Moral Influences on the Law

In class, we have discussed to what extent, if any, should morality influence laws. In our readings there were many different opinions, but I can say that I believe that laws, to some extent, will always have a moral influence rather we want them to or not. There are many laws that I believe are more morally based than anything else, for example the nature of hate crimes. I use hate crimes as an example for the reason that when people are slandered, injured, or even killed based on things like race or sexuality we take more personal offense to it. I think this is why we have created a separate category for these crimes, because of the moral implications. For example, if a person is assaulted due to the fact that they are African American, is it not still just assault and/or battery? Why do we feel the need to categorize it as a hate crime? To me there is no other reason other than to pull at the emotions of the judge, jurors, and public. At the same time, if a person was assaulted in the street, in particular  a heterosexual blue collar man at the hands of another heterosexual blue collar man in a bar, the public is not always as infuriated as to if it was a hate crime. People are assaulted all the time but only under special circumstances does the public get involved if morals become involved. In my opinion there is no other reason other than the morality influencing laws. We would give a harsher punishment to a white man believed to commit a hate crime against an African american than to two white men fighting each other. This is because as a whole Americans view that to harm someone on the bases of things categorized under HATE crimes are morally wrong. It seems as if as our morals change the law tends to change. Not even 70 years ago, it was perfectly OK to harm and discriminate against African Americans, for no other reason other than their race. At that time most Americans, White Americans, thought it was morally OK to do so and that the Whites that were committing the crimes were not breaking laws or any morals. One of the best examples I can give is a movie called “A Time To Kill.” I hope that you all are familiar with this movie. It is a movie based in Mississippi in the heart of a racist america. Two White men took a black girl and brutally raped and assaulted her. Once the men were found not guilty the father of the Black little girl shot and killed the men who had harmed his daughter. While the Black man was on trial, the all while jury, was not in his favor. In his lawyer’s closing arguments he recapped the events the white men had done to the little girl. he asked the jury to close their eyes and imagine as the listen to the details. In his final line, and probably the most famous of the movie he asked the jury, “imagine if she (the little girl) was White.” In those times, although the victims would both be children the fact that the imaginary girl was White changed the entire outlook and feelings of the jury. At that time the morals of Whites did not hold African Americans as the same in the law as Whites. In all, I feel that when it is  a majority consensus on something that we feel is morally right or wrong that the government, in particular a democratic ran government, the law tends to change with these morals. We can see this in the Dr. martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, those same things that Dr. King was writing about being morally wrong, rather it is a law or not are now against the law because as a majority consensus we now hold the same things morally wrong, and hence they are now against the law!

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About fordcn

I am a senior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Philosophy and minoring in English. I am on the pre-law track, hence the blog name lawlitphil, representing my three academic interest! This blog will consist heavily on a class I am curently taking called Modern Philosophy of the Law, however I am also taking Literature and the Law which I am sure will sometimes come up! Enjoy!

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