04 April 2012

Law is Dead, Long Live Regulation

This is a mess:

A Shelby County mother is facing contempt-of-court charges and possible jail time for baptizing her two children without the knowledge or consent of her ex-husband.
This week the Tennessee Court of Appeals said Lauren Jarrell must face a criminal contempt hearing for violating a court order that said major decisions regarding the religious upbringing of her two children should be made jointly with her-ex-husband.

In the first place, where is all the separation of church and state that I keep hearing about?  If I’m not mistaken, this legal doctrine would imply that the state is separate from the church, and therefore cannot have anything to do with it, like, say, telling a woman that she can’t baptize her children into a church.

In the second place, why does the state give fathers the right to have a say in their children’s religious upbringing, but not give men a say in determining whether their child can be born in the first place?  Either children are the wards of both parents in all things or they are not.  If they are, then the current legal system has many issues to address (such as enacting default split custody during divorce, for example, or giving men a say in their child’s abortion).  And if they are not, the state needs to refrain from interfering in matters such as these.

As can be seen, there are no underlying principles to family law; there are just special interest victories and one-off decisions.  This is no way to promote social stability since there is no consistency to legal decisions, and so people have more of an incentive to act selfishly and lobby the government on their behalf, which naturally occurs because there is no consistency the rules, which cannot thus be played by.  This lack of underlying principles undermines the authority of the law, and ultimately undermines actual justice.


  1. Is this another silly militant atheist-inspired argument? A true atheist would really believe that baptizing has no Earthy effect and is unimportant. But a militant god-hater would see it as convincing the kids to take sides.


  2. As can be seen, there are no underlying principles to family law; there are just special interest victories and one-off decisions.

    I think that about sums it up. It is thus, because do be otherwise would be to "impose morality" on ostensibly diverse people. The sad thing is that just about any consistently imposed morality, however biased, however provincial, would be better than the naked exercise of power we see today.

  3. @Prof. Hale- I'm not sure. It could be opposed militant Christians.

    @Steve N.- As if the naked exercise of power isn't also a moral value (and as if it is a better one)!