Ruminations on the difference between "moral" and "legal"

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by MuslimAgorist, May 27, 2010.

  1. MuslimAgorist
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    MuslimAgorist Member

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    Have you ever pirated music? Do you speed? Have you ever refilled a milk container with water? That’s illegal in some states. This society is so over regulated that it is physically impossible to know all the laws we are expected to obey. Congress doesn't read a fraction of the bills they pass. Police will tell you that "ignorance of the law is no excuse," but they are equally ignorant, if not more so.

    So, why are people uncomfortable admitting they are criminals? For many, especially the jingoist “law-abiding citizen” crowd, this is because "legal” and “moral” are synonymous in their mind.

    Let's acknowledge some similarities. Both "moral" and "legal" attempt to prescribe right action. In Criminal Law "moral turpitude" describes criminal behavior that is considered "contrary to community standards or good morals". Although this can be very ambiguous, and subject to disagreement among legal scholars, most agree that it includes theft, rape, murder and those transgressions which are clearly acts of willful evil. These overlaps between "moral" and "legal" are likely the source of the confusion. For some reason people can't separate crimes of moral turpitude from the myriad of other statutes that have no moral content at all. So let's separate them.

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