It’s a strange day in the news when a state judge rules that a prostitution ring run by a former college president is legal. Former University of New Mexico President F. Chris Garcia was accused of helping a physics professor from New Jersey oversee a prostitution website they called “Southwest Companions.” State District Judge Stan Whitaker ruled that the website did not constitute a “house of prostitution,” since it wasn’t “a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed.”
Prostitution laws were enacted before the Internet age; those in New Mexico did not envision the use of a website for such a purpose. Even though “Southwest Companions” employed 200 prostitutes, they were not paid through the website. As a result, according to the judge, there is no current way to prosecute its operators.
A similar story is in the news, this one involving the Supreme Court. On June 21, the Court unanimously threw out Federal Communications Commission punishments of TV networks that aired fleeting profanity and nudity. One case involved an episode of ABC’s “NYPD Blue” in which an actress’s derriere was shown. Another centered on Fox television broadcasts in which singers Cher and Nicole Richie uttered expletives.
The Court did not address whether the FCC’s indecency rules violated First Amendment free-speech protections. Rather, it found that the FCC “failed to give Fox or ABC fair notice prior to the broadcasts in question that fleeting expletives and momentary nudity could be found actionably indecent.” The FCC is free to modify its current policies accordingly.
Technology is changing faster than moral standards can keep up, with no end to this conundrum in sight. “You can’t legislate morality” has never been more true. While lawmakers should do all they can to prevent citizens from harming themselves and others, we will continue to find new ways to violate God’s laws and our own common good.
What we need is a change of heart that results in a change of behavior. A holy God cannot bless an unholy people. As much as we need wise legislation to respond to changing technology, even more we need spiritual and moral renewal. The Lord pled with Israel: “If you will return, O Israel, return to me. If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory” (Jeremiah 3:1-2).
Is this his word to America as well?