Liberating the law from morality

I have spent time in courthouses. Occasionally, while waiting for my cases to proceed, I watch convicted criminal defendants receive their sentences. It is a solemn business. Where does the authority to deprive people of their freedom, and at times their lives, come from. The legal authority comes from our criminal laws and sentencing guidelines (when judges deign to follow those guidelines). But where does the moral authority come from? Most Americans would say it comes from the Ten Commandments. Others would say it comes from a shared innate moral sense, the essence of which is well-captured by the Ten Commandments.
Why do some people wish so ardently to remove the Ten Commandments from courthouses? Given the liberal drum beat that our criminal sentences are too harsh (especially compared to European sentences), I suspect that one reason is a desire to undercut the link between morality and criminal sentencing.


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