Instead of Legalizing Adultery, Legislators Should Be Championing Fidelity

“Qualified as a misdemeanor since 1907, the law was designed to discourage individuals from cheating on their spouse as a means to secure a divorce. At the time, infidelity was the only way to legally split.” - Daily Citizen

Discussion

Well, maybe three.

1. I appreciate the spirit of what they’re saying in this article. Adultery isn’t good for families… in addition to just being wrong. I’m not denying that.

2. There’s no reason why authorities couldn’t legalize adultery and verbally advocate for fidelity at the same time. These aren’t really mutually exclusive activities. Legality and morality have always been two distinct, though related, things. Sometimes a law is immoral. Quite often the immoral is legal—for good reason. (Do we really want to live in a society everything wrong is illegal? Even under Moses, God didn’t do that.) So, leaving a question of morality to choice rather than legal mandate is not a new thing or even an inherently bad thing.

3. This just seems really out of touch. As a society we’re long past taking adultery very seriously. A law is not going to change that, and as a matter of principle, it’s a bad idea to have laws on the books that you have no intention of enforcing. True, sometimes law can be symbolism: we’re making a statement about what we value. But on the whole, law shouldn’t do that. It’s for things we intend to actually penalize.

So the real problem here has to do with the beliefs/values and norms of our culture. You can’t fix that problem with laws.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

In certain parts of the nation stealing from stores is no longer seen as wrong and in many places those laws are no longer being enforced. How far should the trend away from Biblical morality go within the laws of our country?

I am not denying that we have gone quite far from being able to enforce much of the law in the area of adultery, but this conversation seems to be neglecting the issue of the victims of adultery. I remember my dad justifying his adultery and wondering why my mom was so upset. I remember dad's bar room buddies reinforcing his thoughts. We have so many influences throughout society telling people sin is okay and few people stop to think how hurtful that was to my mom. This move is yet one more stick in the eye.

My take is similar to Aaron's; if the law is not going to be enforced, you may want to take it off the books. Otherwise the law becomes a mockery. This is especially the case in adultery, where the aggrieved spouse is first of all humiliated ("why wasn't I enough for him/her?"), and second of all faces humiliation during cross examination ("Isn't it true that you let yourself go and withheld yourself from your husband/wife?"). No surprise that aggrieved spouses, male and female, weren't signing up for that.

My hunch here is that a lot of aggrieved spouses are, in effect, prosecuting adultery through divorce court. The aggrieved spouse doesn't need to testify in court about the adultery--that can be a quiet note to the adulterer "you earned this buddy" outside of legal pleadings--and the aggrieved spouse gets half of marital assets and often child support or even alimony. Given that that can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, it's a big penalty for infidelity.

Yes, there are some who don't think it's a big deal, but when I look around, I think the majority still realizes that adultery is wrong.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

In certain parts of the nation stealing from stores is no longer seen as wrong and in many places those laws are no longer being enforced. How far should the trend away from Biblical morality go within the laws of our country?

It’s a good question, but we don’t have to try to answer it in a vacuum, because political theorists have wrestled with versions of it for a long time. Maybe centuries? I’m not an expert on the history of that, though I used to read a lot on related topics. Three factors come to mind…

  1. Limited resources: We know we can’t enforce every law that would/might put a stop to some bad behavior. There are always limited law enforcement resources.
  2. Effort-benefit ratio: The ratio of law enforcement effort vs. benefit to society. Some evils should be illegal, and should be enforced—ideally—but they’re extremely difficult to investigate and prosecute fairly, so #1 above kicks in.
  3. Liberty model & trade-offs: What value does your government place on individual freedom? You can fight a whole lot of ‘crimes’ more efficiently in an authoritarian model. But then you have models built on the belief that humans are entitled to freedoms (or “endowed… with… inalienable rights”). There’s always a trade-off between enforced morality and freedom of conscience. There is no opportunity to do something ‘virtuous’ where you face “do A or you’ll pay.” (Not mention the vulnerability everybody has to arbitrary ‘justice’ in authoritarian models.)

Maybe #3 is really two factors or more. I’m thinking out loud mostly.

To sum up, this is very general, but if one believes…

  • humans should not only refrain from harming one another but should actively do good,
  • doing good voluntarily has more beauty and ‘goodness’ than doing good because you’ll get punished if you don’t
  • humans ought to thrive and they thrive best when as free as possible

it then makes sense to pursue law-making/government in a way that seeks the best set of these tradeoffs… Which argues for focusing on basics like protecting life and property.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Which argues for focusing on basics like protecting life and property.

And yet we have a political party in this nation that resists doing both and people still are puzzled why the majority of evangelical Christians do not support that party.