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On the Origin of Rights

Courtesy: kathleenallisonopinion.blogspot.com

Via Breitbart: In a rather contentious interview between CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore over the debate on gay marriage in America, the following was said:

MOORE: I believe that’s a matter of law because our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God. It’s clearly stated –

CUOMO: Our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.

MOORE: Let me ask you one question. Let me ask you one question, Chris. Is the Declaration of Independence law?

CUOMO: You would call it organic law as a basis for future laws off of it?

MOORE: I would call it the organic law because the United States code calls it organic law. It is organic law because the law of this country calls it the organic law of the country means where our rights come from. And if they come from there, men can’t take it away.

CUOMO: Our rights do not come from God. That’s your faith. That’s my faith, but not our country. Our laws come from the collective agreement and compromise.

MOORE: It’s not a matter of faith, sir. It’s a matter of organic law, which states, ‘We hold these truths to be held equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ And the only role of government is stated in the next sentence is to secure those rights for us. The government starts taking those rights away from us, then it’s not securing and it is defiling the whole purpose of government.

Suspending the discussion over gay marriage, Mr. Cuomo is in desperate need of a lesson in civics and culture of the American variety.

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads thusly:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

We as Americans take these words (as well as the rest of our founding documents and rich history) so seriously that the Declaration, per se, has had its own history of safekeeping (as also implied by the lead amateur photo on this post).

No matter the subject, if we do not agree that American law has its basis in unalienable rights that come from God, then we do not understand the American experiment.

In fact, while some might argue that one cannot legislate morality, it is my view that America has already done so. In fact, to call something by law either right or wrong is, by definition, legislating morality; the question at that point is only whose morality is one codifying.

So, if a reporter or news anchor proceeds to vehemently defend their premise that our rights don’t originate in God, I don’t see how such an individual can be taken seriously on the subject of discussing American jurisprudence.

The real genius of the American Constitution is that while its basis is in the presumption of a Creator (an implication of personality, versus simply a god) who universally creates humanity with individual rights from whom it would be immoral to deny such rights, such a moral government has the duty and obligation to be the disinterested third party arbitrating individual disputes in such a way as to not disenfranchise individuals of their belief system nor each other, and that even such a government is beholden to the individual. This, by the way, is protection for the ultimate minority — that of the individual.

Any such discussion of rights, power and authority having to do with the American system of government must presume a basis in a moral lawgiver, otherwise there is no objective, transcendant frame of reference for moral conduct.

Scarily enough, going even further in this fundamental discussion, dare we say that such inalienable rights are not exclusively American?

In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. In the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

— (possibly) Alexis de Tocqueville

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