A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Moral turpitude

Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or have been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or have been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?

This is a question I have to answer every time I apply to visit the USA. (See here for the questionnaire they ask non-US citizens who are applying under the ESTA visa waiver program.)

When I first read this question I had no idea what moral turpitude was, though I could vaguel remember having come across it  in  eighteenth or nineteenth century novels. So naturally I went Wikipedia.  Here is an extract of  Wikipedia’s definition of Moral Turpitude:

Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.” This term appears in U.S. immigration law beginning in the the 19th Century.

The concept of “moral turpitude” might escape precise definition, but it has been described as an “act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”

The classification of a crime or other conduct as constituting moral turpitude has significance in several areas of law. First, prior conviction of a crime of moral turpitude (or in some jurisdictions, “moral turpitude conduct”, even without a conviction) is considered to have a bearing on the honesty of a witness and might be used for purposes of the impeachment of witnesses. Second, offenses not involving moral turpitude may be grounds to deny or revoke state professional licenses such as a teaching credentials, licenses to practice law, or other licensed profession. Third, this concept is of great importance for immigration purposes in the United States, Canada, and some other countries, since offenses which are defined as involving moral turpitude are considered bars to immigration into the U.S.

U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9 lists many things that constitute moral turpitude as it relates to visa issuance. The list includes:

  • crimes against property;
  • crimes against governmental authority;
  • intentional distribution of controlled substances;
  • and attempts, aiding and abetting, accessories, and conspiracy in crimes which are deemed to involve moral turpitude.

But the part that will be of most interest to our readers is this:

Crimes committed against the person, family relationship, and sexual morality, which constitute moral turpitude as it relates to visa issuance include:

  1. Abandonment of a minor child (if willful and resulting in the destitution of the child)
  2. Adultery (see INA 101(f)(2) repealed by Public Law 97-116)
  3. Assault (this crime is broken down into several categories, which involve moral turpitude): (a) Assault with intent to kill; (b) Assault with intent to commit rape; (c) Assault with intent to commit robbery; (d) Assault with intent to commit serious bodily harm; and (e) Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon
  4. Bigamy
  5. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
  6. Gross indecency
  7. Incest
  8. Kidnapping
  9. Lewdness
  10. Manslaughter: (a) Voluntary (b) Involuntary
  11. Mayhem
  12. Murder
  13. Pandering
  14. Possession of child pornography
  15. Prostitution
  16. Rape

The Foreign Affairs Manual says the person must have been convicted of the crime(s) or have admitted under oath to the commission of the crime, while being questioned by an officer of the US Dept of Foreign Affairs. But interestingly, the question I have to answer whenever I make my travel application is whether I had ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude. I wonder how many people admit to having been arrested for such a crime, when they have not been convicted. Not many, I would guess!

But more to the point, what if the USA applied the same standard of strictness to its own citizens as it does to aliens who want to visit the USA? It would have to boot many of its citizens off into the ocean. Can you imagine? All the people guilty of moral turpitude would be removed and what an improvement that would make to American society! (or to any society, for that matter . . . )

And can you imagine a society which contained not one person who was guilty of moral turpitude in the eyes of the omniscient God of the universe? A culture where no such people existed except those who had been set free from the penalty of their sin by the blood of Christ and had been given new hearts and new life so they did not commit moral turpitude any more. Oh, come quickly, Lord Jesus! And repent, sinner, before it’s too late!


  1. AH joy!!!

  2. Wendell G

    The US has fallen significantly in the last few decades. In fact, here in Texas, sodomy was a crime of moral turpitude until the Supreme Court overturned the law as being discriminatory against homosexuals.

    We transitioned from a society that was heavily influenced by the Judeo/Christian ethic to a thoroughly secularized post-modern society years ago. To those of us who have lived through this transition, it has been very disheartening.

    No, we were never perfect and many injustices were done in secret, but now, greater injustices are done publicly and with full approval of much of the populace. Politicians will not fix the problems, and similar to the issues with good and bad kings of Israel, without the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the population, we will continue to slide into oblivion.

    Even the ability to do that is under attack openly as our Pentagon has declared that any Christian soldier or chaplain that shares his faith is to be court martialed! A football player who is open about his faith is castigated, while a gay basketball player is celebrated. I weep for us!

    • Wendell, one point of correction: I believe that there is a man advocating of court marshaling for sharing faith, but thus far he is a fringe voice.

      • Wendell G

        Jeff, you are correct. The last information I had yesterday morning indicated this was true, but the Pentagon later yesterday said it was not. I had not read that report until you mentioned the discrepancy.

      • It’s a scary thought, though. This guy sees sharing faith as a direct threat against the US. He may be fringe today, but it’s out there and a real voice.

  3. katy

    We’ve got enough evil lying dirtbags in our government and population- I guess we try to keep the rest of the world’s evil people from coming here, not that it matters.

  4. The sad truth is that much of the professing church will not seriously discipline for most crimes listed as 1-16. The probable exception is murder. I brought evidence of several of the crimes from the list to the church hoping they would discipline my husband, but they turned a blind eye to them, choosing to ‘fix the marriage’ instead-meaning I needed to submit to his actions.

    Wouldn’t it be great if the church would take the same standard of strictness against crime that the government does? Why is the state of morality as bad within the church as outside of it? What if the church actually discipined for such crimes and took a stand for righteousness within the church itself? Only then will the church be the salt and light that Christ calls it to be.

    My experience has convinced me that the government is doing a better job to hold people to accountability than the ‘c’hurch. If the Judeo-Christian influence is waning in America, the ‘c’hurch is largely to blame.

    • Wendell G

      Persistent Widow, I have found that too many people in church are more interested in being liked and being seen as moderate and reasonable to take a stand on things. Controversy breeds bad feelings and offense, and churches don’t like that, How often have we not taken a stand on something that the Bible clearly says is sin because it just doesn’t seem right that a loving God will condemn someone for being the way they are? We don’t want to be considered a bunch of fundamentalist meanies!

      In other cases, it is ok to condemn the world for its sin, but if that sin enters into the church (as it will), then they would rather sweep it under the rug rather than aggressively deal with it. Yet, we are always quick to condemn our brother/sister for the slightest breach of any minor doctrine or behavior. Sound like pharisees yet?

      • katy

        It never ceases to amaze me that God has allowed humans to flounder around for the last 2,000 years, churches have gotten no better than in the days of Paul, and in fact we continue to set up these monuments to sin and call them “churches”. While I know that God’s people are always present and always being preserved, you start to wonder what is the point of such a…..messy, ineffectual, not-so-efficient manner of gathering in the flock.
        SO many questions. so much confusion. and yet so little time, since our lives are short.

      • Wendell G

        The simple answer is that we are all humans and when humans get involved in anything, we want to control it, organize it and morph it into our own flawed image of what it should be. We do the same thing with God. We anthropomorphize and anthropopathize Him to look like our concept of what God should be. We ascribe to Him our political beliefs as if to lend credence to our own agenda. We do the same thing doctrinally and in other areas.

        We are flawed creatures, trying to cope in a system that is destined to be flawed this side of eternity, yet like Elijah, there is always a remnant. True followers who worship God in spirit and in truth (though even then we can’t always be perfect).

        Honestly, I think one of the worst things that could have happened to the church was Constantine legalizing it and making it the official religion of Rome. While many enjoyed religious freedom after that, Christianity became too easy and this act encouraged people to build edifices to men and try to please the emperor rather than God. We set up structures that rivaled those of the pharisees and sadducees, making the path to holiness a bureaucratic struggle rather than the simple act of faith and obedience that it truly is.

        Why has God let it go on so long? I guess that depends on your eschatalogical viewpoint, at least partially. Some believe He is waiting until all language groups have had an opportunity to hear about Christ. Others feel that He is simply letting the iniquity of the world (and church) become full. I can’t say for sure. I do know that this is what we have and we try to do the best we can in it until He returns or calls us home!

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