Foxnews.com is reporting that a Washington State court recently ruled that it is not illegal for a teacher to have a sexual relationship with an 18 year old student because the student is not a minor. (link) A person can be charged with first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor, and apparently Washington State does have a law specifically prohibiting teacher/student sex, but that law doesn’t specify an age. As a result, sex with an 18 year old student is and is not against the law.
The parents and community where this issue came up are understandably outraged. Yet, some of the quotes from the community and experts raise some interesting questions.
“Normally I would respect what the courts have to say, but this is a highly inappropriate message and one that is potentially dangerous,” [Dr. Judy] Kuriansky told FOXNews.com. “This is where ethics come in conflict with the law.”
Ethics. I’m not saying that it isn’t an ethical issue, but is it just an ethical issue? Is it me or is the good doctor trying to avoid using the word “moral”? Even “ethics” is kind of a slippery word. After all, who decides what it ethical? Who decides what is “appropriate”? We have all but abandoned the use of the word “moral” these days because right and wrong are relative, except for some really big things like WMDs and social injustice. Again, I’m not saying it is, but why isn’t this ethical? Why is this wrong?
“This shouldn’t be OK,” she [a mom] said. “They are teachers. Every one of them should know better.” (snip) “I’m hoping from a parent’s perspective that when my daughter is 18 and dating that she’s not having a relationship with her teacher,” she said. “This is not college, it’s not a university, this is high school.”
Why isn’t it OK? Is this mom saying it would it be OK for a student to have sex with a teacher in college? Why would that be OK? Is it OK for high school students to have sex with each other? Isn’t mom worried about that?
Rep. Larry Haler, who is introducing a bill to specify that teachers can’t have sex with students between the ages of 16-21 (why 16? why not zero because we all know there are some sickos out there), said,
“The message [the ruling] sends is one that basically says that there’s really nothing wrong with this kind of behavior by school staff, or even on the part of students.”
And there it is. It isn’t just ethics, it’s a matter of right and wrong. But here is the thing. Who decides? Huh? Who decides? The teacher and the student apparently thought it was right. Don’t they have the freedom, the right to do so? Whose morality is going to determine this? Does passing a law determine the morality or ethics of a thing? What if, 20 years from now, the majority decides that it is OK and changes the law? Does that make it right?
This issue, the issue of who is the authority, is the most fundamental issue of existence. It is behind every social issue, civil rights issue, political issue, and personal issue we face on a daily, if not moment-by-moment basis. Who are we going to listen to? We have three choices; self, others, or a “higher power”. The problem is that we tend to listen to the source that gives us the answer that we want at the moment. What we don’t recognize about that is that, in that moment, we are still the authority. When we decide if we are going to listen to God, or others, we are the authority because we are going to do what we want.
When we humans are in authority, the reality is that there is no absolute right or wrong and there is no basis for saying that something like student/teacher sex is OK or not. There just isn’t. And yet, these parents, experts, and law makers all know on a gut level that this is wrong. Why is that? Consider Paul’s words from Romans 2.
“for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them”
We know when something is right or wrong because God put it there. We can become numb to it over time, but it is still there. Got put this in every human being so that we might be drawn to Him. It is one of the many ways in which we are made in His image. The world knows. We know. God has already laid the groundwork. Use this “knowing” as a tool to reach out and share the message of new life in Jesus.
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