Why the government cannot take a “middle ground”

There are no “neutral” positions.

Sometimes you will hear people call for a “neutral” position of the government on certain legal issues. Those who argue in this manner will say something like “the government cannot take sides on moral issues and should remain neutral. X is the neutral position, therefore, the government should take the position X.” Sometimes, this argument has a little more of an edge and equates moral with religious, an issue which we discussed in our last post. This argument may seem appealing at first because of the separation of church and state, the seemingly “moderate” nature of the position, and the fact that if we take this position, we don’t need to solve sticky moral issues. The problem is there is no such thing as a neutral position.

Remaining neutral on a position entails not choosing a side or favoring one side over another. Legally, this means that the law does not favor either moral position and it is up to individuals to decide on their own the morality of an act. This is all well and good except for the fact that moral issues that are in the legal realm to begin with usually involve some sort of legal imperative. This means that one side states that a certain law must exist or exist in some form whereas the other side says no such thing. There is no neutral position because the law either exists or exists in the desired form or it does not and there is no middle ground.

Two prominent examples where this is relevant are the issues of same-sex “marriage” and abortion. The “neutral” solution to the same-sex “marriage” issue is to apparently allow men to marry men and women to marry women and those who disapprove can chose to do so on their own. Churches will not be forced to participate in these marriages, but the government won’t discriminate. The “neutral” solution to abortion is something along the lines of Roe where the government leaves open the question of when life begins and lets women chose for themselves, thus, it is a personal choice. The problem is that both of these “neutral” solutions in fact take a clear stand on the issues. As for the former, the government necessarily rejects a natural-law conception of marriage where one man and one woman are the necessary subjects of a valid marriage. In the case of abortion, in allowing some abortions, the government necessarily rejects the idea that “the fetus (in these specific cases) has a right to life that the government has a duty to protect.” The view in quotations summarizes the pro-life position, and it is necessarily rejected as false. There is no way the government can stay true to the metaphysical commitment that marriage is by its nature a union of man and woman and at the same time recognize as marriage another type of union. Similarly, there is no way the government can accept that the fetus is an innocent person who ought to be protected by law and at the same time permit abortion in certain cases. The views are incompatible and because of this, the government will never remain neutral but always pick a side on these issues. These are two examples, however any other case where a moral issue is in play, the government almost always has to take a stand of some sort, meaning neutrality is logically impossible (not just practically).

Notice something else. The so-called neutral position seems a lot like the liberal position in both cases. Why is this? The reason is that liberals have developed a strategy where they present themselves as the more reasonable, open-minded, and kind group where conservatives are closed-minded bigots who simply want to impose their religion on the rest of us. Liberals claim their position is neutral because it plays into the narrative, but in reality, it is just a nice way to sugar-coat their own position. In our next post, we will consider some implications of what we have been saying so far.

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