“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” — The Declaration of Independence.  This is one of the most quoted sentences from the Declaration of Independence.  It is a correct and masterful statement about the nature and source of our rights.

Many people talk about our rights without considering what the source of rights are or what the impact of a right may be on others.  We need to re-think the meaning of a right and what it entails.

A right is a claim to a thing, action, belief, or course of conduct.  You have property rights, religious rights, human rights, freedom of belief, freedom of conscience, rights of self protection, rights of self determination and self government, judicial rights, freedom of the press, parental and familial rights, and many other rights.  The source of these rights is our Creator.  Because our rights are a grant from our Creator, it places the risk of divine punishment for trampling those rights.

The God given rights we enjoy are liberating to us.  We have the freedom to do many things as long as we do not infringe on the rights of others.  Property rights protect the fruits of our labor.  Religious rights allow us to explore belief systems about the nature of the universe and the mystery of life, or to ignore these questions completely.  Our freedoms allow us to take responsibility for ourselves and make mistakes.

A competing and mistaken idea is that rights come from the government.  This is the idea that the government “allows” freedom of speech, freedom of worship, the right to bear arms, or ownership of private property.  Government does not GRANT rights but is supposed to PROTECT rights.  The Declaration of Independence puts it this way: “That to secure these [God given] rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

Because of this mistaken idea that the government gives us our rights we are in the middle of a debate about the “right” to healthcare.  How can this possibly be considered a right?

All of the rights that are recognized as coming from God do not place a financial obligation on any other person for that right to be honored.  The ‘right’ to healthcare would require someone to pay for the healthcare and the problem that is fueling the current debate is that healthcare is so expensive these days that people are unable to pay for it.  If a person is not able to pay for something now, it will not be magically better when the government is involved.  The money to pay for things will have to come from someone.  This is a right that would cause servitude rather than liberty.  There are no God given rights that require someone to pay for your care.  It should be handled through compassionate giving in a truly free market.

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