The next several essays will attempt to underscore the difference between religious morality and legal morality. In doing so, I fully understand that these next essays will probably bring about much contentious hand-wringing among my readers who will try to assert that their personal religious morals supercede social legal issues. So, before I dive into the topics themselves, it is important to lay some common sense ground rules regarding these issues.

First, it is important to understand that while many of our founders followed some tenet of Christian faith, they recognized the importance of maintaining a separation between religion and politics. By creating this separation between the Church and the Government, they were trying to ensure that certain religious tenets would not be the driving force behind the creation of legal codes. This common sense approach to religious tolerance in the midst of religious diversity showed a distinct maturity of thought. Their creation of the independent judiciary and their charge of it to ensure that the laws of the land were impartial to all, regardless of religion, was another stroke of genius on their part, and lucky for us. For in today’s religiously charged political and social atmosphere, such a foundation would not necessarily have been included.

Secondly, in order to fully appreciate the proposals that I am to set forth, it is absolutely necessary to recognize that our religious differences, while important to many, are not in themselves sufficient to create and enforce social norms or laws. In any government system that purports to recognize certain individual freedoms as innate and irrevocable, the freedom to worship a god of your choosing is just as important as the freedom to engage in certain behaviors that others may find reprehensible, so long as those behaviors do not present a danger to society.

And thirdly, since each of the worlds major religions profess to be the only true and accurate religion for humanity, it is wholly impossible for all of them, or perhaps any of them, to be one hundred per cent correct. Simply asserting that one’s own god is the true and only god does not make it empirically so, nor are the religious texts that accompany each religion and provide that religion with the rules of god able to be empirically attributed as having come from the mouth and mind of god itself. The mere fact that religious texts are filtered through the mouths and minds of men ensures that some distortions will be present and some prejudices included.

Morality then, in both a religious and legal form, is a kind of double-edged sword. As members of society, we can agree on the morality of certain acts and create laws to prohibit them. Such acts like murder, theft, and rape are moral issues that transcend most religious beliefs and can therefore safely be legislated. The Christian religion, or for that matter the Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or any other religion, does not have any sovereign claim to these kinds of moral issues, as they are readily accepted by most of humanity as being wrongful acts that need to be outlawed. But other beliefs and actions are not universally held, and therefore can’t be legislated without trampling the freedoms of others, despite the perceived religious prohibitions against them.

In accepting these facts, we can only conclude then, that any laws that reflect moral judgments other than the ones overwhelmingly accepted by a near universal majority should not be included into our legal codes. So, in creating a society that respects individual choice and freedom of expression, it is imperative that we agree to remove certain behaviors beyond the reach of legal justice and instead agree to disagree on their eternal consequences, if any exist at all.

Before I go on much further, let me make clear that I am not decrying the role of religion in our world, nor am I implying that our laws have no basis in religious history. To do either of those things would assure you that you should read no more of what I have to say because I would clearly be a fool. Religion, of some kind, is one of the few, near universal conditions of mankind. To deny its role in the daily lives of people is ridiculous. Many hundreds of millions seek and receive some kind of guidance and comfort through the practice of their religious beliefs. But these beliefs should continue where government ends, providing answers to eternal questions and providing spiritual relief when there is little in the physical world. In fact, it is these very aspects of religion that make it such a varied and complex system. And that complexity assures that society will never see eye to eye on certain behaviors. But rather than criminalize these behaviors, we should work together to minimize those behaviors that offer the greatest possibility of individual harm; rather than legislate with religion, we should educate with facts.

As such, it is time to take religious based morality out of the political equation. Our country is not a theocracy, nor was it intended to be one. We have enough to agree on, and enough to improve upon, that to waste our time on bitter debates about personal behavioral matters serves no purpose other than to allow ourselves to be divided unnecessarily and to keep the politicians wheeling and dealing out of sight. But agreeing to take these issues off the table, so to speak, is not to abandon your own personally held beliefs. I think that everyone should be encouraged to believe in their religion, to practice their religion, and to teach their religion to their children and others who are interested. But this does not mean that your religion should become governmental rule. We have to accept the fact that everyone doesn’t believe in all the same things, and that it is these differences that should be most respected, so that your beliefs are respected in kind.

With those thoughts in mind, my next several essays will examine the impropriety of the current illegality of drug possession and use, prostitution and consensual adult sexual behavior, gambling, suicide and euthanasia, homosexuality, and abortion. I will explain why our government has no need to insert itself into these types of behavior, except where they infringe upon the safety or financial security of society in general. Further, I will show how the current imposition of laws in these areas needlessly expend tax resources that could be better spent to promote general social welfare or reduce the public tax burden.

In so doing, I am in no way attempting to altar your own personally held religious views on these issues. Rather, I am asserting that your religious views, even if shared by thousands of similarly minded people, can not be forced upon the public simply because your holy texts say they should be. To do so would be a total contradiction to the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution and conveyed upon all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof. This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be guidelines for public behavior, and some consequences for individuals who allow their personal peccadilloes to become public hazards. We should have some rules regarding proper conduct in public. But if we really want to move forward and repair the rift in our country we must remember these rules first: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you; and, live and let live. Meaning, if we can’t overwhelmingly agree on whether a moral should be law or should remain in the religious realm, we shouldn’t be too quick to force our religious beliefs on the rest of society.