Hello again, from the great State of Florida! Periodically, I get the chance to answer some religious questions from folks who enjoy reading and studying. Recently, I listened to someone who asked a question which made me realize the necessity to write on this topic. No, I’m not talking about chickens and eggs; although, the analogy is not that far off. I am referring to the connection between self-government and religious and civil rights. Quite frequently, many think that civil and religious rights spring from self-government. In other words, because we are a free thinking and freedom loving people, it naturally flows that we would have a strong connection to keep our civil and religious rights. Because we believe in self-government, we would believe in our inalienable rights. Unfortunately, this reverses the flow of government substantially. That’s because religious and civil rights flow from one source. Once you understand them, you then understand the rule of self-government.
Let me explain. It was Alexander Hamilton who said: “But being ruined by taxes is not the worst you have to fear. What security would you have for your lives? How can any of you be sure you would have the free enjoyment of your religion long? Would you put your religion in the power of any set of men living? Remember civil and religious liberty always go together: if the foundation of the one be sapped, the other will fail of course.”1 Last month, we reviewed the difference between universal rights and Inalienable rights. Inalienable rights are given by God to every human, whether or not they believe in God. They cannot be taken away by anyone either. As a society we decide whether murder, rape, etc., are criminal enough in behavior to take away the life of someone.
Self-government springs from an innate reality, which the Almighty bestows upon us as human beings to be free. Which came first, religious and civil rights or the right and ability to self-govern ourselves? The belief in a creator is the first understanding mankind moves toward. The second is to live in a society with civil rights and to govern oneself accordingly. Many argue the cornerstone of this issue to be religious rights. Others argue for the chicken and egg riddle. Although, in God’s world, the chicken was spoken into existence with the egg and the ability for many eggs to come forth in one instance. So the answer is both. Once the chicken came into being so did the egg.
Ah, the bliss of semantics….until you realize what happens when society refuses to engage in self-government. Then you have chaos rampant on the streets and a disrespect for life and property. It is then that you realize what happened first was a disrespect for a creator. When we marginalize both the Creator and the People who believe in that Creator, life becomes marginalized and someone else’s property is little more than stuff to be trampled or stolen. When the Creator and the People who follow Him recite a rule— Do unto others as you would have them do unto you— we understand why it is important to honor those rules, the people believing them, as well as the Creator who birthed them. At that point we realize the argument is not just “semantics.” It holds real, and in some cases, dangerous consequences.
Those who would try to pick a war between Religious rights and Civil rights, claiming Religious rights are not necessary for self-government, are not doing so because they don’t understand the implications. Let’s state it clearly that there does not have to be a war between either. They can both work together by giving the conscientious objector their objection and providing those with civil rights their right. When you try to pick a war between them you do so in order to eventually destroy both. I leave you this month with some other quotes from our founding generation which highlight this understanding:
“. . . The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”2 Alexander Hamilton (Italics NOT mine, excerpt)
“No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of events and of the destiny of nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling-place allowed for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all of the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under his fostering care, their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and of self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained, they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of his benign interposition. During the interval which succeeded, he reared them into strength, and endowed therewith the resources which have enabled them to assert their national rights and to enhance their national character in another arduous conflict, which is now happily terminated by a peace and reconciliation with those who have been our enemies. And to the same Divine Author of every good and perfect gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.”3 James Madison
“Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?”4 George Washington
1. Alexander Hamilton (December 15, 1774) “A Full Vindication” in “The Works of Alexander Hamilton” Edited by John C. Hamilton. Volume 2 (New York: John F. Trow, 1850) 25, 26. Public domain
2. “The Farmer Refuted, &c., [23 February] 1775” In “The Works of Alexander Hamilton” Edited by Henry Cabot Lodge. Vol. 2 (New York and London: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904)
3. Benjamin Franklin Morris. “Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic.” (Introduction by Byron Sunderland, Washington, D.C., April 16, 1863) Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 628 & 630 Chestnut St., Cincinnati: Rickey & Carroll (1864) 550. In the public domain. See also page eight for the long list of original sources the author consulted.
4. <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp> Site © 2008 Lillian Goldman Law Library, New Haven, CT. Accessed 2/5/16.