jueves, 10 de septiembre de 2015

With positive law, rights change with governments ...

America Divided: Positive vs. Natural Law

by Shannon Holzer

America is divided, with a line that is drawn between two ideological camps. Each of these two camps perceives America radically different from the other. On the one side, there are those who see America built upon certain unchanging principles that are connected to God. That is, these people believe man to be created and endowed with certain inalienable rights. From the natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come other rights that are meant to preserve these rights. For example, the right to bear arms is a tertiary right that is instrumental in preserving one’s right to life and liberty. Moreover, one’s right to the free exercise of religion is instrumental in the preserving one’s pursuit of the good and virtuous life. In other words, it is necessary for one’s pursuit of happiness. It should be noted that these types of rights do not exist because they have been posited. Instead, they have been posited because they exist.

Ultimately, these rights are dependent on the existence of God. If God does not exist, then, of course, there is no God to endow man with inalienable rights. However, if there are in fact natural rights, then there is a God who endowed man with them. For how can an inanimate thing called “Nature” endow anyone with anything? If there is a God, then there is a need to recognize that where there are God-given rights, there are also God-given duties. One of these duties is for governments to preserve these rights, and citizens must volunteer themselves to be part of this effort. This requires the possibility of laying down one’s life for those whose rights he defends.

These natural/God-given rights are unchanging, and they apply to all humans, even if the government under which they live denies this fact. This means that American slaves had the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness even though the United States government denied that they possessed these rights. It was upon this premise that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rested his conclusion that “America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” The argument is that if God created all men as equals, as the Declaration of Independence claims, and the black man is human, then the black man is equal. This fact does not change with opinions or governments. The moral treatment of humans is judged by the unchanging principles of natural law. The Declaration’s acknowledgement of the equality of all men can very well be used to justify the American Civil War and the civil rights demands of the 1960s, which rectified, at least in part, the violations of the natural rights of African-Americans.

It is from this understanding of American rights and principles that conservative moral positions emerge. 

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