Morality and Where the Law Falls Short

In moral matters, the law is insufficient. The government cannot legislate good morality. They cannot pass a law to compel me to be a nice person. There are no statutes able to control thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. While it is illegal to murder someone, being rude to a person instead of killing them is (and always will be) allowed.

Then we see events unfold like what happened in Charlottesville this last weekend. Permits were given to a hate group to gather and promote their racist beliefs - two rights that are protected by the first amendment. Many of them arrived armed, a right protected by the second amendment (according to law enforcement, event organizers encouraged demonstrators to bring weapons). This mix of white supremacists and self-proclaimed Nazis threw rocks and urine-filled bottles at police officers, they clashed with protesters opposing their hateful message, and one of them drove a car into a crowd of people in an act of terrorism.

After these types of tragedies, it is common to feel a righteous anger at the injustices in our nation. It is easy to get exasperated. We wonder how racism is still a thing. We ask, “Why do we let this happen?”

Unfortunately, we let this happen because we have to.

If I want the liberty to say whatever I want, then the same right must be afforded to those who want to say things I do not like or statements with which disagree. If I want the freedom to be critical of President Trump, then those who support him should have the ability to express their appreciation of Trump. If I wish to gather in my church and worship my God without the government's intervention, then those who worship other gods should have the same allowance. If I want the right to hold unpopular opinions, so should every other American, even if their opinion is as disgusting and vile as the white nationalists who organized and attended the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville.

There is a part of me who would love to see each and every one of them arrested and tried for some crime but I cannot escape the notion that the law allows them to be racist scum. As far as the government is concerned, they are free to be as bigoted as they desire as long as they do not violate any laws.

That makes it difficult for those of us who believe white supremacy has no place in civil society. It is a challenge for those of us who oppose seeing hatred and racism so easily displayed in public spaces without any legal ramifications.

Because there is no option for the law to curtail racism, I have a message for the Richard Spencers of the world. To the boys (and let's be honest, they usually are boys) like Jason Kessler, Peter Tefft, Peter Cvjetanovic, James Allsup, James Fields Jr, and Cole White.

Image courtesy of Us Weekly

If you want to be a racist clod, you are free to do so. I cannot stop you from hating the Jewish and black friends whom I consider family. I cannot prevent you from despising my Native American kids. I cannot force you to abandon your hostility toward my Latino coworkers, neighbors, and friends.

I cannot use the force of law to litigate your hatred out of existence. However, if you are free to possess and vocalize your intolerance and prejudices, I am also free to express my disdain and my revulsion of your beliefs. If you want to be permitted to espouse your discriminatory attitudes, then you must also endure those, like me, who wish to denounce and/or ridicule your xenophobia. You are on your own. You cannot be tried in a court of law, but you will be held in contempt in the court of public opinion.

You want respite? You want a reprieve? You want to avoid the natural consequence of your behavior? Well, in the words of Rage Against the Machine, "There be no shelter here."


  1. I am new to your blog. I just landed here after reading your spot on Dave O. I disagree with the common mantra that we have to allow all things equally. All laws involve morality. Even a speed limit presumes that it is not "right" to kill or injure another person, and that may happen if you go too fast. Let me take the case of Nazis. We went to war against them in Europe because we recognized that they were evil. It is insane to allow them to fester and grow here in the U.S. now. Discrimination need not be a bad word. We should discriminate between good and evil, and legislate against evil. Without such discrimination freedom loses its virtue.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I get what you're saying and I agree. We shouldn't allow it now. We should discriminate against hate. However, I believe the law (on its own) is inadequate to do so. It's up to us to overcome it.