Natural vs. Civil Rights

Natural Rights are not the same as civil rights.  This is another crucial distinction that is essential to understanding the principles of liberty.   Natural Rights are a part of Natural Law and, therefore, come from our Creator.  But civil rights are a part of human law and are created by man.  Thus, they are not and can never be equivalent.

We need to start this post by defining a Natural Right.  Fortunately, I have already written a post in which I derive and explain the definition of a Natural Right.  If you have not already read Defining Natural Rights, you should do so now, before continuing with the remainder of this post.  This post was written with the assumption that you have been following my explanation of natural rights from the beginning, so, if you have not read my post on the definition of a Natural Right, it is unlikely you will be able to fully understand the discussion that follows.

Now, we need to define a civil right.  As always, we start by looking at the definition of civil:

Definition of CIVIL

1a : of or relating to citizens

b : of or relating to the state or its citizenry <civil strife>

2a : civilized <civil society>

3a : of, relating to, or based on civil law

b : relating to private rights and to remedies sought by action or suit distinct from criminal proceedings

c : established by law

As you can see, civil pertains to matters of society: of the citizens of a given government.  In other words, Parties to the Social Contract which formed and govern a given community.  Therefore, a civil right is a right that is established by law as a function of the terms of a given Social Contract and not by Nature.  However, a civil right must be enacted in accordance with the constraints of Natural Law, as Natural Law governs the Social Contract from which all civil law draws its authority.  If a civil law attempts to create a right that would be a breach of Natural Rights, then it is not a law or a right because it violates Natural Law.  In essence, Natural Law can nullify man-made laws, and this includes civil rights.  So, as a general rule of thumb, we can define a civil right as a right constructed by a law enacted according to the terms of the Social Contract which formed and governs a community and which is in accord with the constraints of Natural law.  Some examples of a civil right would be the right to a speedy trial; to face your accuser; to a jury trial; to a lawyer; to call witnesses and present a defense; and, if you are convicted, to an appeal.

NOTE: Because a civil law is created by an act of legislation under the terms of the Social Contract which authorizes and supports whatever government passes the law creating it, a civil law is always subject to being changed or eliminated whereas a Natural Right can never be abridged or eliminated.

IMPORTANT: There are two other types of rights that are commonly confused with Natural and Civil Rights, and they are “human rights” and entitlements.  Ignorance of the distinction between Natural and Civil rights often opens the doors to those who would deceive to abuse these additional terms for the purpose of subverting Natural Law.  If we are to defend against such attempts to trample our individual rights and liberties, we must understand where and how “human rights” and entitlements fit into the distinction between Natural Rights and Civil Rights.

First, a human right is a Natural Right.  Because all humans have certain inalienable rights simply because they exist, how could this be otherwise?  Once again, I would direct you to my posts, Free Will: the First Principle of Natural Law and Defining Natural Rights. The threat here comes when someone tries to claim that human rights are something more; that they encompass things that – by their very nature – place a demand on the free will of another individual.  Some things that are commonly claimed as “human rights” but which are not rights at all would be a claim to have a right to food; housing; employment and health care.  One has a Natural Right to pursue these things, but not a right to be guaranteed these things.  Nor can one have a civil right to these things.  In both cases, claiming these things as a right would require that others provide something for you, which is a claim on their free will and, thus, a violation of Natural Rights and Natural Law.

The next thing that is often confused as a right is even more difficult to define because – under some circumstances — they are equivalent to a civil right, and these are entitlements.  Look at the definition of an entitlement:

Definition of ENTITLEMENT

1a : the state or condition of being entitled : right

b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract

2: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program

3: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

If one is due something according to the terms of a private contract; or the terms of a Social Contract set up and functioning within the constraints of Natural Law; or as a civil right duly passed by the terms of such a Social Contract; then that “entitlement” is actually a civil right.  It is legally due to that person as a function of that person’s Natural Right to contract.  However, if someone claims an entitlement that is outside the authority of the Social Contract, or which violates Natural law, then that which is claimed as an entitlement is neither an entitlement nor a civil right.  In other words, just because someone claims something is so doesn’t make it so.  It must meet the requirements of Natural Law, which is why it is essential that those who would protect and preserve individual rights and liberty understand the distinctions discussed in this post.

20 thoughts on “Natural vs. Civil Rights

  1. It’s very ironic that you wrote on this today. I actually dreamed last night that my pastor, who is a lib, was asking for donations for Obamacare (must’ve been an article I read.) Anyhow, I stood up in church in my dream to counter him…..probably due to your book on the two homos stuck on the island.

    That was a joke. It was only a joke. It will not explode in 5-4-3-2-KABOOM!! 😳

  2. So, Joe, let’s discuss the practical here.

    Civil rights — did the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s violate Natural Law in its assertions?

    Let’s start with that and then I’ll ask other questions stemming from this great post.

    BTW, the web filter at work will not allow me to access your posts via my personal laptop during lunch, which is why (for you) I dropped off the map the last few days. RNL has always been unaccessible during my lunch hour, but now RTC is too. They say you have malware. Just so you know.

    1. Aurora,

      This is a complicated question that I am not sure I can answer entirely correctly as it requires a very strong understanding of Natural Rights/Natural Law, and I will admit I am still working my way through the finer points. Still, I will try to give you an answer according to my best understanding of NR/NL.

      In short, the answer is yes…and no. Those parts of the Civil Rights Act that forced people to allow minorities full and equal access to the civil rights provided under the Social Contract we call the U.S. Constitution are in perfect agreement with Natural Law. This would include equal treatment under the law; the right to vote without obstruction; and the right to seek freedom to contract with others. It would also include equality in all things connected to the govt., such as access to education.

      HOWEVER, other parts of the Civil Rights Act do violate the principles of Natural Law. These include most things we think of us “affirmative action.” Under Natural Law, we have a Natural Right to freedom of association as well as the NR to contract. This means that none of us can give the government authority to force others to do business with or associate with anyone we do not want to associate with. This would mean that, while a school could not prohibit a minority from attending, the govt. can have no authority to force integration. Nor can the govt. force things such as “fair housing.” While discrimination is a violation of Natural Law because of our duty to treat the rights of every individual as sacred because they are a gift of our Creator, we still have free will and anything that forces another to do something against their will (when it does not directly cause physical or material harm) is a violation of Natural Law.

      So, to sum up: the Civil Rights Act is in accordance with Natural Law where it insures equality under the law and access to the terms of the Social Contract, it violates Natural Law when it tries to force a remedy — especially where you and I would have no Natural Right to do so in our private lives. That is probably the best way to test this issue: do I have a right to force you to like someone? Or to enter into a contract with them (i.e. do business in any way)? If not, then govt. can have no authority to force it, either.

      Does this answer your question?

      1. It does. It seems to me — and please correct me if I am wrong — that communities that had zoning laws that prohibited selling homes in certain neighborhoods to minorities were also violating NR. If bigoted whites didn’t want black people living next door to them, their only recourse should be to move or buy up all the houses near them to rent them whomever they prefer. Correct?

        1. Aurora,

          Correct. The distinction that must be kept in mind here is that it is a violation of Natural Law to use the govt. to discriminate, in cases like either zoning ordinances or forced busing. However, while it is still a violation of Natural Law to discriminate in the private sector (we violate our duty to our Creator), it is NOT the place of govt. to try to correct that sort of thing. If I want to be a bigot, govt. violates Natural Law by using the law to try and force me not to be a bigot.

          Do you see the distinction?

          1. I see the distinction, but I’ve had discussions with others who purported to understand natural law who would have argued the opposite — that it’s not okay for government to force integration, but it’s perfectly okay for government to protect neighborhoods at the neighborhood’s request.

          2. Aurora,

            Then they do NOT understand Natural Rights/Natural Law.

            NOTE: I did NOT say it is OK for govt. to force busing. I said it is appropriate for govt. to refuse to let govt. entities exclude people from their services just because of race. In this case, if a minority lived within a school district, that school could not exclude them — period. That would be a violation of Natural Law.

            Nor is it acceptable for govt. to help “protect” a community. Remember, if you cannot do it personally, then you cannot extend that authority to govt. — nor can you create it through govt. In this case, excluding people from your community based on race is still a violation of Natural Law, but not one that govt. has authority to interfere with as it causes no physical or material harm. In such a case, the matter is between those bigots and their maker.

          3. What about this Joe? I’m not disagreeing with you. I don’t know. Is this true?
            he Dred Scott Decision
            Digital History ID 293

            Author: Roger B. Taney


            In March 1857, the Supreme Court answered a question that Congress had evaded for decades: whether Congress had the power to prohibit slavery in the territories. The case originated in 1846, when a Missouri slave, Dred Scott, sued to gain his freedom. Scott argued that while he had been the slave of an army surgeon he had lived for four years in Illinois, a free state, and Wisconsin, a free territory, and that his residence on free soil had erased his slave status.

            All nine justices rendered separate opinions, but Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (1777-1864) delivered the opinion that expressed the position of the court’s majority. His opinion represented a judicial defense of the most extreme proslavery position. The Chief Justice made two sweeping rulings. The first was that Scott had no right to sue in federal court because neither slaves nor free blacks were citizens of the United States. At the time the Constitution was adopted, the Chief Justice wrote, blacks had been “regarded as beings of an inferior order” with “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” (In fact, some states did recognize free blacks as taxpayers and citizens at the time that the Constitution was adopted).

            Second, Taney declared that any law excluding slaves from the territories was a violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibition against the seizure of property without due process of law. The Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, he announced, because it prohibited slavery in the Louisiana Purchase north of 36º 30′.

            The Dred Scott decision was a major political miscalculation. In its ruling, the court sought to solve the slavery controversy once and for all. Instead, the court intensified sectional strife, undercut possible compromise solutions to the issue of slavery’s expansion, and weakened the moral authority of the judiciary.


            Mr. Chief Justice Taney delivered the opinion of the Court….

            In the opinion of the Court the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument….

            They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race….

            No one, we presume, supposes that any change in public opinion or feeling, in relation to this unfortunate race, in the civilized nations of Europe or in this country should induce the Court to give to the words of the Constitution a more liberal construction in their favor than they were intended to bear when the instrument was framed and adopted….

            And upon a full and careful consideration of the subject, the Court is of opinion that, upon the facts stated in the plea in abatement, Dred Scott was not a citizen of Missouri within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States and not entitled as such to sue in its courts….

            We proceed…to inquire whether the facts relied on by the plaintiff entitle him to his freedom….

            The act of Congress, upon which the plaintiff relies, declares that slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall be forever prohibited in all that part of the territory ceded by France, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude and not included within the limits of Missouri. And the difficulty which meets us…is whether Congress was authorized to pass this law under any of the powers granted to it by the Constitution….

            As there is no express regulation in the Constitution defining the power which the general government may exercise over the person or property of a citizen in a territory thus acquired, the Court must necessarily look to the provisions and principles of the Constitution, and its distribution of powers, for the rules and principles by which its decisions must be governed.

            Taking this rule to guide us, it may be safely assumed that citizens of the United States who migrate to a territory…cannot be ruled as mere colonists, dependent upon the will of the general government, and to be governed by any laws it may think proper to impose….

            For example, no one, we presume, will contend that Congress can make any law in a territory respecting the establishment of religion…or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press….

            These powers, and others…are…denied to the general government; and the rights of private property have been guarded with equal care….

            An act of Congress which deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property, without due process of law, merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular territory of the United States…could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law.

            The powers over person and property of which we speak are not only not granted to Congress but are in express terms denied and they are forbidden to exercise them…. And if Congress itself cannot due this…it could not authorize a territorial government to exercise them….

            It seems, however, to be supposed that there is a difference between property in a slave and other property….

            Now…the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the Constitution. The right to traffic in it, like an ordinary article of merchandise and property, was guaranteed to the citizens of the United States, in every state that might desire it, for twenty years. And the government in express terms is pledged to protect it in all future time if the slave escapes from his owner. This is done in plain words–too plain to be misunderstood. And no word can be found in the Constitution which gives Congress a greater power over slave property or which entitles property of that kind to less protection than property of any other description….

            Upon these considerations it is the opinion of the Court that the act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned is not warranted by the Constitution and is therefore void; and that neither Dred Scott himself, nor any of his family, were made free by being carried into this territory; even if they had been carried there by the owner with the intention of becoming a permanent resident.

          4. Will,

            I would suggest that what you have posted is a classic example of people failing to live up to the ideal. The Declaration makes no mention of skin color, and those who do not acknowledge that at least half of the founders were against slavery insert a fallacy into the equation. In fact, the infamous 3/5ths clause was designed to force the issue. Read his writing and you will find that Jefferson knew something like the Civil War was coming. That is what the quote on the Jefferson memorial is all about: our failure to live up to the ideal written into the Declaration of Independence.

            You can look at it this way: the Declaration and our failure to live up to the Natural Law ideal it expresses is akin to the Ten Commandments and man’s inability to live up to God’s ideal. We are flawed creatures, but so long as we shoot for the ideal, we are more likely to do good than harm. However, when we start to rationalize a path away from that ideal — as we did with slavery — that is when we go astray and become the instruments of mischief and evil.

            Anyway, I hope you can get something out of my rambling that helps answer your question.

          5. You forget the commerce clause. You want to be a bigot, then buy your private acerage and make sure that you are not using a single ounce of government support for your bigotry. No roads, no sewer system, no public access or you will, in effect, be taking someone’s taxes for the purpose of funding a government that denies them their NR.

          6. Are you a bigot, Chris? Because it sounds as though you meet your own definition.

            First, the commerce clause has been abused to the point of making it into a ‘free pass’ for the Federal government to put its nose into every aspect of our lives. This is NOT what it was intended to do. Heck, they have even said it covers things you do NOT do. If I do NOT grow a certain crop, this supposedly affects the price of crops in other States, so the feds say that by NOT growing the crop, they can use the commerce clause to punish me. So the commerce clause does not affect Natural vs Civil rights, except maybe that the govt. has abused its power to trample them.

            Next, the roads do not belong to the government. The government actually does not exist outside of the structure that was designed to enforce PROPER law. As such, it cannot and should not own anything more than what is absolutely necessary, and even then, it does not own it, it governs or cares for it. The PEOPLE own it, which means I have as much right to it as you. And again, this does not pertain to Natural vs. Civil rights, except maybe govt. overstepping its proper authority to claim ownership of something it does not own.

            As to the notion that I must “submit to tyranny” to use PUBLIC property: this does deal with Natural vs Civil rights. If tax payer money pays for it, then I can use it because it belong to me. You can use it for the same reason. This is what public means: it belongs, EQUALLY, to all citizens IN GOOD STANDING! This is a CIVIL right, created by our mutual participation in the Social Contract.

            But this also means you cannot dictate how I use the public property, nor can I restrict how you use it. So long as we do not destroy it or prevent others access to it, we all have an equal claim to it and to its use. Government’s role here is to insure that equal claim, which is a CIVIL right.

            Now note: you cannot then claim that this gives you or government the authority to trample the CIVIL OR NATURAL rights of others — as is the practice these days. That is an abuse of power and is outside the govt.’s authority.

            Finally, the implication that I am a bigot suggests that YOU are the actual bigot here. It also suggests you are ignorant as to what that term even means. You see, people have a NATURAL RIGHT to be bigots, but they do not have a Natural OR Civil right to force others NOT to be a bigot. In fact, you have a Natural Right to be a racist, just not to force your views on others. Those who do not understand and refuse to accept this and seek to use government to force people to change are the worse kind of bigots. They do not keep their prejudices to themselves. They force them on others while telling themselves 9and the world) that their actions prove they are somehow morally superior. Well, they are not. They are actually worse that the bigot or racist who keeps his prejudices to himself. But then, for some reason, I suspect you don’t care about the rights of others, only your own opinion. 🙂

      2. Very good answer. I have thought about these differences myself and thought that people would be better off demanding the government protect and enforce their natural rights, instead of demanding civil rights. . .which the government does not rall6y have the powers to grant.

  3. Hello, as an African American I intuitively theorized that we are not really citizens of the United States. We were emancipated from slavery under contractual civil law, not through a re-interpretation of the constitution based on the principles of natural law?
    The 13th and 14th were amendments? I’m guessing that an amendment expresses latitude of preference in terms of instituting or eliminating a mandate as long as it is within constitutional parameters; parameters which define the legal execution of such measures? But these measures are not bound by the constitution itself?

    1. Will,

      I see a couple problems with the way you view this issue. First and foremost, not all blacks were slaves. Many remained free throughout the entire life of this nation. Second, the founders who wanted to abolish slavery wrote the 3/5ths clause with the specific intent that it would lead to the end of slavery. Frederick Douglas even affirmed this — AFTER he actually read the Constitution and understood that the 3/5ths clause was intended to undermine slave States voting ability in Congress as the nation grew. Finally, slavery came tot he U.S. through the courts, and the law is and has always been at odds with the principles and ideals of the Constitution.

      So, all told, I cannot agree with your take on this. But you are free to disagree with me, as well. 🙂

  4. Here is a man defending himself with Natural Law. He is saying he was hungry and therefore he can legally forage for food. That is natural. What happen is he received a ticket for fishing without a license. Now his approach to the case is questionable, but shouldn’t be. I agree with his point. Natural law says he is hungry and therefore he should be able to feed himself, reasonably. Fishing is reasonable. Do I dare say even without a license? That would mean he would not be asking for or receiving welfare/food stamps. If he is a successful fisherman, then he would be no burden to the tax payer. Notice how the State ignores Natural Law because he broke Civil Law which is no fishing license. I find it shameful that the State ignores his point altogether.

    1. jmhadden,

      the State ignores his point because — if it acknowledges it — the State gives up the power it has seized from each of us. Where the State is concerned, the issue ALWAYS boils down to power and control.

      1. Yes Joe. I couldn’t agree more. Now how can a person fight against it? That Is the question we should be trying to find.

        1. jmhadden,

          The only way an individual can fight anything collectively based: by doing what you can do — every time. This is hard. It requires constant vigilance and a willingness to sacrifice. It means we do not do business with companies that support the collective — no matter how much we like and will miss their product. It means we do not vote for people we know are on the wrong side — even if that means the ‘other side’ will gain majority power. And it means we do not associate with those who support evil — even if it means we distance ourselves from friends and family. And we always, always stand up and speak out for what is right.

          Remember, people are watching, and when they see enough of us doing this, they will follow. But if we remain quiet, the only example they have to follow is that of evil…

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