. Let me get this straight: A hypothetical legal situation in which a guy gets a ticket for having his girlfriend at his apartment all night is state enforced religion? How zat again? Which religion was that? Is the idea that all morals legislation is automatically an imposition of religion? I don't agree, though many liberals seem sure that it's true somehow that you would never even consider some sexual act wrong if it weren't for an "irrational" and religious assumption.

And I made it very clear that I would consistently oppose any draconian or physical punishment, so whence comes the lumping?

Genital mutilation? Goodness, we Christian conservatives are usually the people expressing outrage over the insane multicultural way the liberals are handling this among Muslim immigrants. I use it as an example of a tradition that should be ditched and banned post-haste, not gradually.

The thing is, Phil, you've got too few categories. I gather that you think of people as either entirely libertarian in their views on sexual matters or else as having no way of distinguishing themselves from adulterer-stoners. But there were no stonings back when Texas's law was in place, were there? In fact, nothing remotely like it.

And if the disgusting conference in St. Louis had been shut down, would anybody have died? Heck, fewer people would have been hurt than were hurt as it was, though I suppose to a die-hard sexual libertarian it's better to be beaten consensually than to be stopped non-violently but by law from being beaten consensually. ??? Something has gone very wrong there.

I also don't actually think that it's likely that having a law like that on the books is "going somewhere" in the direction of having morals police storming houses and having people stoned.

If anything I think it is the opposite. Mild mannered morals legislation lightly enforcing basic decency is a homeopathic prevention of the ugliness that eventually will come to roost without it. People who insist on all or nothing in terms of their vices inevitably end up with nothing.


It is the recurrence of adjectives such as "totalitarian" and "authoritarian", apparently arising from the presupposition that any legislation which does not facilitate the maximal expression of individual autonomy must be tyrannical in principle, that renders discussion of the cultural gulf in the nation all but impossible.

Morals laws were 'on the books' widely as recently as fifty years ago, and yet it would be a bizarre political taxonomy indeed that classified the United States of that era alongside bona fide totalitarian systems. Authoritarian classification scarcely fares better - with the notable exception of Jim Crow legislation in the South - where morals legislation is concerned. It seems as though the definitions assigned to political categories are viciously circular, with your binary choices defined more by their negations of each other than by interaction with the messiness of actual political history.

Luse--You are correct. Although I disagree that it involves “eviscerating moral content,” I do think that an argument supporting free speech rings hollow if it if comes from someone who supports a legal ban on sodomy. One need not embrace sodomy to hold such a viewpoint, one need merely recognize that it isn’t one’s business to try to prevent other people from engaging in it.

Lydia- If you’ll excuse the presumption, I think the reason that a ban on sodomy (or certain other kinds of sex) seems to you to be a trivial imposition, or what zippy calls “mild-mannered,” is because it’s sex you’re not interested in having. To a young gay or lesbian couple, the concept of a law which criminalizes their sexual congress, with the threat of imprisonment , which is what Lawrence v. Texas was about, is draconian indeed. My chief criticism is that the mechanism you are using here to weigh what should be legal and what shouldn’t is 1. Things that you believe are ok to do, and 2. Things that you think are not okay to do.

As Maximos points out, authoritarianism is in the eye of the beholder. America in the 1950s was a model of fair government—unless you were black and subject to Jim Crow laws in the South. Or a woman trying to get paid her worth in a male-dominated field. Or an interracial couple trying to get a license to wed in Virginia. Etc. Sure, it’s nice if their material needs are met and they have the right to distribute pamphlets and all that, but really, are we saying that such a couple should be thankful that at least they’re not being stoned to death?

Now, I’m pretty sure we’re in agreement that it is not a moral wrong for an interracial couple to marry (and have sex, and all the lascivious mental images that seem to result from such statements.) But lots of people who considered themselves to be of high moral character supported such bans and thought themselves to be doing a social good. The fact that I think their moral code is wrong is irrelevant compared to the fact that it was never their business to get involved in other people’s sex lives in the first place.

Perhaps that’s excessively libertarian of me? It's not as though sex is the only area where I think government intrusion is unwarranted, but it does seem to be the issue at hand on this particular board.

"I do think that an argument supporting free speech rings hollow if it if comes from someone who supports a legal ban on sodomy"

There you go again.

Phil, I deliberately used heterosexual fornication as an example because I am heterosexual. I can think of situations in my own past life in which there might have been "the appearance of evil" and hence I might have found a $10 ticket (which, as I had virtually no money at the time, would have been a big deal to me) stuck on my apartment door the next day (or received in the mail or whatever) had there been morals legislation allowing for such a thing given the presence of an unmarried couple alone in a location at some late hour of the night. Doubtless I would have been outraged if such a thing had happened (which of course it never has). Doubtless that's not the best and most preferable way to enforce morals. But with increasing age and, hopefully, wisdom, I can see that there might be circumstances in which it was more prudent for society as a whole to leave such a law on the books if it were already there than to overturn it.

I should perhaps make it clear, at the risk of sacrificing my conservative credentials to my libertarian credentials, that I do consider it _relevant_ to the question of legality if some act causes only moral harm and no physical harm and takes place entirely in private. Such acts are not at the top of my list of things to have laws against, and I would as a lawmaker weigh that fact into the balance in consideration of what to pass and what to overturn. I also don't (in case this hasn't been clear yet) consider the question, "Should there be a law against X?" always to be answerable purely in the abstract, because directionality may be important in terms of sending a social message--that is, it may be relevant whether we're talking about repealing something or passing something.

Finally, I cannot help pointing out that if people would not make an activist push out of supposedly private acts, there would be less of a war about them. What if we lived in a world in which no one even _thought_ of having Gay Pride parades or S & M "conferences"? What if we really _were_ talking about purely private acts that you would have to go nosing around in other people's lives to find out about? What if no one were pressing for adoption rights for homosexual couples and so forth? Then I wouldn't have those examples to use. Unfortunately, one problem is that if things are legal people seem to think they can be flaunted and that others can be pushed good and hard to accept the flaunting. Would that it were not so. We already passed that stage rather quietly years ago w.r.t. unmarried heterosexual couples. Perhaps if we conservatives had made a bigger deal about the right (which I gather is no longer around) of landlords to refuse apartments to a guy and his girlfriend, we couldn't be accused of picking on one kind of sin now.

IT is a fact that homosexuality is immoral. It is a fact that its a passion of the establishment to make homosexuality a normal moral thing that the good citizen must agree to.
This law of censorship and thought control in England shows how evil that country is wallowing in.
I guess its not illegal to say homosexuality is morally right. So its about right conclusions being told or wrong conclusions not being told to kids on a very serious matter.
Why make pretence to free speech by this nation or to the legitimacy of Christian teachings.

Homosexuality strikes at the identity of all of mankind now living or in the past.
There is a innate repulsion to it by most of present and historic mankind.
The modern establishment means to make opposition to it publically or privately culturely unacceptable or even illegal.
Therefore the good guys should insist and say its wrong, repulsive, a threat to identity of all, and takes God's favour from us. IT should be illegal and if not culturally unacceptable.at least.

Good lord. I stumbled on this website on accident doing a project for school and wow... just reading this makes me sick. I really REALLY hope this is some kind of joke, but unfortunately it probably isn't. Im an seventeen year old girl (whos straight, by the way) and this whole thing... just made me and my friend nauseous. This is disgusting. People have this right do be whatever they want to be. And of course teachers shouldn't be able to say being gay is wrong any more than they should be able to say being jewish is wrong, or being black is wrong. Its just baseless discrimination. This website is whats wrong with the world. Ive had many LGBT friends, and ive seen a lot of them struggle against their identity, sometimes for years, before finally coming to terms with it, it takes a lot of courage to be able to accept yourself like that, especially with biggots like you yelling this stupid crap everywhere. I can't wait for the day when one of your sons or daughters comes out of the closet...
But, since i'm actually a good person, i wish you all good lives and hope that you will someday be able to see the other side of the argument with an open mind, even if you don't agree with it.
But do know, that as soon as my generation gets its say, gay marriage and gay adoption will become fully legal, so do look forward to that. Peace :)

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