Unalienable Rights, Freedom of Association, and Morality Laws

We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

~D&C 134:3
Thus according to scripture, peace can only be achieved in a society, when the following rights of individuals are universally upheld and protected.
  1. No law shall be established which infringes upon a human beings right to freedom of conscience.
  2. No law shall be established which infringes upon a human beings right and control of property.
  3. No law shall be established which infringes upon a human beings right to life.
For simplicity, I will refer to these rights in the remainder of this article as rules 1, 2, and 3. Rule 1 is freedom of conscience. Conscience is the individuals internal judgment of right and wrong.1
In order to achieve peace in society, the freedom to exercise the personal judgment of right or wrong must not be violated. Thus all individuals have the inalienable right to do any action which does not infringe upon the inalienable rights of others. This includes freedom of association.

To best explain the purpose and concept behind this article, the following law from the Virginia Statutory Code will be used as the primary example (this example can be easily replaced with numerous other situations):

Lewd and Lacivious Cohabitation 18.2-345, which states:
"If any persons, not married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or, whether married or not, be guilty of open and gross lewdness and lasciviousness, each of them shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor; and upon a repetition of the offense, and conviction thereof, each of them shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor."
At first glance, this law appears to be in violation of rule 1. If an unmarried man and woman living together believe that cohabitation is not wrong (rule 1), then this law will violate rule 1. They are prohibited in their associations with one another. This law also appears to be in violation of rule 2. A woman owns the property she lives on. If her boyfriend decides to move in with her for economic and personal reasons, then this law would violate her right to control her own property. Any attempt by the local government to impose a fine on this couple, would be an initiatory aggression. The exception to the violation of both of these laws however, is when they were passed, and who agreed upon their creation.

Suppose ten people move to an isolated area to form a new city. As they set forth establishing rules and laws of interaction (i.e. making a contract), they all feel a law should be made against cohabitation. Under their right to freedom of association, they all agree on a law prohibiting cohabitation within their city limits and set forth penalties for violation of that law. The blue circle surrounding the ten people is a representation of their inalienable right to freedom of association. Since all parties agree upon the law there is no aggression, and their right to associate with like minded people is preserved. Under this scenario, none of the three rules has been broken.

A few years pass and Jack decides to buy a piece of property within the city. He was aware of the cohabitation law before he bought the property. By voluntarily moving within the city limits, he has freely entered the jurisdiction of the laws which govern it. Later, Jack's girlfriend Bertha decides to move in permanently. They are now in violation of the cities cohabitation law. They have initiated aggression and are in violation of the laws established by the will of the people who created them. They have violated the other ten city members right to freedom of association or freedom of conscience. Any action taken by the city to enforce the law would be retaliatory aggression, and would be justified.

Under the right to freedom of conscience however, Jack and Bertha have the inalienable right to advocate their position. Jack and Bertha initiate a campaign to change the hearts and minds of the townsfolk to abolish the cohabitation law. Jack persuades five of the other town members to his position, and they now have a majority of seven (10 original members plus Jack and Bertha). The town votes in favor of abolishing the law and Jack and Bertha can now live as they please. Whether morally right or not, this principle is backed by scripture:
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people. And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

~ Mosiah 29:26-27
If Jack and Bertha are ever prohibited from advocating their position or from voting, such aggression would be initiatory against them. It would also be a violation of their right to freedom of conscience. Furthermore, only laws against behavior can be passed. If a law was created that granted the authority to arrest people who simply believed in cohabitation, such a law would be a violation of inalienable rights. This principle is also backed by scripture:
Now there was no law against a man's belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds...For there was a law that men should be judged according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was no law against a man's belief; therefore, a man was punished only for the crimes which he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.
~ Alma 30:7,11
Now that the law against cohabitation has been abolished, the only way it can ever be reinstated is if all people agree. By the time the next election roles around, one member of the city has been advocating to the other members the downfalls of cohabitation in their city. The town holds a vote, but the majority are now if favor or reinstating the law against cohabitation! This action would now be a violation of Jack and Bertha's right to freedom of conscience. This is the introduction of a new law which violates freedom of conscience and property because they do not agree to in nor abide by its standard. This is a case of the majority infringing upon the rights of the minority.2

If Jack and Bertha decided to get married and vote along with the others to reinstate the law, there would not be any rights violation. They have the right to freely associate and create a society they would like to live in. If all members of a society agree (freedom of conscience) to enact laws regarding adultery, illegal drugs, polygamy, incestuous relationships, marriage, etc. then there is no violation of inalienable rights. Such a society has created a contract with one another (freedom of association) to live in a world according to the ideals they believe will bring the greatest happiness.

The strict punishments of the Law of Moses for example, would not be a violation of inalienable rights (i.e. the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath). In Deuteronomy 29, the congregation of Israel covenanted with the Lord to abide by the requirements of the Law Moses, or God's laws. They exercised their right to freely associate and abide by laws they best felt would secure their happiness. If a non-Israelite person moved into the jurisdiction of Mosaic Law, they would be obliged to adhere to that law, or they would be guilty of initiatory aggression against the law and those whom had chosen to freely associate according to that law.

The principle of unanimous consent to uphold morality laws is the only way morality laws can be created. Once lost by the voice of the people, they cannot be restored unless there is once again unanimous consent.3 If all people do not agree to a law that punishes a certain type of behavior, those who participate in said behavior will ultimately have their property taken through enforcement of the law. Such action would violate the freedom of conscience.


Webster 1828 Definition: Internal or self-knowledge, or judgment of right and wrong; or the faculty, power or principle within us, which decides on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our own actions and affections, and instantly approves or condemns them. Merriam Webster defines conscience as: (1) the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good.

2 The actions taken by the Church, and the people of California regarding Proposition 8 are not an example of initiatory aggression but of retaliatory and just aggression. The initial definition of marriage that existed in California was created and upheld during the states formation. When a group of judges overturned the definition of marriage to include relationships of the same gender, it was initiatory aggression and unjust. It was a violation of the people's initial established right to freedom of association. The only just way this law can be changed is by a vote of the people or their representatives. The people of California justly retaliated against judges who had no jurisdiction to interfere with the right to freedom of association.

3 For examples of unanimous consent in the scriptures regarding the institution of new laws see Deuteronomy 29, 2 Kings 23, Mosiah 5:1-5, Mosiah 29:37-38. The principle of unanimous consent is also present in voting in the Church. President George Q. Cannon (counselor in the First Presidency) explained that the scriptures are the only source of official doctrine,
coupled with later revelation to the prophets that has been presented
to the Church and sustained:

"I hold in my hand the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and also the book, The Pearl of Great Price, which books contain revelations of God. In Kirtland, the Doctrine and Covenants in its original form, as first printed, was submitted to the officers of the Church and the members of the Church to vote upon. As there have been additions made to it by the publishing of revelations which were not contained in the original edition, it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the conference, to see whether the conference will vote to accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and as a Church." George Q.Cannon, "Comments," Millennial Star
42/46 (15 November 1880): 724. (10 October 1880, General Conference)

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