Law and Morality
-Some laws serve a practical purpose
E.g: - decide who owns property
- regulate traffic
-Other laws reflect the moral values
of the majority of society
- what is “morality”?
-Relating moral values to law can be controversial because
everyone has an opinion or a viewpoint on certain matters
- euthanasia – should it be against the law to help a loved
one die if they are suffering from a terminal illness
- capital punishment – is this a just punishment in a civil
- abortion – should it be a criminal or a medical matter?
- physical discipline – should this be a parent’s right?
- legalization of marijuana – why are alcohol and tobacco
legal when they cause just as much damage to society?
- child pornography – do laws forbidding this violate a
person’s right to freedom of expression? Should the
government have the right to say what you can have in your
- In a multicultural and democratic society, tensions
often exist between the laws and personal or
community standards of right and wrong
E.g: - “honour killings”
- plural marriage – Bountiful, BC
- As times change, laws often change to fit the
majority of society’s morals
E.g: - capital punishment was abolished in
- abortion was “decriminalized”
- increased drinking & driving penalties
- Read R. V. Dudley and Stevens (1884)
145 Q.B.D. 273 on p. 15 of Law in
- Answer questions #1 and 2
Law and Justice
-The idea of law has always been associated with the
idea of justice
- but what is “justice”? What is a “just society”?
-Why do you think that most Canadians place the idea of equality
at the heart of justice?
-The law is supposed to apply to everyone equally, regardless of
position or financial status
-BUT…does the goal of equality create a situation which is
E.g: a man breaks into a cottage and takes a rope to save a
- should he be treated the same as someone who breaks in
to steal jewelry or a tv?
-Most of us would say that circumstances need to be taken
into account… and yet we expect equal treatment in “like”
E.g: everyone should have the right to vote regarless of gender
- Our ideas of justice come from our moral
convictions, values, attitudes and beliefs, many of
which change over time.
- But as a society, we agree on certain “characteristics”
1. Treat like cases alike and different cases differently
2. A law is unjust if it discriminates on a basis of
3. Justice should be impartial – laws should be
applied regardless of a person’s position or $
4. The law must conform to society’s values/beliefs
“MacIsaac Discharged for Fiddling
with Pot” on p. 16 in Law in Action
- Answer question #2.