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In Defense of Legislated Morality

One Of The More Absurd Myths Of Our Age Is That "You Can't Legislate Morality." Nothing Could Be Further From The Truth. All Law Is A Legislated Morality.

Mark R. Rushdoony
  • Mark R. Rushdoony,
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One of the more absurd myths of our age is that "you can't legislate morality." Nothing could be further from the truth. All law is a legislated morality.

Laws are enacted to protect people and property or to promote health and safety. Laws say something is good so society will protect it or something is bad and it will be regulated or punished. Laws against theft and murder are moral statements for the right to private property and the sanctity of life. Even a stop sign is a moral law. A stop sign says that you do not have the right to endanger the lives of others by reckless driving. Much has been said in recent years about abortion and homosexual activists moving from a demand for acceptance to favored legal status. This is true and represents a logical progression. First, homosexuality and abortion were demanded as rights, that is, the morality as viewed by the law was sought and gained. Then, favors and protection for what the law deemed moral and worth protecting have been progressively demanded and granted. The demand for gay marriage is based on the "rights" conveyed by the prior moral decision.

We cannot legislate moral people, but we will legislate morality. Laws against theft and murder never made anyone a better person, nor were they intended to. They were only to dissuade immoral people from immoral behavior through a fear of justice. Nor does stopping at a stop sign make you a more moral person; the intent is not to make you moral, it's to make you drive in a way that protects the life and property of others. Magistrates, the Apostle Paul said, are to be a terror to evildoers; their purpose is to control people who want to do what the law says is wrong.

The morality upon which our laws are based is always religious in nature. The moral ethic of a Christian will be different from that of a humanist, or a Hindu, or a Muslim. When we change religions, our morality will change and our laws will eventually reflect this. We have seen a progressive shift from Christian faith and law to a more vigorously humanistic law in recent decades.

The inverse is also true. When we change our morality, we are changing our religious presuppositions, and our religion itself is changed. It is not just anti-Christianity from without that is our problem now; we are also fighting the anti-God's law (antinomian) element that has attacked the Kingdom of God from within its own gates.

We all believe in law, so we all believe in legislating morality. I believe in God's morality. In what morality do you believe?

Mark R. Rushdoony
  • Mark R. Rushdoony

Mark R. Rushdoony graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) with a B.A. in history in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1995.

He taught junior and senior high classes in history, Bible, civics and economics at a Christian school in Virginia for three years before joining the staff of Chalcedon in 1978. He was the Director of Chalcedon Christian School for 14 years while teaching full time. He also helped tutor all of his children through high school.

In 1998, he became the President of Chalcedon and Ross House Books, and, more recently another publishing arm, Storehouse Press. Chalcedon and its subsidiaries publish many titles plus CDs, mp3s, and an extensive online archive at His biography of his father will be published later this year (2024).

He has written scores of articles for Chalcedon’s publications, both the Chalcedon Report and Faith for all of Life. He was a contributing author to The Great Christian Revolution (1991). He has spoken at numerous conferences and churches in the U.S. and abroad.

Mark Rushdoony has lived in Vallecito, California, since 1978.  His wife, Darlene, and he have been married since 1976. His youngest son still resides with him. He has three married children and nine grandchildren.

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