Friday, December 18, 2009

If Our Rights Are Natural, Then Everybody Has Them Not Just Citizens

I had a good back and forth discussion with one of our Indiana Tea Party Patriots today.

Our good patriot friend said:

I mean the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, the natural rights bestowed upon us by God, our Creator. I believe our country does not/cannot give us rights..they are from God.

But then in a subsequent message added:

My concern is not to give terrorists the same constitutional rights that citizens have.

So, understanding that the debate over the current Guantanamo prisoners is terse and heated, I still waded in to the water a bit as I perceived a bit of circular logic here. I don't propose that true enemy combatants in a war should be granted the same privileges non combatant citizens enjoy; however, it did spark a train of thought related to the source of our rights and who has them. It occurred to me that there is a trap in the debate about the prisoners and whether or not they have rights. If you believe rights come from government and can be taken away, then you have to believe that the prisoners have no rights. If you believe we all are endowed with natural rights and that government does not grant them, then you have to accept that even prisoners accused of terrorism have a right to due process and fair treatment.

E-mail is never a great place for debate and for busy people the responses can often be quick, not well thought through or riddled with typos, but here is what I responded with:

Do people have rights guaranteed by the creator or not? If the rights come from, as you state, God (or whatever creative force one subscribes to) and not from our Constitution then do these people have rights or not? (I'm not taking a position either way - just confused by the circular logic).

I would argue that anyone has a right to face their accuser, be presented with evidence, given a fair and speedy trial and then either required to provide compensation/restitution for their crimes or set free. I would also be curious as to how many people we have in Gitmo who were captured just, as far as they were concerned, defending their country and were not really "terrorists". I don't trust anything the government tells us about anything or anyone anymore.

You can't invade a country and then accuse everyone who fights back of being a "terrorist". Most of the problem we have with modern terrorism is that these folks feel they are fighting back against U.S. hegemony. Unfortunately, they cross an unforgivable line when they target innocent people and private interests. Again, a lot of terrorism's roots lay in the response to actions most Americans are not even aware happened 'on their behalf'. The foreign foot soldiers may not know this, but their leaders and those that manipulate are keenly aware of their political and economic goals.

We fell right into their trap by spending trillions on these wars overseas that have contributed to tanking our economy and weakening our nation. They knew they couldn't win a military victory, but they knew they might get us economically eventually. They saw us do it to the U.S.S.R.

In all fairness, entitlements are ultimately the bill that we will not be able to pay; but, in an already weakened and debt ridden state tacking an extra couple (or few) trillion for war just isn't helpful. We should always be wary of the economic warfare, not just the physical warfare fought by troops and machinery.

Regardless of disagreements, it is oftentimes in conversations like these where thoughts, opinions, policies and approaches are forged. A far better source of belief, understanding and rationale than just parroting whatever the favorite partisan hack of the day is saying on the boob tube.


Mita said...

The words that refer to "all men are created equal" are in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. It was because the King of England was abusing his God-given authority that we had to establish a separate government, and our God-given rights and responsibilities supersede those of earthly authority, especially in cases of ungodly tyranny.

In regard to natural rights, yes, God does give everyone these rights as far as they keep the law of God, just as God gives natural consequences and the right of the meeting out of appropriate punishment by appointed/elected civil authority when a person violates those laws or the law of the land. This established authority is in line with the words in the second paragraph of the Declaration that talk about securing those rights and putting a civil government in place to make that security effective for the United States of America.

In the U.S. Constitution, the opening words are "We, The People of the United States..." so this document is specific in pointing out whom it covers with it's provisions and limitations. The document does not apply all Constitutional rights to peoples under the jurisdictions of other sovereign nations in a sense of granting the rights of a citizen, though it does provide for their treatment and gives them certain rights, but not full rights like citizens have. ( See )

Just as we do not transfer our citizenship to another country when we travel there, so the same applies to foreign nationals who come to our country - we do not provide automatic citizenship or the full benefits of citizenship to just anyone who happens to cross over our borders.

We should, however, treat people in a way that reflects our traditional Christian-Judeo worldview - that all people are made in the image of God and they will be rewarded for doing good and punished for doing evil - regardless of skin color, national origin or parental heritage, sex, religion, etc. because our laws (traditionally) are supposed to be based within the parameters of that worldview.

Mita said...

I should have added "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." in reference to the "all men are created equal' quote... my apologies.

Anonymous said...


If the Constitution is not the law of the land for everyone inside US jurisdiction, then where do we find it stated otherwise?

BTW, is there a separate legal document for the treatment of non-US citizens? And where do we draw the line for non-citizens? Anyone who is not a citizen? Anyone who is not a lawful Permanent Resident? Anyone who is not in posession of a currently valid visa? Who makes the decision?

Here's a scenario for you: A foreign individual is targetted by law enforcement for potential crimes. Law enforcement acts on it's ability to act against a foreign individual outside of the confines of our legal construct. The individual - who is deemed a potential terrorist threat - is detained and is prevented from achieving Constitutional protections that are not owed to him because he is a non-citizen who is accused of a crime. Except that the officers who executed the arrest entered the wrong apartment, detained wrong individual, and did not unravel these details for three days while the innocent victim sat in a cell with no contact with the legal system or the outside world.

It's my opinion that when the decision is made to divide our legal system into rules for the "have's" and rules for the "have nots", we are taking a bastardized course that places ALL OF US at risk when the potential for human error is part of the equation. If you break down the meaning of jurisdiction, you see that it is applied to a set of laws or authority over a body or region. At the moment, there is only one set of laws governing the United States. If you believe that there should be another set of laws for non-citizens, within the same jurisdiction, I suggest that you determine very specifically what that other set is, and how it will be applied so that the rest of us are protected from potential errors that may occur when that other set of laws is practiced.

Sean Shepard said...

I think the point is lost on Mita that we either have rights that come from "our creator" or "from government".

Is the suggestion that people in other countries have some other creator? Certainly, most of them think so but that is not germane to the discussion.