PUBLIC DEBATES: We don’t Know Our Rights

As regular readers may be aware, I listen to Glenn Beck.  I do not listen because I agree with him on all of his opinions (truth is, I seldom agree with him), but because I find that he is one of the few voices in media who is honestly seeking Truth.  Although I believe he often misses the ‘why‘ behind any given issue, he is usually pretty good at putting his finger on the ‘what‘ of that issue.  By this, I mean that Mr. Beck is good at identifying and properly framing an issue, but I seldom agree with his analysis as to the cause of that issue.  Here is an excellent example of a cases where Mr. Beck properly identifies a problem — the correct ‘what‘ of the issue —  but he completely misses the ‘why‘ behind it:

Glenn Beck: ‘None of us know the Bill of Rights’ — here are the disturbing statistics

[NOTE: There are some startling statistics in Mr. Beck’s piece (as well as a great video explanation of the issue).  I would strongly urge that everyone reading this post stop and take the time to read the story and watch the video — especially since the rest of this post will assume that the reader has done so.]

This will not be a lengthy post, because it doesn’t have to be.  Mr. Beck believes that our rights come from the Bill of Rights, and that the solution to the majority of our nation’s problems can be solved simply by restoring our understanding or and support for the Bill of Rights.  You see, Mr. Beck believes that the American ‘Left’ and the American ‘Right’ both still believe in these rights, and therefore, the Bill of Rights is the ‘common ground’ upon which the nation can seek to reconcile its differences.  But there are two major problems with Mr. Beck’s beliefs.

First, it is no longer clear that the American ‘Left’ still believes in or agrees with the rights that are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.  In fact, if we are to take them at their word, the American ‘Left’ is directly opposed to may of the protections in the Bill of Rights, and when it does express support for any of them, it has often re-written their meaning so that the original intent is no longer recognizable.  Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for a rational, objective observer to conclude there is any difference in the principles between the American ‘Left’ and the American ‘Right.’  The two sides may express fundamental differences in their respective Party platforms, but in practice, they show little difference.  Perhaps this explains why, in more recent times, the American ‘Right’ has demonstrated an indifference for the Bill of Rights equal to that of the American ‘Left?’  Either way, Mr. Beck’s assumption that the Bill of Rights is the common ground upon which all of America can come together is suspect, at best.

Then there is the more fundamental problem in Mr. Beck’s argument: that the Bill of Rights is the source and protection of our rights.  To be fair, Mr. Beck is not alone in this belief: a great many people believe the same thing — and they are all equally incorrect.

First, the Bill of Rights does not grant any right, it only asserts guarantees of protection of pre-existing rights: rights that existed before the Bill of Rights was written and adopted.

Second, the Bill of Rights protects both civil and Natural RightsCivil rights are those which are created by society.  In this case, they have been created by the People, through the Constitution.  Civil rights would include things such as the right to vote, the right to a trial, to a lawyer, etc.   But civil rights are not secured by the Bill of Rights or even the  U.S. Constitution;  they are secured under the principles of Natural Law.  The other rights protected by the Bill of Rights are Natural Rights.  Natural Rights include the right to life, liberty, property, etc.  Natural Rights are also secured under the principles of Natural Law.  Because Natural Rights are granted by the Creator, at the moment of our creation (i.e. conception), they are inalienable: meaning that they are an inseparable part of every individual.  Natural Law governs the relationship between Natural and Civil Rights, as well as the interactions of every individual.  It is through the Natural Right to Contract (i.e. the Social Contract) that civil rights are created.  That is all the U.S. Constitution is: a Social Contract between the People of the United States, created through their representatives of the several States of the United States.  The Bill of Rights is just a part of this Social Contract.

The U.S. Constitution grants and protects our Civil Rights.  Because they are Civil Rights (i.e. constructed rights), they are subject to change.  But neither the Bill of Rights nor the U.S. Constitution grant Natural Rights.  Those are granted by the Creator.  they do not change.  Nor can they be taken from or given away by the individual.  They are inalienable: an inherent part of each person that can no more be removed or controlled than their free will.  in addition, any trampling of these Natural Rights — unless in accordance with Natural Law — is a violation of those rights (and of Natural Law).   All of this is explained in the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the United States.  it is also the document which asserts the principles from which the People drew their authority to write and ratify both the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  Therefore, it is the Declaration of Independence that declares the ‘what‘ and the ‘why‘ of America: the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are merely the ‘how.’

Mr. Beck either does not understand the relationship here, or he has failed to explain it.  If he has failed to explain it, then he has undermined his entire argument by creating a false narrative.  If he does not understand the relationship, then he has failed in his attempt to restore America’s understanding of ‘rights.’  Either way, while Mr. Beck is correct — America has lost its understanding of rights and from where they come — he has focused on the wrong thing.  The Bill of Rights is not the point from where one must start to explain what a right is or from where it comes.  Once must start much farther back.  One must start here, with the free will of the individual.

This is the real root of this problem: it is not that we no longer know our rights, but that we no longer know what I right is or from where it comes — let alone how or why we must protect them.



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