Reflection Of Morality Essay

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To what extent should the law reflect a moral vision even when this involves an interference with the rights of individuals who might disagree with that vision?

Stephen Buckley

1. Introduction

It is an irrefutable statement that all law is a reflection of morality. Morality preserves our sense of humanity and binds us to a common goal to distinguish right from wrong. It shapes our decisions from the most mundane daily actions to the most momentous historical dilemmas. It is a truism then to state that our law must enshrine morality as the crux of societal order. The question that I shall address in this essay, however, is to what extent should it do so? Morality is after all not an objective concept. Perceptions of morality have altered drastically through time. How can a society tread along the thin tightrope of liberty before plummeting to either a totalitarian nightmare or an iniquitous, unprincipled modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah?

2. Morality as a Subjective Concept

On the night of August 16 1996 in Langley, Virginia, 18-year old Daryl Atkins and an accomplice abducted a US serviceman from a nearby air force base, forced him to withdraw $200 dollars from an ATM, and then shot him eight times in the head .
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In 1979, Johnny Penry was sentenced to death for rape and murder despite the fact he also had an intellectual disability. In this case the Court ruled that the execution of the mentally retarded did not violate the Eighth Amendment. So what swayed the Court in the Atkins case to overturn the ruling in Penry? The Court proclaimed that a “national consensus” had emerged that the mentally retarded should not be executed. It cited “evolving standards of decency” which led to this overturning of a ruling in a similar case just thirteen years before. In such a short space of time, a nation of 300 million people had altered their moral

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