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Legislating Morality

The state legislation of morality is perhaps most closely associated with theocratic states or governments in which morals derived from religious beliefs coincide with and are expressed in state policies, legislation, and punishment regimes. Under such regimes, there is no separation of church and state and, indeed, the head of state is often the head of the dominant religious organization.

During the medieval period in Europe, monarchs asserted their right to rule and establish laws on the basis of divine right in which their power was construed to derive from their nearness to God. The nobility placed themselves at the top of the “great chain of being,” with the serfs over whom they ruled being closer to base animals and therefore unfit to rule. Only the ...

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