Equal Before the Law

In Sunday school today we were talking, among other things, about the freedom of conscience that was protected under Nephite law. The teacher (I can’t remember his name since it was our first week in a new ward) made the statement that all men were equal before the law. The thought that followed in my mind was that this was the highest equality we should strive for in society – that all men would be equal before the law. We need not seek for all men to be equal in material posessions, or in educational attainment, but only that all be treated equally in the eyes of the law and that there be no legal basis for any kind of discrimination with regards to the various kinds of opportunity that a person might seek.

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About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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42 Responses to Equal Before the Law

  1. >no legal basis for any kind of discrimination with regards to the various kinds of opportunity that a person might seek.

    One of the most beautiful elements of the government established after the reign of Mosiah, and of the U.S. as it was originally intended, is the rule of law, rather than mobocracy (or its alternate label of democracy), and the idea that the law applies to all individuals in the same manner. (The slavery issue was one obstacle to its implementation in the U.S., of course, but that wasn’t part of the fundamental concept.)

    As for preventing the creation of a “legal basis for any kind of discrimination with regards to the various kinds of opportunity that a person might seek,” I generally agree, but I think we would need to be more specific than that. A variety of current laws, etc., purport to stipulate such equality, but it is often interpreted in such a manner as to grant individual rights that do not actually exist, such as the right to employment. Current so-called “anti-discrimination” laws, for example, seem to be based on the assumption that a person has a right to a job, and that that person has a right to a job at my company, regardless of whether or not I want that person to work for me. Such laws violate my right to be a racist, for example, and deny employment at my privately owned company to a black man. Obviously, racism is immoral and evil (and stupid), but taking away my right to my property (my company) is immoral and evil at a deeper, foundational level. A person has a right to a job if I offer it to him freely, but no person has the right to a job that I do not want to give to him, however immoral or arbitrary my reason. (Satan’s plan was to make us be good.)

    Essentially, I think that to establish equality before the law, we first have to establish that the only rights that actually exist are to one’s own life, liberty, and property (including rights to goods and services, etc., obtained through a mutually agreed upon contract with another person). Only then can we prevent the type of twisted interpretation of law that is so prevalent in today’s courts.

  2. David says:

    It’s a tough sell to convince people that someone has a legal right to be a bigot, but you are right that they do have that right. It’s also hard to get people to make the distinction between the right to be bigoted and the fact that such a right ends at the point of actions that would infringe on the rights (life, liberty, property) of those the bigot hates. I’m not yet fully convinced that “life, liberty, and property” is an exhaustive list of our fundamental rights, but I agree that we have gone way too far when we start to argue that everyone has a right to decent health care and government funded retirement at 62 65 70 80 (or whatever it ends up being).

    “No legal basis for discrimination” really means that we do not codify an acceptable form of discrimination, such as discriminating against someone for not being a minority.

  3. bekkieann says:

    “. . . everyone has a right to decent health care and government funded retirement . . .”

    Even if we don’t call it a “right”, doesn’t it seem the decent Christian thing to do to ensure people have food on the table, they are not denied health care just because of their economic station, and are not forced to eat cat food in their old age? I think there are some things that we, as a humane people, should want to ensure as a society. I know I do.

  4. David says:

    It is absolutely a decent, Christian thing to try to ensure that people have food on the table etc. but there is a vast difference in the way we approach a fundamental right (life, liberty etc.) and the way we approach something that is the decent, moral thing to do. Protection for rights should be codified into law, but part of liberty is the liberty to be less than decent. In other words, we infringe upon the fundamental rights of less than decent people when we use to force of law to require them to do things that are decent but do not rise to the status of rights.

    The proper way to ensure that people have food on the table etc. is to use social programs based strictly on voluntary participation. When you show me that Social Security or any other government program is voluntary on the part of the taxpayer then you might be able to convince me that those are appropriate routes to achieve your extremely decent and desirable goals.

  5. bekkieann says:

    Perhaps it’s because there just aren’t enough decent people in the world, that it is necessary to have social programs that tax all of us. I understand your argument, but I don’t agree. We don’t all drive, we don’t all have children, but we all pay for roads and schools. Our government has all sorts of social programs from which various members of our society benefit. And I think it’s a fundamental requirement that we ensure people’s most basic needs are met, even if it seems to force some people to be decent who might not otherwise be.

  6. David says:

    How would we ever know if there are enough decent people in the world – when is the last time we had a government that did not attempt to force our decency?

    Up to a certain point we all benefit from roads whether we drive or not – the founders believed this which is why they specified that the government had responsibility to build and maintain roads to enable communication and commerce. As for schools, whether there is a benefit to all of society and how involved government should be in the education system are questions that I am not prepared to address in the comments section, nor are they topics of the post. According to the post the only thing I would say on the issue is that the law cannot discriminate against someone based on their level of education, nor can it condone discrimination on that basis by other people.

  7. alliegator says:

    “How would we ever know if there are enough decent people in the world ”

    We would know because more people would be giving to charity now. Suddenly having a larger paycheck isn’t going to make people donate more. It will just allow them to take nicer vacations, or buy that big screen they’ve been wanting. Granted, I’m sure there are some who would donate more, but I think those are in the minority. The US people as a whole are very ME oriented.

    You could also say that “up to a certain point we all benefit from” making sure everyone has access to health care. We all pay more when the uninsured seeks care at the ER. Non emergencies also tie up resources that should be saved for true emergencies.

  8. Reach Upward says:

    What I am reading here is that adherence to law is not the be all and end all, because it is quite possible to pass immoral laws. What Anti-PC and David seem to be arguing for is virtuous laws. Virtue cannot exist unless it can be freely chosen. Forced virtue is no virtue whatsoever, but quite the opposite.

    Bekkieann seems to be arguing that the outcome (or even the perceived outcome) justifies the means. If we can at least say that our social programs are intended to help the less fortunate, the programs are justified, even if they deprive citizens of their ability to choose virtuous behavior.

    David further asserts that we do not actually know that our social programs are the best method of achieving what they purport to achieve, since freedom and incentives for personal virtue have not been tried in recent history.

    This is an interesting discussion.

  9. David says:


    The funny thing about charitable giving is that statistically those who give more to charity are more likely to be among those who vote more conservatively. Those who are less likely to give to charity are statistically more likely to be supportive of government funded solutions. Our society is very ME oriented, and that’s not a good thing, but making government programs is not making the situation better.

    Although you could argue that we all benefit from universal access to health care we need to define access – what health care is not available for people who cannot afford insurance? They obviously have access to the hospitals, they also have access to immunizations for free. What is it that they don’t have access to – lasik? (P.S. I’ve been without insurance on various occasions – there really is a lot of coverage available for those in need.)


    I’m not quite sure what to make of your first sentence. It almost sounds as if you are reading a desire to ignore immoral laws into my statements and those of Anti-PC. If that is the case then I would say that my position is that we should still adhere to poor laws while they exist although we should work within the bounds of law to repeal those laws. On the other hand, you may be suggesting that enacting government programs that exceed the bounds of the Constitution is not adherence to law which would apply to Bekkieann’s “end justifies the means” approach.

    Regardless of what you meant on that first sentence I like your summary of the discussion so far.

  10. bekkieann says:

    “How would we ever know if there are enough decent people in the world ”

    Right here in Utah, arguably the most generous of people both in donations to charity and volunteerism, thousands of children still go to bed hungry. Thousands of children and their parents do not get medical care until it reaches an emergency stage. Today I read on KSL.com that infant mortality rate in Utah is up because of insufficient prenatal care.

    That’s one example.

  11. David says:

    Now that you have identified the deficiencies that exist here, please show that government programs are improving the situation more than individual acts of charity, and show that they are not reducing the individual charity more than they are helping overall.

    Things are too interrelated to tease all the factors apart for a perfect analysis, but the fact remains that “Forced virtue is no virtue whatsoever, but quite the opposite.” (thanks Reach)

  12. bekkieann says:

    For me the issue is not virtue. The issue is human compassion.

    Government programs are not perfect, and are, I will agree, often wasteful. But I will not agree that we can just ignore the serious social problems and let nature takes its course by simply hoping people individually will rise to the occasion. This “law of the jungle” approach means the weak and young among us may die in the experiment.

  13. David says:

    I fail to see the compassion in government deciding who is worthy of help and who isn’t. Nor is there compassion in government deciding what kinds of help are important to give.

    The only real solution – whether we pursue government programs or individual participation in charity – is a change in society. You may argue that until society is changed it is better to use the force of government to keep the weak and young alive. I would argue that the existence (and worse yet, the expansion) of these compulsory government programs discourages the development of a society that is less selfish than our current one.

  14. bekkieann says:

    And what of the compulsory government programs that give tax breaks to oil companies, bail out banks, pay farmers not to grow crops. Is this not also forced charity? Why is that better than helping people with their most basic needs?

    You debate the issue well from the mind, but the heart is unconvinced.

  15. David says:

    You’re making unfounded assumptions. Your comment assumes that I favor any of those things – I don’t. Why don’t you read some of my previous writing on those topics.

  16. Bekkieann, I have no idea what your religious beliefs are (my best guess based on your comments is some form of liberal Protestant or Buddhist), but I’m a Mormon, and a fundamental element of LDS theology is the understanding that Satan’s plan that he presented in opposition to that of God was not to make us do bad things, but to make us do good things. The New Testament as well clearly teaches that a forced righteous act is not a righteous act at all. The only way an act can be righteous, regardless of the pleasurable outcome for someone else, is if we act willingly. When government steals my property and gives it to another, that is not a willing act on my part.

    Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and clothing the naked are a fundamental part of Christianity, but only if they are done voluntarily, not under the threat of violence (which is how government takes our property).

    Individual compassion can be effective if kept within the bounds of wisdom and order. Government-mandated compassion is no compassion at all, and is nothing more nor less than an implementation of Satan’s plan on earth. It has never worked, does not now work, and will never work, because it is a counterfeit gospel of materialism that privileges the satisfaction of the carnal over the development of the individual.

  17. >And what of the compulsory government programs that give tax breaks to oil companies

    At least somebody gets to keep some of THEIR OWN PROPERTY.

    >bail out banks, pay farmers not to grow crops. Is this not also forced charity?

    Yes it is. Government should not meddle in those things.

    >Why is that better than helping people with their most basic needs?

    1) It’s not. Stealing from one person to pay for the foolish actions of another is just as immoral as stealing from one person to pay for the physical sustenance of another person. Stealing is stealing. Even my small children know that.

    >You debate the issue well from the mind, but the heart is unconvinced.

    Never forget that emotions are bad drivers. Emotions are not tools of cognition, but are merely a manifestation of a reaction to stimuli as they are filtered through our personal worldviews. Even in the case of divine revelation, the Spirit communicates through pure intelligence, something deeper than incomplete human reason, and far, far deeper than emotions, which are part of the carnal, natural man.

  18. bekkieann says:

    Infidel, you guess wrong about my religious beliefs. You seem to think your own religious beliefs should be of some influence on me. You attempt to instruct where no instruction is needed.

    I find it at least interesting to listen to Christians explain how they justify not helping those in need. This isn’t just theory, this is human life.

    Imagine standing before the bar at the last day and saying, “You see Lord how well I debated the finer points of the issue? I’m sorry your children had to be hungry, but I defended the right principles, didn’t I?”

    P.S. I’ve attended enough fast and testimony meetings to know that many Mormons equate tears and emotion with being moved by the spirit.

  19. alliegator says:

    It seems to me that we can show our “willingness to help the less fortunate” by not complaining about being taxed.

    I agree that government welfare programs need some major changes- perhaps they would be more effective if they were run on a state or local level. I think they should also include job training and a gradual phasing out to teach people to take care of themselves.

  20. bekkieann says:

    I concur, Alliegator.

  21. David says:

    I agree that government welfare programs would be more supportable (and probably much less costly) if they were geared toward helping people improve their lives rather than being geared toward handing out stuff – employment services are much more valuable in the long run than rental assistance or welfare checks.

  22. Bekkieann, you have pretty much taken the typical liberal path of avoiding the burden of actually addressing the point. In addition, it is rather bizarre that you would make the assertion that I believe that Mormon theology should have an influence on you. I was merely making it clear what the foundation of my own beliefs was, since it seemed clear that you were unfamiliar with (or at least unreceptive to) the basics of Mormonism.

    You have also tried the typical liberal trick of attacking a position that I do not actually have when you imply that I am attempting to “justify not helping those in need.” (You know, the old straw man thing.) You prove yourself to be without honor or integrity by trying such underhanded tactics.

    I 100% advocate helping those in need. We have to. I do everything I can to help as many people as I can on a daily basis, but in wisdom and order, and not in a manner that would rob others of their God-given rights. Indeed, each person has an individual responsibility to serve, but forcing someone to do so is pure evil.

    >many Mormons equate tears and emotion with being moved by the spirit

    If they believe that emotional experience equals spiritual experience, they would be 100% wrong, as has been made abundantly clear by the scriptures as well as modern-day leaders of the Church. Emotions are a response to a stimulus, so many people have an emotional reaction to a spiritual experience. But emotion never was, is not now, and never will be equivalent to a spiritual experience. It’s a carnal experience.

    Why is that so hard for you to understand? Is it really that emotionally unsatisfying to accept simple reason?

  23. >It seems to me that we can show our “willingness to help the less fortunate” by not complaining about being taxed.

    That is a rather bizarre leap of logic. It’s equivalent to the government saying “Shut up and take it while I steal your money and give it to someone else, because you’re an idiot and I’m so much wiser and able to determine how to use it and who to give it to.” Aside from the deeply immoral nature of robbing me of my free agency, why in the world would any sane adult believe that government can do a better job of helping the truly needy than private individuals and organizations?

  24. bekkieann says:

    Infidel, “without honor or integrity”?

    I read your blog and I see where you’re coming from. I’ll let you have any last word you care to add here. I don’t wish to enage with you further.

  25. >“without honor or integrity”?

    Yes, and your hasty retreat in the face of firm opposition has etched that fact into the eternities.

    >I read your blog and I see where you’re coming from.

    That’s good. I try to be clear when I explain my stance.

    >I’ll let you have any last word you care to add here.

    Thank you so much! Your benevolence truly overwhelms me…

    >I don’t wish to enage with you further.

    I believe that’s a wise choice. A gal’s got to know her limitations, even if those limitations are rational discourse.

    Plus, my dear, departed mother (actually, she’s still alive) taught me never to “enage” with anyone I hadn’t known for at least three years.

    So, I wish you the best of luck with the whole New Age thing. May you have much joyous frolicking through the rolling hills of rainbows and unicorns. Adieu.

  26. alliegator says:

    Well said Bekkieann. Infidel- you might want to look into the definition of tact, or spend more time in primary so you can learn about being polite, and treating others like jesus would.

    As a mormon, I agree with Bekkie- Too often mormons equate emotional experiences with spiritual experiences, or perhaps they do have spiritual experiences, but as soon as their tithing is paid and they are home again, they forget about their responsibilities toward those less fortunate, and think that all the material posessions are theirs because they have somehow worked harder or been more valiant, or was more favored in the pre-existence (I’ve heard them all).

    I don’t really believe that you ought to sit back and let the government tax your money and waste it on ineffective programs, but I don’t think it’s acceptable to just sit behind your computer screen and complain about it either. If it bothers you, then DO something. It doesn’t matter what your position in life is. Stop voting for people who won’t fix the problem, run for office yourself, donate time or money to a candidate who really wants to make things better.

    I don’t see much changing until we lose the super majority and become a two (or three, etc…) party state. We need balance and moderation, both of which are lacking.

  27. >you might want to look into the definition of tact

    1. a keen sense of what to say or do to avoid giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations.

    It’s from the Latin “tactus,” which refers to the sense of touch. (You know, “tactile” and stuff like that.)

    Anything else you’d like to know?

    Anyway, I know very, very well what people such as the recently departed B.A. (blessed be her name) will choose to be offended at. Unfortunately, I have this disturbing habit of valuing truth over juvenile emotion, so what can a fella’ do?

    >or spend more time in primary so you can learn about being polite

    Hey, I said “thank you!” You can read it yourself.

    >and treating others like jesus would.

    I will merely refer you to the account of Jesus (initial caps) and the Pharisees. That’s in the New Testament, by the way. The Bible. Yes, that big book with lots of pages and no pictures.

    >As a mormon

    …he said with a wink.

    (Again, don’t forget the initial caps.)

    >DO something

    Such as refuting the oppressive collectivist ideas of greedy, self-absorbed leftist thugs.

    But hey, if you want to accept a political philosophy that is in violent opposition to the foundation of the Plan of Salvation, that’s your choice. Because I’m not a “liberal” (who are only liberal with their morals and other people’s money), I won’t try to rob you of your ability to choose between good and evil.

    Good luck, son.

  28. By the way, BA’s comment that for her “the issue is not virtue” is very, very revealing. For modern “liberals,” emotion is the driving force.

  29. alliegator says:

    “…you have pretty much taken the typical liberal path of avoiding the burden of actually addressing the point.”

    I didn’t know you were a liberal!

    If you are actually interested in a conversation rather than insulting anyone who disagrees with you, let me know.

  30. Though I don’t rescind any of the points I made, I suppose I should apologize to BA and aLiegator for being a bit flippant and snide (and anyone else who was uncomfortable with it). I tend to be less than tolerant of irrationality and emotionalism, and probably poked fun at them a bit more than they can absorb effectively. So, to you BA and aLiegator, I say, I’m sorry.

  31. alliegator says:

    Did you make any points? I must have missed them amongst the insults.


    Sorry to David for getting so off track from his post.

  32. >If you are actually interested in a conversation rather than insulting anyone who disagrees with you, let me know.

    Hmmm. I had assumed that I was addressing the points, but if you didn’t understand something, let me know and I’ll try again. I thought that addressing each part individually (you know, inserting your comment, then giving my response to it) would make it clear, but maybe I’ll have to break it down further. Let me know what you are having a hard time getting and I’ll explain it in more detail.

    I’m shocked that you feel like I was insulting you! My apologies again if pointing out what I believe to be true is so offensive to you. I only meant to be as clear as possible. I’m personally too busy for any sugar coating, so I sometimes forget that others may need it. I’m sorry.

  33. I’ve read through my comments, and I don’t really see anything that could reasonably be considered an insult (and that’s not a reaction I get from anybody else I interact with on a regular basis), but if you say you were insulted, I’ll believe you, and once more say I’m sorry.

    Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Or maybe it’s because I’m such a cold-hearted, unemotional fellow. Either way, I’ll try to be more gentle in my handling of you in the future.

  34. alliegator says:

    Would you really like for me to go through each of your insults, I mean “points” and show you how they are insulting?

    How about we move on.

    I do not require “handling” or “sugar coating”, I do appreciate courtesy. (also, I am not a son, or a liberal in the way you imply)

    I am interested why you think that my political philosophy “is in violent opposition to the foundation of the Plan of Salvation”.

    I don’t see it that way, also the church doesn’t say “free agency” any more. There is a cost. We could let the government stop taxing and all services, to let us have more agency, but the cost for me is a bit too high.

  35. David says:


    Thanks for your concern. Although the comments have veered away from the original topic at times and the tone of the comments has been flippant (in the words of Infidel) at times, I have to admit that it is nice to see commentors engaging with each other instead of expecting that every thought on the site must be run through me as the site owner and author. That does not happen often enough at a little site like mine.

    I sincerely hope that nobody has been offended by my hands-off approach. And I hope that none of you choose to avoid my site in the future.

  36. alliegator says:

    I don’t want to continue to post things so off-topic here, so I started a post on my blog- if Infidel wants to explain (nicely please) why my political philosophy is against the plan of salvation, I truly and interested in his reasoning.

  37. David says:

    For anyone interested in following the conversation on Alliegator’s post it can be found here. Unfortunately, Alliegator does not allow anonymous comments (which in blogger-speak means anything less than Google/Blogger authentication).

    Alliegator, consider this a request for you to open up comments at least to OpenID even if not allowing anonymous comments.

  38. alliegator says:

    Thanks for putting in that link- I thought I had included one in my comment.

    I haven’t even looked at the settings on my blog in a long time, I’ll see what I can do so everyone can comment.

  39. Okay, I’ll explain it one more time over there, then I’m done. I can only spend so much time explaining the same things over and over and over and over and over again.

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