Ina Hughs: Rights come from governmen...

Ina Hughs: Rights come from government, not God

There are 7 comments on the story from Aug 24, 2012, titled Ina Hughs: Rights come from government, not God. In it, reports that:

"Our rights come from God and nature, not from government."

Those words brought rousing ovations in Norfolk, Va., as Paul Ryan accepted his candidacy as Mitt Romney's running mate.

But even high-octane tea drinkers from the Grand Old Party surely don't intend for our government to renege on its responsibility to ensure not only our civil rights, but our safety, our productivity, our well-being and our freedom.

Join the discussion below, or

“I Am No One Else”

Since: Apr 12


#1 Aug 24, 2012
Good article.

Hamilton, UK

#2 Aug 24, 2012
And concommitant with rights are responsibilities for government to be inclusive and fair.

A secular government and democracy inclusive of all ciitizens is essential, regardless of religions.

“ecrasez l'infame”

Since: May 08

Atlanta, Georgia

#3 Aug 24, 2012
Our Constitution is remarkable exactly because it was the first time that any government declared that it's right to govern came not from some deity but very specifically from "WE THE PEOPLE".

“It's just a box of rain...”

Since: May 07

Knoxville, TN

#4 Aug 24, 2012
Some people believe that human rights are inherent and independent of human societal decisions. If that were true, those rights would have existed from the very moment that a distinctly human species diverged from the rest of the great apes.

I don't see any evidence that they did. Rather, I see human rights as a product of social order, specifically of the agreements that we make with each other. That social order has changed and developed a great deal over the course of recorded history. Only since the end of WWII have worldwide standards been adopted and progressively developed by the member nations if the U.N. in the form of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and such subsequent proclamations as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Even now, more than sixty years later, these rights are only spottily honored or even recognized.

From international to local levels, though, human rights are defined by law, not by God or any other extralegal sources. Realizing this would help many to distinguish between real rights and imaginary ones and to know when it is necessary to work to make some of those imaginary rights real. Many believe that gays, for instance, ought to have the right to marry and have those marriages recognized and respected in such legal processes as inheritance, medical decisions, adoption, tax status, insurance, pensions, and social security benefits. But they don't and won't until those rights are written into the law, enforced by the law enforcement agencies, and protected by the courts.

Universal suffrage came about slowly, for example, even after laws were in place to allow it, along with most of the civil rights put into place to protect minorities from many forms of discrimination. If these rights came from God, they would have been in place from the beginning of human history. Millennia during which slavery was universally practiced are sufficient evidence that would care about rights even if He actually existed.

Our rights come from each other. We, the People.

Glendale, OR

#5 Aug 24, 2012
Rights are not given.You have to take them and then keep them. People demand that their government make laws to give them rights. In some countries, like in a democracy, we have rights. In others, people demand rights but are shot for asking. In religion, you only get Last Rights.

Lowell, MA

#6 Aug 25, 2012
Rights do not come from the government. To say that they do stands the theory of the founding fathers on its head. The founding fathers believed that rights were an inherent part of our humanity, The theists among them believed that rights were endowed by a creator, but it is equally as valid to say that rights are our legacy as human beings. The founding fathers believed in a "social compact" where citizens ceded some portion of their inherent rights to government for the purpose of allowing government to carry out tasks like national defense, prosecution of crime and maintaining the rule of law which no individual could accomplish alone.

This is in direct contradiction to the 'divine right of kings' which held that kings were chosen by god, ruled through the power given them by god, and held all rights. Under that theory, the king, as the government, was the source of rights, as he, alone, decided what portion of his absolute power to cede to those below him.

The obvious danger in asserting that the government is the source of rights is the fact that what the government has the power to give, it also has the power to take away. If one believes that one has the right to free speech only because the government gave it to you, on what basis can you complain if the government decides to dispense with free speech? This view makes all rights subject to political expediency, and liable to be cancelled any time they become cumbersome to the efficient running of government.

Of course, having rights in the abstract is a different thing from having them in practice. It is the nature of government to encroach on liberty for the sake of efficiency. The Patriot Act is exhibit A for that proposition. Other governments have completely abrogated the rights of their citizens. In practice, the amount of rights citizens cede in the social compact depend on the extent of the people's love of liberty. There are always those among us who will trade their liberty for the illusion of security, just as there will always be governments willing to promise greater security, if only we will just give up a bit more of our freedom.

“It's just a box of rain...”

Since: May 07

Knoxville, TN

#7 Aug 26, 2012
One way to assess government's role in defining and protecting rights is to look at how well human rights are protected in the absence of government involvement or even when governments are the instruments of human rights abuses. Another is to compare timelines of the development of human rights and of the religions in the various societies around the world.

In the modern U.S., we recognize the the rights of racial minorities to be treated the same as their majority counterparts, but realizing this ideal has been slow and is still far from complete. While some religious groups have tried to lead the way in this process, overall, religion has impeded it, sometimes using undue influence over local governments to do so. One of the justifications for clearing Native Americans off of land wanted by European settlers was that they were "heathens." They were not protected by their religions or those of the settlers, but were treated as inferiors with no inherent human rights. The Africans who were imported as slaves fared little better. While their survival was assured because of their economic value, their treatment depended entirely on the attitudes of their masters. Only government actions freed them and provided even the spotty protection of their rights over the century and a half since then. Advances towards equality for women have likewise been made possible by government actions.

All of these advances have been opposed by mainstream religion. It is clear that in the U.S., religion has lagged behind government in the promotion and protection of human rights.

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