freedomconscienceThis post is the second of a series. The first post was Why The Law Written In Our Hearts Is Not Enough. Here we discuss the nature of God-given rights.

What Are God-Given Rights?

Our Nation’s Founders Fought For God-Given Rights

Instead of just calling our rights God-given, we now call them “human rights”. Why? Well, here is the excuse.

Attributing human rights to God’s commands may give them a secure status at the metaphysical level, but in a very diverse world it does not make them practically secure. Billions of people do not believe in the God of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. If people do not believe in God, or in the sort of god that prescribes rights, then if you want to base human rights on theological beliefs you must persuade these people of a rights-supporting theological view. This is likely to be even harder than persuading them of human rights. Legal enactment at the national and international levels provides a far more secure status for practical purposes. (from here)

Is that what happened in the United States? Were people just persuaded without the benefit of theological support to respect each others rights? No. Consider.

Natural law was deemed to pre-exist actual social and political systems. Natural rights were thereby similarly presented as rights individuals possessed independently of society or polity. Natural rights were thereby presented as ultimately valid irrespective of whether they had achieved the recognition of any given political ruler or assembly. The quintessential exponent of this position was the 17th. Century philosopher John Locke and, in particular, the argument he outlined in his Two Treatises of Government (1688). At the centre of Locke’s argument is the claim that individuals possess natural rights, independently of the political recognition granted them by the state. These natural rights are possessed independently of, and prior to, the formation of any political community. Locke argued that natural rights flowed from natural law. Natural law originated from God. (from here)

The ideas, if not the words of John Locke, found their way into our Declaration of Independence. Here is a pertinent excerpt from the SECOND TREATISE OF GOVERNMENT by JOHN LOCKE.

Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom, and an uncontrouled enjoyment of all the rights and privileges of the law of nature, equally with any other man, or number of men in the world, hath by nature a power, not only to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men; but to judge of, and punish the breaches of that law in others, as he is persuaded the offence deserves, even with death itself, in crimes where the heinousness of the fact, in his opinion, requires it. But because no political society can be, nor subsist, without having in itself the power to preserve the property, and in order thereunto, punish the offences of all those of that society; there, and there only is political society, where every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the community in all cases that exclude him not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. (from here)

Those who founded our nation were familiar with John Lockes ideas. Hence, these words in the Declaration of Independence.

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, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (from here)

Complicated “Rights”

Our “rights” are growing more and more complicated. Positive Rights, the Constitution, and Conservatives and Moderate Libertarians By provides a relatively straightforward and tolerably brief explanation of the term “rights” from a legal/academic perspective.

What Volokh focuses upon in his presentation is something called positive rights. What are positive rights?  Volokh believes “positive” rights should remain limited, but we should not deny they exist. What are “positive” rights? Wikipedia provides this distinction between positive and negative rights.

Philosophers and political scientists make a distinction between negative and positive rights (not to be confused with the distinction between negative and positive liberties). According to this view, positive rights usually oblige action, whereas negative rights usually oblige inaction. These obligations may be of either a legal or moral character. The notion of positive and negative rights may also be applied to liberty rights. (continued here)

Basically, when we observe each others negative rights, we don’t commit crimes against each other. We don’t murder, rob, and enslave our neighbors. On the other hand, when the government insists that we observe other people’s positive rights, we have to give other people something. If we did not agree to give other people something and don’t want our government to give away our life, liberty, or property, that can be especially irksome.

This distinction between positive and negative rights is a 1979 invention by the Czech jurist Karel Vasak. Still unsatisfied by the additional complexity he had added, Vasak split our “rights” into three separate generations.

There are three overarching types of human rights norms: civil-political, socio-economic, and collective-developmental (Vasek, 1977). The first two, which represent potential claims of individual persons against the state, are firmly accepted norms identified in international treaties and conventions. The final type, which represents potential claims of peoples and groups against the state, is the most debated and lacks both legal and political recognition. Each of these types includes two further subtypes. Scholar Sumner B. Twiss delineates a typology: (continued here)

Effectively, first generation rights are negative rights, and the second and third generation “rights” are positive rights.

What is the problem with “positive rights”? Since Libertarians have a pretty good understanding of this issue, let’s hear from one. See the video below.

Prof. Aeon Skoble accepts the nomenclature of “positive” and “negative” rights, but he points out a basic problem with so-called “positive” rights. Unless government infringes upon people’s “negative” rights, government cannot guarantee anyone’s so-called “positive” rights.

Here is the problem in a nutshell.

Natural rights—or, as they have been un-euphoniously dubbed, “negative rights”—pertain to freedom from the uninvited interventions of others. Respect for negative rights requires merely that we abstain from pushing one another around. Positive rights, by contrast, require that we be provided with goods or services at the expense of other persons, which can only be accomplished by systematic coercion. This idea is also known as the doctrine of entitlements; that is, some people are said to be entitled to that which is earned by other people. (from here)

Biblical Support For God-Given Rights

The first book of the Bible speaks of human rights. Genesis 1:27 says we are each made in the image of God.

The image of God in man also means that murder is a most heinous crime. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, / by man shall his blood be shed; / for in the image of God / has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). The severity of the punishment underscores the severity of the offense. The Mosaic Law is full of examples of how God expects everyone to be treated humanely. The Ten Commandments contain prohibitions against murder, theft, coveting, adultery, and bearing false testimony. These five laws promote the ethical treatment of our fellow man. Other examples in the Law include commands to treat immigrants well (Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:33-34), to provide for the poor (Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 15:7-8), to grant interest-free loans to the poor (Exodus 22:25), and to release all indentured servants every fifty years (Leviticus 25:39-41). (from here)

Are there positive rights in the Bible? Not exactly. What the Bible speaks of is our responsibilities towards each other.  When Jesus told The Parable of the Good Samaritan, He gave us an example to follow, not a government program.

Consider this quote from John Quincy Adams.

Jesus Christ. . . . came to teach and not to compel. His law was a Law of Liberty. He left the human mind and human action free. — John Quincy Adams (from here and here)

Additional References


border.pngAt A REPLY TO NOVADEMOCRAT, I got a very worthwhile comment from plainandsimplecatholicism. I hope you will agree that it warrants your consideration. I believe ‘s comment provides an excellent springboard for a debate on immigration. Hence I have included my reply to comment and invite others, pro and con, to add their own thoughts to the comment thread.


I really don’t think it is appropriate to recreate my entire blog on this one post. It is a public blog and you are encouraged to read it.

The immigration issue is not one being properly addressed by either party. One side wishes to violate national sovereignty and the other wises to violate natural rights.

The key is to balance both interests without immense prejudice on one or the other. The boarder needs security. But even a militarized boarder–as East Germany and North Korea prove–are not a deterrent to the desperate. It requires a look at the root causes for the migrations. The root causes are a lack of authentic human development in impoverished nations south of us. The solutions thus far presented are to throw money at the problem and hope it goes away. (Or you support “fair and free elections” in El Salvador which gives legitimacy to the military dictator oppressing everyone. http://www.latinorebels.com/2016/02/11/why-hillary-clinton-doesnt-deserve-the-latino-vote2/)

You may ask why should we care about the banana republics and their problems. The answer is simple: Solidarity. Like it or not, we are all connected by our humanity. It was never the design of the creator that we be divided. Though we may not be united now in common worship of the Almighty due to our various misconceptions of the same, we can perceive our common humanity and the inherent dignity therein. It was Jefferson who immortalized in American philosophy the founding principle that ALL men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. When any human is denied these rights, we as humans have a duty to them inherent in the rights we share as humans.

August 8, 2016 at 9:56 am

Citizen Tom


You sort of explained what you think is wrong with both of the political party’s positions on immigration, but I wonder if you clearly explain your own. I believe you think that immigration is some sort of natural right, that it is unstoppable. I believe neither of those assertions is true. Moreover, The Declaration of Independence does not support a natural right to immigrate. If we are willing to do so, we have the capacity to control our borders. We just have to elect people who will do it.

Should we defer to the opinions of our Creator? Yes. Should we recognize each others natural rights? Yes. Should we recognize the natural rights of other Peoples? Yes.

Nevertheless, borders have significance. Without borders OUR GOVERNMENT cannot protect OUR natural rights. Why? Every country tends to have a distinct culture and its own ways. Our belief that we have God-given rights is part of OUR culture. It is not part of the culture of other Peoples.

The United States the home of the People of the United States. We, The People of the United States, have a distinct identity. For the sake of our children, we have a duty, an obligation, to protect that identity. We have a duty keep our country, our home, safe for OUR distinct culture, to preserve the blessings of our beliefs as a gift to our children. To maintain our own culture and to protect the security of our home, we have an obligation to properly control who enters our home.

So what about our solidarity with the Peoples of other nations? What about our common humanity? We love as individuals, not as nations. Individuals care, not governments. As individuals we can work to assist the poor in other nations through private charities.

Does our government have a role? Yes, but government rarely works well. Government is designed to exert force, not to persuade. Therefore, when we resort to government, we should do so in desperation. Otherwise, we are more likely to create bigger problems.

Because it exists to either make people do things they do not want to do or to keep people from doing things they want to do, government is powerful. However, government is organized as a committee of committees. So government is terribly awkward. Imagine trying to drive home a thumbtack with a huge sledge hammer. Doable but usually far more abusive than helpful.

August 8, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Why have I focused so much on this issue? Trump launched his candidacy with the attention he brought to the issue. Consider the angry nature of the debate. Consider that this issue could decide the election.

We can debate what Khizer Khan said at the Democratic Party’s National Convention until Dooms Day, but that won’t resolve the immigration debate. To intelligently resolve immigration debate, we have to talk about the ethics of immigration. Instead, we have one side beating the other over the head as bigots. At the same time, the so-called bigots are calling the name callers “politically correct”. Such a discussion is unlikely to produce good results.

What has done is calmly addressed the ethics of the matter, and I hope that strikes everyone as much more constructive place to start the discussion.


I got the following from Delegate Bob Marshall today.


Large majorities of Republicans in the US Congress support drafting women for combat based on their support of the House and Senate versions of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Acts.   There is still time to eliminate the provision to draft women from the final bill.

The Senate Committee NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) Report summary does not list the drafting of women for combat in the bill.  But, on page 11, it does acknowledge that:

”The NDAA includes a provision that amends the Military Selective Service Act to include women in the requirement to register for selective service, to the same extent men are currently required, beginning January 1, 2018. Because the Department of Defense has lifted the ban on women serving in ground combat units, the committee believes there is no further justification in limiting the duty to register under the Military Selective Service Act to men.”

The only Virginia Republican Congressman to vote against the NDAA was Morgan Griffith, while 237 House Republicans voted yes! Only four other Republicans voted no in the House, and only six of 54 Senate Republicans voted no.

Please ask Democrat Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who supported NDAA passage, as well as your own Congressperson whether or not they publicly supported a position in favor of drafting women into military ground combat when they last ran for office.  

This is the first time in American history such a radical policy has been approved by Congress. Where was the groundswell for, or even the public debate for this misguided radical policy which mandates that men and women must register for the draft on identical terms?

The Senate bill (John McCain, R-AZ) provides that after January 1, 2018 female citizens or legal residents 18 and over “shall be subject to such terms, conditions, and limitations as are applicable under the provisions of this Act to similarly situated male registrants …[because of] … the continuing need for a mechanism to draft large numbers of replacement combat troops.”

How can pregnant women (married or not) or young mothers, aged 18-26 avoid being drafted for combat duty under such provisions?  This is not a matter of young women voluntarily enlisting in the military.  This would be a mandate upon every young woman aged 18-26 whether or not they had any intention of ever serving in combat.

The House and Senate must approve final versions of the 2017 NDAA bill.  Please contact Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine and your own Congressperson today.  Firmly and with civility demand that they vote NO if provisions for drafting women are contained in the final NDAA bill, unless you are fine with having your daughters, granddaughters sisters and nieces conscripted into the military for front line ground combat!

I encourage you to contact Senators Kaine and Warner to voice your opinion on this issue.  You can contact each of them through their websites at the links or you can reach Senator Kaine at (202) 224-4024 and Senator Warner at (202)224-2023.    To find your Congressperson check out Who’s My Legislator.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  Thank you so much for your continuing support!


Delegate Bob Marshall

I have seen how the all-volunteer military operates. Therefore, I wonder why we need a draft. Draftees are people put into service whether they want to be or not. To keep them in their service, their masters don’t have to treat them well. Hence, I think any serious effort to return to a draft military would reveal that drafted soldiers are treated more poorly than volunteers (Has everyone forgotten Vietnam?). On the other hand, our volunteer military forces have demonstrated the capacity to fight both bravely and effectively. It is a civilian leaders who have failed.

At the same time, we have seen that even in a volunteer military it is too easy for men to abuse women. So why would we want to draft women?

What this effort tell me is that too many of our leaders don’t know what they are doing. They just want to look good so they can stay in office. So they do what seems popular to the news media. Yet if we ever institute a draft, drafting women will just create problems that will blow up in our faces.  The people in the news media don’t know anything about fighting a war.

Look at WWII. When they felt America was threatened, the Americans of the 1940’s fought bravely and effectively. Because they were so eager to fight their nation’s enemies, young men eagerly volunteered. Were some drafted? I suppose many were, but those who could not get in to the military were ashamed.  Hence, we effectively had a volunteer force. Yet hardly anyone seriously considered drafting women. Somebody had to stay at home. What needed to be done at home was just as important as what needed to be done at the front. And that involved much more than just rivets.

(from here)
(from here)

Yet a pretty girl flexing her muscles certainly draws attention and makes good copy. Imagine how cute she would look in Hollywood designed body armor waving a sexy assault weapon.


Image a day in the not so distant future. Uncle Sam wants you! Why? To be a bureaucrat. (picture from here)
Imagine a day in the not so distant future. Uncle Sam wants you! Why? To be a bureaucrat. (picture from here)

Because of the fact we have not taken sufficient care to make certain our children learn what they should learn, more and more we and our children worry far too much about “succeeding” in this world. More and more we do not give enough care to the next.

What has become our idea of success? That’s a secure, good-paying job; a sexy spouse with a secure, good-paying job; a couple of clean, smart and healthy children; a house in a beautiful neighborhood; a car the screams upper crust, ….

In modern America, success revolves around the worship of four idols: self, sex, stuff, and state. That’s why the ultimate job is with the government, a job that comes with power, prestige, and a large, steady income.

When people worship self, sex, stuff, and state; ethics do not much matter. What matters is might. Do I have the power and influence to get what I want?

Do we have to imagine what a society composed of people who worship self, sex, stuff, and state? No! We merely have to study the wars of the last century and the perils of this century. Because we are so dangerous to each other, war has always been among our greatest perils. So it is I wrote TWO DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT ATTITUDES TOWARDS CONFLICT RESOLUTION. What we worship determines our moral values, and there are essentially two extremes, two entirely different worldviews.

  • Might makes right: when we do not love our neighbor, we regard our neighbor on as an object. Objects have no rights. Objects exist only to be exploited.  When an object has something we want, then all that matters is whether we have the power to exploit that object.
  • Right makes might: when we love our neighbor, we want what is best for that person. Thus, we respect their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When love is mutual, we can achieve peace with relative ease. Then we seek to achieve peace by doing what is right.

So why talk about this again? When I read Life Debate ABC’s bymadblog, it occurred to me how well the controversies over slavery and abortion illustrate those two worldviews.

Those who believed in slavery — those who still believe in slavery — see others as objects to be used. The issue of exploitation is not so much a matter of law as ethics. Without sound ethical standards, the law is whatever those who want slaves say it is. Therefore, the Southern planters, determined to have and uphold their “right” to own slaves fought to extend slavery into the territories (twisting the Constitution with Dred Scott v. Sandford), eventually precipitating a war the president they rejected, dearly wanted to avoid.

Similarly, those determined to treat the unborn as objects found a here-to-fore unknown “right” in the Constitution (Roe v. Wade).  Whereas the slave masters argued that their slaves were subhuman and that people had always owned slaves, the abortionists argued the unborn are just blobs of flesh and that women had always aborted their children when they found them inconvenient.

Yet some will say an unborn child is clearly not human and a slave clearly is human. Really?

  • It is legal to abort a child until the moment of birth. What makes that moment so special?
  • Does a six month old infant have the capacity to speak. Isn’t that child still dependent. Is it not an offense to the rights of the caregiver — the mother — if she is not allowed to dispose of “it” as she wishes.
  • Did you know it use to be common for people to sell their children, even themselves, into slavery? Impoverish people are almost useless. If someone has to take care poor people, what is wrong with making them slaves?
  • What about women? Don’t women have to be protected? Don’t most societies recognize women are inferior? Don’t lots of people abort babies just because they are female? Why should a puny, emotional woman be given the full rights of citizen? Only weak men, men who love their ladies, would even consider such a thing.
  • And the old? Who wants to live in a nursing home anyway?

Yet consider the irony.  It is women who call themselves feminists who most vehemently argue for abortion, disdaining the unborn as fetuses. Is it not because of love that men are willing to treat women as their equals. What is loving about treating a baby, even at the moment of conception human, as an unwanted blob of flesh?  Why reject such a miracle of life from a loving God?

Does anyone know when a human being acquires rights, even God-given rights? Is it the moment of conception? The moment of birth? At 18 or 21 years of age. Why don’t we abort teenagers? Surely, teenagers can be lots of trouble and expense.  Until we choose to love each other as Jesus told us to love each other, do we have a good answer?