George Washington once commented that in order for a society to survive it needed to have a strong moral character. This character existed outside of the government at the founding of the United States– as can be seen by the fact that many came to this land for religious freedom, many of the Founding Fathers were religious leaders in various denominations, and the pulpits of the land had a lot of sway in what happened. This moral foundation did not have to be codified because there was a common, Judeo-Christian framework by which all people of the land held common mores and values.
One of the biggest problems of a multicultural society that cherishes different religions, viewpoints and traditions instead of melting them all together and adopting the common framework is that eventually there will be disagreements between people groups on issues of morality.
We see this front-and-center in the culture wars of the past few years– abortion, homosexuality, promiscuity, profanity, drunkenness, etc.The Founders created a secular federal government that was to be limited in scope– most of the government being close to the people. However, today’s federal government has assumed more roles in lives as it continues to amass more power also finds more fights over different cultural beliefs happening at that level instead of the close levels of the past.
This is why you have an issue like homosexuality being brought to the federal government today to find out whether it’s right or wrong instead of the culture advising whether it’s right or wrong– the people cannot agree, and since they cannot agree they need some arbiter.
Now, the rightness or wrongness of the items listed above exists outside of a vote (be it a vote of people of a state, a district, a government or a court)– something is either right or wrong by its very nature. My taking something from a store without paying for it is wrong, even if someone passes a law stating that it’s lawful. Lawfulness does not equal right or wrong– and yet this is how we decide morality in this day.
This is also why the pilgrims left the Old World for the New World, and why the New World will also fracture, as what happens is that one group forces their different moral code on the other. Claiming to be liberators, they enslave the other. At that point, people will either revolt or try to start anew.
This is why I’m getting more convinced that morality and mores have to exist outside of our government structures and have to be common– or commonly accepted– in order for freedom to truly survive.