Friday, January 13, 2006

Dennis Prager on law and morality

Dennis Prager

Today on talk show host Dennis Prager's show he revisited a topic he speaks on periodically - the way the left separates law and morality. Prager believes the average law school education encourages people to stop thinking morally and instead to think legally. If something is legal it must be ok. Conservatives who have not been to law school do not tend morally. If something is wrong it is wrong. If something is legal it still might be wrong. At Trinity we reinforce the importance of morality rather than substituting legality as a primary standard.

Prager believes the idea that legality is primary is in evidence among the Democrat Senators in the Alito hearings. Prager also noted another disturbing trend among some members of the Judiciary Committee: some of their questions seemed to indicate they saw law and judging as a means of helping the little guy and fixing society. By contrast, the Bible, and centuries of western jurisprudence, require unbiased treatment of all. Neither rich nor poor should have an advantage due to their wealth or poverty.

I call this the difference between event driven justice and status based justice. Biblical ideas of justice, and the normative traditional view of justice in the west is that justice is about what happened. Who did what? Is what they did a violation of the law? Was their a legal justification or excuse for what they did under the circumstances? By contrast, many people are tempted to substitute status based justice - even though it is not just at all. Status based justice asks who the parties are instead of what they did. What group does the plaintiff belong to? Is the defendant a good person? Is one party a big business? Is one party a benefit to the community? Advocates of status based "justice" seek the outcome based on the status of the parties instead of acts and omissions of the parties. Avoiding the temptation to drift toward status based judgments is a major part of maintaining a good justice system. At Trinity, I try to ensure that all our students understand this fundamental difference in approach.

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