Morals are no business of the state

Protection of morality has been the claimed motivation behind a variety of state interferences in the lives of ordinary people but morality and morals are not well-defined universally accepted concepts. Christians define morality in a particular way, Muslims in another, Atheists in another, Humanists in another and so on.

The constitution should forbid parliament and other trappings of the state from any attempt to define or enforce any aspect of morality leaving such matters entirely to individual consciences.

(1) Everyone has the right to form his own rules of moral conduct according to his own conscience and to act in accordance with those rules in all personal private interactions with others including in public places.

(2) This right shall not apply any commercial, professional or business transactions except for the role of customer.

edited on Apr 18, 2015 by Bob Stammers

Lee White Apr 5, 2015

I haven't voted on this one yet. I am for it in principle. But just concerned that there are some moral issues that we should define and enforce. So Bob, would you mind clarifying for me: Is this idea that only the people decide a stance on moral issues and they are described in the constitution. So if a new moral issue arose, the only way it could be defined and enforced would be through the constitution and whatever process exists to amend it?

Bob Stammers Apr 5, 2015

I see no role for the constitution or other legislative documents in defining individual characteristics of morality at all, I consider morality to be a private matter, not one for the state to define or police. I'm thinking in particular of issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, sexual practices, blasphemy and so on.

I differentiate between these and "morals" such as the requirement to do no harm to others. Those issues are adequately and properly catered for by the human rights approach and are quite firmly in the domain of the state for both definition and protection.

I would have the state define murder, rape, assault, etc but I would prohibit the state from interference in the bedroom, the pub and the church. Obviously this all applies to adults only.

Lee White Apr 5, 2015

Thank-you. I agree with where you draw the line with respect to where the state should and shouldn't be involved in defining/enforcing morals. Interested to see how you draft this one as a statement. I would see the requirement to do no harm to others and murder, rape, assault etc as morals just like abortion, same-sex marriage and so on. So to say that the state cannot be involved in defining and enforcing morals might give some wiggle room to offenders.

Perhaps something like "the state can only enforce those morals that are stated in the constitution?" (obviously i'm not a lawyer...)

Bob Stammers Apr 11, 2015

FIRST DRAFT

(1) Everyone has the right to form and act in accordance with his own rules of morality according to his conscience.

(2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

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BananaPlant Apr 12, 2015

Interesting

Bob Stammers Apr 15, 2015

SECOND DRAFT

(1) Everyone has the right to form and act in accordance with his own rules of moral behaviour according to his or her conscience.

(2) This right does not permit anyone to discriminate against others on any basis nor does it permit anyone to harm others.

(3) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Scott Wilson Apr 16, 2015

"does not permit anyone to discriminate against others on any basis" would mean I couldn't choose between two people offering to buy my car, or couldn't refuse to go on a date with someone i didn't like, or couldn't refuse to hire someone who wasn't qualified.  In personal matters it is a fundamental freedom to discriminate as I see fit, as it is my life.   

With this wording I would change my vote from an up to a down vote.  I propose the second clause be deleted entirely, and I would question the minefield involved in clause 1 vs clause 3.

Clause 1 is carte blanche to do whatever you like, Clause 3 means the state can basically stop you doing that and is almost circular, as it is restricted in order to prevent crime - which of course is defined by the state, and could include morals.  To me it looks like it does nothing.  

However, I agree with the original statement, so it may be for there to be something that is an extension of the protection of rights, and is not inconsistent with their protection.

Saeeda Bukhari Apr 16, 2015

Morals are being incorporated into national questions by claiming they have something to do with national security and cohesion. 1) and 2) only for me. Everything else that may cause real issues can be responded to by criminal law.

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Bob Stammers Apr 16, 2015

THIRD DRAFT

(1) Everyone has the right to form and act in accordance with his own rules of moral behaviour according to his or her conscience.

(2) This right does not permit anyone to discriminate against others on any of the protected characteristics.

I assume that we're all on board with what "protected characteristics" means or should that be spelt out here also (sex,race,etc)?

Scott Wilson Apr 16, 2015

2) As it stands would still mean a gay man couldn't refuse to go out with a woman, because it is "discrimination".  I expect what you want to address are specific trading relations, such as employment and offering rental accommodation, which have historic issues in particular with race.  

In one's private life there is not any right to prohibit people discriminating on any characteristics. It is nobody else's business and is directly contradictory to 1).  Who I choose to interact with, and on what basis, is nothing to do with the state.  

Bob Stammers Apr 16, 2015

You're right.

But I'm unwell and on my way out the door. Please feel free to volunteer some wording or wait until tomorrow.

Bob Stammers Apr 17, 2015

 

FOURTH DRAFT

(1) Everyone has the right to form his own rules of moral conduct according to his own conscience and to act in accordance with those rules in all personal private interactions with others including in public places.

(2) This right shall not apply any commercial, professional or business transactions except for the role of customer.

Bob Stammers Apr 17, 2015

I'd like to think that says that I can swear and blaspheme, dress however I please, have sex with whoever takes my fancy and believe whatever springs to mind BUT I can't harm anyone else and my bakery can't refuse to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding because some bit of scripture frowns on it.

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