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Laws Rest on a Moral Vision, Religious or Not

The establishment clause, however, was never meant to exclude citizens from voting their consciences or seeking their vision of the common good. It was never intended to keep morality out of our lawmaking. In fact, every law reflects some moral vision, whether or not the vision is labeled secular or religious.  

07/29/22

John Stonestreet

Some abortion proponents claim that by overturning Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court elevated evangelical and Catholic morality, and violated what’s known as the establishment clause found in the First Amendment. 

The establishment clause, however, was never meant to exclude citizens from voting their consciences or seeking their vision of the common good. It was never intended to keep morality out of our lawmaking. In fact, every law reflects some moral vision, whether or not the vision is labeled secular or religious. Are our laws against murder and theft somehow unconstitutional because they echo the morality of the Bible?  

Think of all the other laws that violate the establishment clause if these critics are right: the abolition of slavery, criminal justice reform, workers’ rights, etc. Even the bankruptcy code is rooted in a uniquely biblical understanding about the rights of debtors, economic justice, and redemption.  

Thomas Jefferson wrote that the rights to life and liberty are “endowed by [our] Creator.” Should we set aside the entire American project because the Declaration of Independence violates the establishment clause? No, because without it, there wouldn’t be an establishment clause.  

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