The War On Unalienable Rights
Some Left-wing journalists, politicians, and judges are engaged in a singular effort to overturn the central tenet of American rights and government, the concept of “unalienable rights” which should not be limited or abolished by elected officials.
Recently, news commentator Chris Cuomo disturbingly displayed what has become a major thrust of Progressive political philosophy.
The exchange, as described in the Washington Times: “It isn’t often that a member of the media reveals the philosophy behind his political ideology, but last week, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo outed himself. In an exchange with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore…Moore said ‘…our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God.’ Cuomo disagreed: ‘Our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.’ Obviously, Cuomo flunked civics….The framers of the Constitution clearly understood that in order to put certain rights out of the reach of government, whose power they wished to limit, those rights had to come from a place government could not reach.
If this exchange was an isolated incident, some might feel comfortable in ignoring it. However, that is clearly not the case. No less a person than an incoming United States Supreme Court Justice has also expressed a similar lack of respect for the central principle behind the entire structure of American government and law.
During the confirmation hearings of Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, Sen. Tom Coburn had a testy exchange in which he pushed her to state her belief in fundamental rights. She evaded answering.
Cuomo nor Kagan are not isolated examples. They are emblematic of a significant movement favoring the eliminating the concept of unalienable rights.
The primacy of unalienable rights in America’s governing concept is neither complex nor obscure. The Declaration of Independence is crystal clear, using these unambiguous words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…”
It is also enshrined in the Bill of Rights, which specifically states in Amendment 9:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Amendment 9 recognizes that the government only has those rights specifically provided in the Constitution. The concept of limited federal government is fortified as well by the Tenth Amendment:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Nor is the concept a Republican-partisan one. In his extraordinary inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy stated: “…the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
A study by Lonang Institute described unalienable rights as those that are
incapable of being lost or sold. Unalienable rights are retained despite government decrees to the contrary because civil government does not grant them in the first case. Moreover, no future generation may be disenfranchised of any unalienable right by the present generation…The Declaration translated the common principles of equality and unalienable rights into positive law. Civil government was and is obliged to observe the rule of legal equality. It must recognize that all human beings enjoy certain unalienable rights from God–rights that are not created by the civil government, but which that government is nevertheless obligated to protect to the extent that the people articulate such rights in their constitutions or statutes…The modern lament is even more sweeping. Not only are there philosophers who deny these principles, but their protégés are appointed to the judicial bench, they percolate through the state legislature and through Congress, they occupy the state house and [have occupied the] White House, and they teach and are taught in the law schools.
Originally published on the New York Analysis of Policy and Government.
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