Monday, December 15, 2014

AAM Monday: Legal but not Moral

Some years ago, when I went back to college to finish my B.A. after a divorce, I took several Ethics classes as part of my requirements.  I was at a Catholic college, College of Notre Dame in Baltimore, and one class I really enjoyed was Legal Ethics. I had spent a decade in government/politics and saw the ways the law affected people for good and not so good. Many of the students were planning to go to law school and that was an idea I was considering also. fwiw, I am not a practicing Catholic and rarely even identify myself as Christian. Spiritual yes, religious no.

However, the part of the class I recall most clearly was when our professor asked how far each of us would go to get that 'win' for our client.  Would you do this? would you do that? would you totally annihilate a witness to convince the jury?  When we got into details, I was shocked that so many of my fellow students were very clear that they would do 'anything' to win. Anything. Our prof asked us if we considered that, above a legal standard, there might be a higher moral standard to observe. Many said that would have no bearing on their behavior. As long as the law did not forbid something it was acceptable. (Today, think of the treatment afforded to so so many in recent rape trials.)

Now do note that this was at a Catholic college, and our professor was a Jewish chaplain at Shock Trauma. He was truly a good man but I've often wondered how often he had classes with students who saw no moral principles higher than what the law allowed or at least didn't forbid. Did these students have no internal principles or values or was it just do whatever you could get away with? for the almighty $.   I used to wonder what were the views of students in a secular college? Did ethics and moral values even come into play if these students who chose a religious school didn't seem to incorporate them into future work behavior?

Why am I remembering this now? Well Facebook is riddled with people who seem to think the same way.  WWJD appears to be replaced by "... I don't give a shit how we gathered information from terrorists.' Is this what we have become? We stoop to the lowest level that we rightly condemn in others?

 If so, God help us.

Torture "The world’s governments did not negotiate a treaty banning it under all circumstances because it’s ineffective. They did so because it is immoral, inhumane and unacceptable — even if it works." David Cole, a professor at Georgetown Law

No comments:

Blog Archive

Popular Posts