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Does the existing criminal code reflect contemporary national moral standards? Or are...

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cdeeneedham | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 25, 2013 at 7:10 PM via web

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Does the existing criminal code reflect contemporary national moral standards? Or are laws banning sexual behaviors and substance abuse the product of a relatively few "moral entrepreneurs" who seek to control other people's behaviors?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 25, 2013 at 7:49 PM (Answer #1)

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First, we must note that sexual activity and drug abuse are entirely different things with different laws pertaining to them.  All use of illegal drugs is banned, not just “abuse” of those drugs.  Very little in the way of sexual behavior is banned.  Therefore, I would argue that criminal codes with regard to sexual behavior generally follow our moral standards but laws regarding drugs do not necessarily do so.

In America today, practically no sexual behavior between consenting adults is criminalized.  The only exception is prostitution.   (Adultery is technically illegal in some states but is not prosecuted.)  Americans typically do not support legalizing prostitution.   Therefore, the laws governing sexual behavior would have to be seen as closely following community moral standards.

With regard to drug abuse, the issue is a little less clear.  There is definite support for legalizing marijuana, though this year is the first time in 40 years that polls have found that the majority of Americans feel this way.  There is not a similar amount of support for legalizing “hard drugs.”  Therefore, we can say that laws on drugs are generally in line with moral standards, but may not be in line with moral standards with regard to marijuana.

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