How Religion Co-opts Morality in Legal Reasoning: A Case Study of Lawrence v. Texas

Abstract

Some recent commentators have acquiesced in the efforts of some religious groups to co-opt concepts of morality, thus leading many—inappropriately, I believe—to think we must keep all morality out of our civic life and especially out of the reasoning in our legal system. I review examples of the confusion in characterizing the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision as a conflict between constitutional rights and religious moral precepts. I argue that this approach capitulates to particular views of morality as religious morality. I consider the appeals to morality in the dissent and the ensuing confusion among commentators about the significance ofthis opinion. I review alternate readings of the Lawrence majority opinion, including proposals that it be considered from the perspectives of the ethicalframeworks of Locke, Mill, or Kant.

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