All sin is not against the law, which is good news for everyone.
Only the sins that cause harm to innocent others or society—murder, stealing, assault, battery—require deterrence by criminalization or civil sanction.
At least abortion takes what some genuinely believe to be a human life. Thus it can be argued that abortion claims a victim. So abortion is much more a legitimate matter of public lawmaking than, say, same-sex marriage, which hurts nary a soul.
Maybe you see homosexuality as a sin. That’s your judgment. So don’t do homosexual things. That others do those things causes no harm to you in the remotest sense.
I attended a same-sex wedding once. The only potential harm that came to me was that ice cream was served at the reception.
You see, we’d have a much bigger jail-crowding problem if we made crimes of all sins doing no harm to anybody but ourselves. But we might have plenty of money to build and operate those jails, based on the vast array of inevitable actions for which we could extract fines.
I’d be in prison or steeply fined for sure for the deadly sin of gluttony—for the damage I can do to a carton of chocolate ice cream—if victimless sins were crimes.
Don’t laugh. You’d be in jail or fined yourself for wrath or lust or greed or envy or lying.
Some people deem dancing a sin. They base that on a scripture about revelry and a theory that bodily gyrations to musical beats lead to evil physical urges that kids would never confront if they didn’t move their bodies to music.
So if you want to start outlawing victimless behaviors because judgmental, God-assuming persons consider those behaviors sins, then you’ll need to let everyone have the same right of religion-based behavioral control as state Sen. Jason Rapert of Bigelow presumes to exercise on same-sex marriage.
We’d best get busy passing buckets of behavior-restricting state constitutional amendments, even if it nets us in the end only the right to whine when judges put the U.S. Constitution’s principles ahead of our personal expertise in being judgmental about others.
Essentially, Rapert is the John Lithgow character, and he is trying to make Arkansas the little town. I refer to the film Footloose.
It’s a precise parallel.
Lithgow’s character was the imperious, God-assuming local minister who believed dancing was a sin and therefore prevailed on the local town council to make school dances illegal.
It was not sufficient for the Lithgow character that he did not go to dances himself and that he forbade his daughter from doing so. He felt a holy obligation to stymie the liberation of all local youth who (1) wanted to dance to that rockin’-rollin’ music and (2) were experiencing certain of those devil’s urges even without dancing, as if somehow naturally or innately.
Prohibition simply does not work, both specifically as with the short-lived amendment against alcohol distribution and sale, and generally in regard to same-sex attraction or any other victimless act that somebody adjudges a sin and wants to keep another person from engaging in.
It’s a sin to covet your neighbor’s wife. But that doesn’t give you the right to go next door and tell her she’s going to have to stop sunning herself by the pool in that scanty wear in a location visible to you when you climb into the attic and slither through some of the air conditioning vent work.
In America, you see, your personal biblically based belief in the sin of coveting her is less a matter of rights than her constitutional ones to liberty and privacy.
So you need to get out of the attic, stop peeping and work on yourself while she lives free.
In fact, that is the American ideal, one to which we fall ever-short: Apply your judgments to yourselves and work on yourselves, letting others live free so long as they don’t bother you.
I’ve heard that called minding your own business.
John Brummett’s column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at brummett.arkansasonline.com, or his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.