Saturday, March 19, 2005


Law and Sin

Law in a free, modern, pluralistic, cosmopolitan society should not be based on religious concepts of sin. The Congress right now is attempting to act as a Taliban, or as something similar to the ruling council of the Mormon Church: determining private matters on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the terms of a religious ideology. Congress is attempting to pass a "law" to keep one particular brain-dead woman on life support.

Where you or I happen to stand on this particular issue in terms of our own values is irrelevant. The point is, we don't want the government meddling in private affairs.

I've noticed recently some examples of basic misunderstanding of the simple term "blind justice." A group protesting a court decision featured a woman with a large sign that said "JUSTICE IS BLIND," and of course there's now a pop TV show called "Blind Justice" that features a blind cop as the hero. Wrong connotations in both cases. What "justice is blind" really means, of course, is that laws are instituted for the good of everyone based on democratically agreed-upon* principles of rights vs. freedoms, and then applied "blindly" to all alike. In other words, real justice doesn't take into account your wealth or social status, your skin color or ethnic group, or the absolutist dictates of a particular religious faith. And law must be monolithic: we do our best to establish generalized codes of behavior, and then we depend on empowered authorities to apply the laws as fairly and impartially--as "blindly"--as possible.

That is, we're not interested in having authorities apply their own standards. We don't want cops in a southern town agreeing among themselves to persecute local blacks, for instance, or judges favoring certain defendants because they go to the same church. We don't want authorities exercising their power for its own sake, or according to the dictates of small groups to which they happen to belong.

When the public body that makes the laws begins to apply prejudiced individual standards on a case-by-case basis, something is seriously wrong in America.

The Quotidian Meander

* They are "democratically agreed-upon" in that a majority of our elected representatives must approve them.

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