Human Sexuality and Sexual Behavior A Social Statement of the American Lutheran Church, a predecessor church body of the ELCA (1980): Expressing Concerns Through Law

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1. Laws express society’s recognition that sexual behavior affects not only the participants but also the health, strength, and survival of the society itself. Christians must beware, however, of equating sin with crime. Nor dare they accept the proposition that because behavior is not against the law it therefore must be acceptable. Their concern must be for laws that foster justice, mercy, equality of opportunity, and the protection of basic human rights. Particularly difficult, in this light, is the task of attempting to draft laws which bear upon moral convictions not shared by all persons in the community. Reasonable persons can and must decide together what laws most likely will assure justice and mercy, opportunity and rights, for all.

2. In most American communities today the consensus of reasonable persons overwhelmingly would support laws that in the quest for justice and mercy, opportunity and rights:

(a) prohibit use of force or other forms of coercion in inducing persons to participate in sexual behavior against their will;

(b) protect children, youth, the retarded, the handicapped, and others unable to give informed consent against seduction, exploitation, or abuse;

(c) forbid entrapment and other illegal activities used to obtain evidence;

(d) require correcting or ending conditions that have been judged through due processes to be a public nuisance;

(e) safeguard public decency against actions or conduct patently offensive or likely to be offensive to the moral sense of the community;

(f) insure the civil and legal rights of every person so long as their exercise of these rights does not infringe on the privacy and the civil and legal rights of other persons.

3. On the other hand, there is much difference of opinion among reasonable persons as to the wisdom, fairness, or indeed the enforceability of laws that purpose to:

(a) label as criminal the private behavior of mutually consenting adults;

(b) eliminate or control trade in pornography that appears in print, on stage, or on the screen;

(c) outlaw adultery, incest, prostitution, sodomy, bestiality, and “offenses against nature”;

(d) remove from the realm of criminal justice those forms of sexual behavior regarded as non-violent, non-coercive, non-exploitive, or “victim-less”;

(e) add “affectional preference” to the basic list of “sex, creed, race, color, or national origin” on the basis of which a person’s civil liberties are protected;

(f) put the community on record as to the standards it upholds but expecting that the laws will not be enforced.

4. The foregoing outlines goals. Much discussion will be needed to apply these goals to specific situations. Christians ought to participate gladly in the consensus-seeking processes by which good laws are drafted.

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