I was talking to my communication law class today about virtue and law. In its Miami Herald vs. Tornillo decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a newspaper couldn’t be compelled to provide space for a “right of reply.” The High Court noted that “a responsible press is an undoubtedly desirable goal, but press responsibility is not mandated by the Constitution and like many other virtues it cannot be legislated.”

A good point. You can’t legislate a virtue because as soon as you do, it’s no longer a virtue — people are just following the law.

This story about a girl basketball team’s 100-0 win over an opponent illustrates the point well:

The private Christian school defeated Dallas Academy last week. Covenant was up 59-0 at halftime.

A parent who attended the game told The Associated Press that Covenant continued to make 3-pointers — even in the fourth quarter. She praised the Covenant players but said spectators and an assistant coach were cheering wildly as their team edged closer to 100 points.

There is no mercy rule in girls basketball that shortens the game or permits the clock to continue running when scores become lopsided. There is, however, “a golden rule” that should have applied in this contest, said Edd Burleson, the director of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. Both schools are members of this association, which oversees private school athletics in Texas.

There shouldn’t have to be a mercy rule. People should just know how to show mercy. That’s virtue.