Ground Zero & Gettysburg: Legality vs. Morality

Dan Proft Sep. 12, 2010, 5:47am

One of the externalities resulting from the overregulation of human conduct is that our debates over the propriety of a questionable act center solely around whether it is legal.

In a free society good law necessarily means allowing bad taste, as long as the exercise of your bad taste does not interfere with the exercise of mine. However, just because you are allowed to do something does not mean you should do it.

I cite grown men confusing flip-flops for acceptable shoeware as one example. Another is my dad wearing his Bluetooth earpiece at the dinner table like he is preparing to dock the lunar shuttle.

Two more prominent examples currently dominating our national discourse are the proposed mosque near Ground Zero and the proposed casino near the Gettysburg battlefield.

The two projects raise very different public tensions but share a common rationalization among their advocates: Hey, the law allows for it. End of discussion.

Actually, it is the beginning of the discussion.

The legality of the projects is not in dispute. But legality and morality are not synonyms. After all, think about the morality of the people who make our laws.

While we are on the subject of things that are not the same, desecrating sacred grounds that preserve our nation's history is not the same thing as not desecrating those places.

That is a value judgment. Our judgment in these instances will indicate whether or not we attach any value to being an American.

Many years back on ABC's Nightline program, William F. Buckley and Jesse Jackson squared off on this very topic. Buckley captured it perfectly when he observed, "It's perfectly legal to contract syphilis but it doesn't mean that society is in favor of syphilis." Buckley continued, "As a matter of fact, it's perfectly legal to vote for Jesse Jackson, but it doesn't make it reputable does it?"

And so it's perfectly legal to build the Ground Zero mosque and the Gettysburg casino, but it doesn't make it reputable does it?

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