Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee

Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee August 14, 2013


In America, almost nobody has read the Constitution.

But …

Everybody is a Supreme Court justice.

Americans tend to regard the Constitution in much the same way they do God: As a true and absolute reflection of themselves. Americans think that God is made in their image, and they also think that their Constitutional rights are exactly what they want them to be. They include in this, oddly enough, the fact that those Constitutional rights do not belong to other Americans, but to them, or at most, their group, alone.

This willingness to abrogate the rights of other people on the basis of self-serving and entirely bogus Constitutionality is not only false, it is of fairly recent origin. It is also concentrated in the arguments of a few groups of people that I call (paraphrasing Mary Ann Glendon) “rights talkers.”

I don’t remember reading anything Martin Luther King, Jr ever said that implied that the Constitution did not apply to white people, native Americans, or anyone, for that matter. His arguments were based on the idea that the Gospels of Christ, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution applied to everyone.

His method of arguing his case elevated the debate of this whole nation. He made us better people by what he said and what he did.

But Martin Luther King was a great man and a Christian man who found his primary and basic claim to the humanity of all people first and foremost in the Gospels of Christ.

That is a transcendent difference between him and the rights talkers of today.

I think the change began with abortion.

There is no possible way that anyone can argue for the “right” to commit wholesale slaughter against a whole class of people without totally nullifying the basis of Martin Luther King’s arguments. His call for equality was based on a deep understanding of the essential equality of all humanity, created as it is in the image and likeness of God, and endowed, as our founding documents say, by that Creator with certain unalienable rights. Abortion on demand does away with that premise as an arguable point.

There can be no equality of human beings if some human beings are not even considered worthy of having a basic right to life.

The debate about legalized abortion opened the doorway for the bastardization of the basic principles on which this country stands. It was but a short step after that to begin redefining the freedoms we have always regarded as belonging universally to all Americans in new, selective and narrowed ways.

People who try to argue for human rights without access to the foundation of all human rights, which is our profound equality before God, end up discriminating. They very quickly begin to advocate for practices which are not only discriminatory, but are flat-out tyrannical.

Since the types of things and the manner of debate that is employed by these people almost by definition puts them at odds with the Christian ethos of the equality of humanity, they also put them at odds with Christians, themselves. Abortion, the killing of unborn infants, is anathema to Christians who have from the beginning of the faith stood against human sacrifice of all types, including the practices of abandoning and exposing unwanted infants.

The split in our civil society began when that civil society departed from its roots to enter into the violent discrimination against an entire class of human beings by defining them as non-humans who may be killed with impunity. Those who adhered to this logic sheared themselves loose from the moorings of American society.

As their various “rights movements” took shape, they were always rooted in other soil than the great American enterprise of freedom and equality for all humanity.

For two hundred years this idea of freedom and equality had marched forward, expanding as it went. The founding fathers made tortured accommodations to slavery which could not stand. We fought a great civil war over slavery in particular, and the principles in the ideas on which this country was founded in general. Women, half the people, used the freedoms in the Constitution and the arguments in the Gospels to gain voting rights for themselves. Martin Luther King based an ultimately successful case with the American people for an end to segregation on them.

But these new “rights” movements of the last quarter of the 20th century and now into the 21st century cut themselves loose from the essential American logic at abortion. All people were no longer created equal in their way of measuring such things. And they certainly were not endowed by their Creator with certain rights such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Clearly, in the logic of those who follow abortion, not everyone is entitled to the same rights. More to the point, this iron wall of the God of Gospels on Whom such ideas of the universal equality of all humanity are based, must be taken down, by force if necessary.

It was, and it is, either Jesus Christ or their right to kill with impunity. The two cannot coexist.

What has grown out of this ethos is a deadly rhetorical stew of bad ideas and bastardized Constitutionalism that seeks to apply the bill of rights to those who hold certain ideas and to withdraw those rights from those who disagree with them.

Traditional Christianity as it has been taught and practiced for 2,000 years can not and will not bend on questions that strike to the heart of what we are. The question of who is human is simple in Christianity. We are all human. The question of who matters is equally simple. We all matter.

No group that agitates for their “rights” need look further than that for their arguments.

However, if the definition of those “rights” begins to tamper with the essential question of who a human is in ways that deny the basic moral structure of functioning humanity, then they no longer have access to the Gospels as their support. That is what has happened in contemporary America.

The result has been that we find claims to “rights” that do not exist, either in the Gospels, or the Constitution. These so-called “rights” are not “rights” at all, but rather a limitation of the Constitutional guarantees found in the First Amendment.

Suddenly, we are faced with people who use rhetorical film-flam phrases which align in sound but not meaning to American values and freedoms to claim that Christians do not have the same rights that other Americans enjoy. Christians who engage the larger culture by use of free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to petition their government are accused of attempting to “force their religion on others.”

Christians who work together in groups, which is a clearly guaranteed Constitutional right used by every “rights talker” who is attacking them for doing it, are suddenly accused of violating “separation of church and state” and threatened with the tax man bogeyman.

At the same time, any “rights talker” group whose 501c3 status was challenged would yell about their “rights” and “freedoms.”

The question becomes do Christians have the same rights as other citizens?

Do Christians have the right to free assembly? Do Christians have the right to free speech? Do Christians have the right to petition their government?

The right to free assembly goes deeper, since people who attack the Constitutional rights of Christians are also actively seeking to limit the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. They do this based on a hypothetical construct we like to call separation of church and state. Separation of church and state does not appear in the Constitution.

What does appear is a prohibition against the government passing laws to form a state religion and a prohibition of the government passing laws to interfere with the free exercise of religion. This is found in the same amendment that gives us our rights to freedom of speech, assembly and to petition the government. It reads like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

The courts have looked deep into their own navels in the past half century and created a “wall of separation between church and state.” They have increasingly determined that is “wall” that they created means that the government has a duty to censor religious free speech of all types, and religious freedom of assembly in public places ranging from schools, to athletic events to parks.

At the same time, our president has pushed the government into the business of coercing religious people to violate their beliefs, including beliefs based on 2,000 years of constant Christian teaching, under the guise of the HHS Mandate. There is also a combative and often hectoring subset of our population who try to break up Christian discussions on on-line web-sites and/or in public debate.

These people always seem to toss around phrases such as “freedom of worship” and “privacy of your own homes.” They seek to apply these limits to Christian activity. Christians, they tell us, have “freedom to worship” in their “own houses of worship” and to believe what they want “in their own homes.” But that they do not have the freedom to engage in public debate based on their beliefs the same as other citizens.

Christians who use their freedom of speech of speak out about their beliefs in the public square, or who organize to effect changes in policy by means of petitioning their government or exercising their right to vote are told that they are out of line. They are trying to “force their religion” on other people.

These exact same people are engaged in using their freedom of speech when they say these things. They are usually actively organizing into groups to seek redress in the courts and to petition their government.


But they do not want Christians to have the same freedoms. They want Constitutional rights for themselves, but not for those who disagree with them.

This rhetoric is rooted in the fact that these rights talkers are the intellectual heirs and political allies of the abortion movement. They are, at their core, convinced that some people are more equal than others. In fact, one of their founding principles is that whole classes of human beings are not human enough to have an inherent right to be alive.

No good thing can come from a philosophy that is built on this murderous idea.

It is not an accident that rights talk has morphed so seamlessly into demands for limitations of the basic rights of those who disagree with the rights talkers.

It is a natural and inevitable outgrowth of a philosophy that is based on the darkest sort of discrimination. I am talking about a form of discrimination so dark that it says that the murder of a whole class of human begins is a “human right” of the murderer.

So long as “rights talkers” deny the human rights of whole classes of people, they are incapable of creating a consistent philosophy of human rights for themselves or the world they are trying to create.

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26 responses to “Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee”

  1. The courts have looked deep into their own navels in the past half century and created a “wall of separation between church and state.”
    –Linda Hamilton, 2013

    Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

    –Thomas Jefferson, 1802

    Are you honestly trying to claim that the Wall of Separation is a new invention of liberal judicial activism?

    The question becomes do Christians have the same rights as other citizens?

    Yep. They sure do. Always have, always will.

  2. I don’t know who Linda Hamilton is. Are you trying to quote me?

    I was unaware of this Thomas Jefferson quote, which certainly would predate the court decisions I’m referencing.

    However, I do not think that the quote comes from either the Declaration or the Constitution.

    Given that, it is not the basis for a court decision, or it shouldn’t be.

    Assuming your date is correct, I believe that Jefferson may have said this while he was president. But that only makes it historic, not a matter of law. So, I guess even though I didn’t know about this quote (I’m assuming you’ve got it right.) it still hardly pertains.

  3. Whoops, really sorry about goofing on your name. Don’t know why I thought it was Linda. My bad.

    You honestly hadn’t heard of this quote? It was from a famous letter to the Danbury Baptists from Thomas Jefferson during his presidency. The Baptists were concerned about the dominant position of the Congregationalist Church in Connecticut politics, and Jefferson’s reply was to assure them that Church and State would be separate, so they had nothing to fear from the Congregationalists. It is the origin of the phrase “Wall of Separation between Church and State”, and it is by one of the Founders of our Republic. The phrase “Wall of Separation” does not appear in the rule of law, but the concept most certainly does, in the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. He is specifically referencing the Constitution in the quote above. I argue it pertains quote a bit to the conversation. It is a direct address of the subject matter, using the same terminology you unknowingly borrowed from Jefferson himself.

    This is a crucial concept within secularism: the separation of church and state isn’t an attempt to marginalize or attack religion. It is exactly the opposite: it is intended to protect religions from undue government influence. The “Wall of Separation” is your friend. 200 years ago, many prominent politicians were staunchly anti-Catholic (John Jay would have banned Catholics from getting into politics altogether, if he could help it), but the “Wall of Separation” you vilify protected them from such oppression, and now Roman Catholicism is a big player in American politics today. The “Wall” lets everyone have a voice, without any single religious group owning the debate.

    In the last 50 years, Roman Catholics have found themselves allied with the Evangelical Protestant Right for the first time in American history, over Roe v Wade. Now this alliance seems hell-bent on tearing down the “Wall” that protected their political expression in the first place. What happens when the “Wall” comes down? What happens when Evangelicals, who terrorized Catholics up until the 1970s, are allowed to establish state religions?

    Christians are roughly 75% of the American population. Every President, and the vast, vast majority of all the legislators, judges, and Governors now and at all points in American history have been Christians. As a non-Christian, I am truly astounded to sit here and read a Christian’s lengthy column questioning whether Christians have equal rights as Americans. As opposed to whom?!

  4. Ahh, Linda Hamilton was the actress in Terminator 2, which I watched the other day. Must be the reason the name was stuck in my head. Sorry again.

  5. I don’t recognize that quote either, doesn’t mean it’s not valid of course, but I haven’t run into it. But Jefferson, like all the founders was far more concerned with protecting the church from the government than he was protecting the government from the church. That shone forth from the letter to the Danbury Baptist Church clearly.

    A passing note on the Rev. Dr. King, there are few men that I class in the same rank as his namesake, the Rev. Dr. Luther, he is one of them. A wondrously great man, and a hero for us all.

    I agree with you categorically here, of course.

    Are you paying attention to Egypt? My friends in England say it is getting very bad.

  6. If not the quote, definitely his last statement rings true. Christians are not having their rights infringed upon. The HHS mandate doesn’t infringe upon the rights of anyone, but it does enable the rights of everyone. Consider that the church is not forced to pay for contraception, they are forced to pay for health insurance. It is up to the individual to decide if they wish to obtain contraception. What this law prevents is the church preventing people from obtaining a service that they desire for the single reason of “religious preference”.

    This is why you get pushback, contraception is a completely valid (and I would argue necessary health service) and though the church may disagree on the morals of its availability, it’s not within their power, and never should be within their power to limit its availability to the public. It is a legitimate health concern for individuals. (and before you say that it is abortion, it is most certainly not. Frankly its more like taking an aspirin for a headache, given that they often utilize natural hormones)

    As an individual you have the full right to state your opinions and even present your arguments in public debate as well as in the courthouse. That is not the issue. The issue is “Shall enact no Law”. So you can express all you want as an individual, but the second you allow a majority religious preference to be allowed on the grounds that it is purely religiously motivated and not based on the facts of the case, you only mirror the legal statutes of nations you most fear, which are governed by Islamic Sharia Law.

  7. This quote is from the letter to the Danbury Baptists and was reinforcing the non-establishment of a particular Christian Protestant denomination. Sven, don’t try to spin it otherwise.
    It was also saying the government needed to leave religion alone and not try to regulate faith and practice rather than the way it has been misused. And, that was a LETTER not legislation.

  8. There is a great difference between “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and prohibiting the free exercise of religion in politics.

    In fact, Thomas Jefferson seemed to be against what you want to do.

  9. That, and the court’s wall is around religious opinion, not religious action, unlike Jefferson’s wall which was around action of the government alone, not opinions of the people.

  10. I’ll try. I had a lot to say. Given your history of grossly misrepresenting my remarks, I erred on the side of verbose clarity.

  11. I agree with Rebecca that respect for human dignity, in particular, respect for the individual person, is essential to understanding human rights. Inescapably, this involves a discussion of human nature and our place in creation. If there is no human nature, then there is no inherent human dignity, and there is no inherent human rights.

    Rebecca’s point that Roe v. Wade has posed a challenge to the issue of human rights seems very accurate and very relevant to future discussions. Whether Roe v. Wade caused a sea change in attitudes about human rights…. I am not so sure.

    She mentioned the flawed foundation of our country, and the progress we have made in addressing equal rights. However, I am not sure that we have ever been firmly on the side of human and civil rights, despite the vision of Martin Luther King. Rather, as a nation, we have constantly struggled with ourselves to do better, and the path upward has been uneven. The US Supreme Court ruling which approved a state eugenics policy (Buck v Bell, 1927) is a case in point.

    I could go on at length, but I see Rebecca wants us to keep our comments short, so I will end it here. 🙂

  12. Yes, the employer has a choice. The employer can stop being an employer and sell the business to an employer that is willing to operate the business in alignment with the rules of the society.

    Restauranteurs had to sell their restaurants if they did not want to serve to people of color. Manufacturers had to sell their businesses if they didn’t want to hire and promote women fairly. Hoteliers had to sell their hotels if they did not want to provide accommodation for the handicapped. The Catholic Church will have to sell their hospitals and other businesses if they don’t want to allow their employees to make their own decisions with regard to their private medical care.

  13. “Christians who engage the larger culture by use of free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to petition their government are accused of attempting to “force their religion on others.” ”

    Well, they definitely are. There is no question about that. The question is whether or not they are allowed to do it. The answer is that they are allowed to try to force their religion on others by use of free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to petition their government. And they do. I wish they wouldn’t but I have no right to stop them. Neither does anyone else.

  14. This is an excellent article. It lays it all out in progression. However, to make the argument more involved, it would be good to say that it is contraception that preceded abortion that really is at the root of wrong thinking. When a woman contracepts then she already has the mentality that will morph into abortion if she becomes pregnant. What is contraception but the idea that she wants to be free of responsibility, free to do her own thing, free not to have to sacrifice for another person. Once that mentality is operating then it moves onto the next conquest. Abortion. Then rights of all sorts. Then the breakdown of marriage before it becomes homosexual acts are OK.

  15. Though there’s not much difference in their views, Madison serves as a more persuasive reference than Jefferson, given that the former was the primary influence for both Constitution and First Amendment.

  16. Respectfully, FW Ken, I don’t understand where in what I wrote above you found anything related to homosexuality.

  17. No one is forcing anyone to do anything. And no one is driving anyone out. But if it does not believe it can conscientiously comply with the law, the Catholic Church can sell its hospitals, schools, universities and charity organizations. And the church and its members have the right to protest and encourage that the law be changed.

    Of course, that would dramatically change the face of the church in the United States.

    Of its approximately $172 billion dollars in spending in the US by the Catholic church, according to The Economist magazine, $98.6 B is for health care, $48.8 B for colleges and universities, ~$11.0 B for parishes, dioceses and K-12 schools, $4.7 B for charity (2.7%), and $8.5 B for other.

    Given that the “other” is ministerial *, and a billion is for K-12, the complete divestment of Catholic non-ministerial businesses would leave total US Catholic Church spending at 18.5%* of its current level. *

    If the church health care tracks other US health care income, about 60-65 % comes from the taxpayers. Since 1946, all US hospitals have received federal support in return for treating poor patients (Hill-Burton Act). The $38 billion in Catholic health care spending (after taking out the ~62.5% from the government) represents 1.4% of the $2.6 trillion in US health care spending.

    Of the $4.7 B spent by “Catholic Charities USA,” ** 62% came from the taxpayers through contract services, which means just $1.8 B from other resources including church donors.

    Compare that to all $295 US charitable giving: individual donors: $222.89 billion, foundations: $36.5 billion, bequests: $22.91 billion, and corporations: $12.72 billion. It seems that there are a lot of other “decent people” doing a “significant fraction” in addition to the 0.6% provided the US Catholics through Catholic Charities USA. ***

    Of the 1 million total Catholic church employees, probably less than 15% are in ministerial functions, including 56,000 priests and deacons and 57,000 women religious.

    EDIT 1,5: Fixed some math (0.14% back to 1.4%) and added a colon. EDIT 2: * Corrected from “Assuming that half of the “other” is also non-ministerial businesses” and “8.5%”, and added new source link. EDIT 3: ** Fixed sixth paragraph which said “Catholic church charities, including “Catholic Charities USA” per same new source. EDIT 4: *** Fixed seventh paragraph, which previously said, “provided by the US Catholics.”

  18. First, I apologize for a wording error in my prior post, in the penultimate paragraph, I wrote, “the 0.6% provided the US Catholics” when I should have written, “provided by US Catholics through Catholic Charities USA.” If Rebecca allows, I will add a documented edit.

    Second, a correction is needed in fourth paragraph. I estimated that half of the “Other” from The Economist might be non-ministerial. Subsequent to my posting, I found this additional The Economist information, indicating all of “Other” is ministerial, yielding 18.5% in the case of complete divestment. If Rebecca allows, I will add a documented edit.

    Third, the sixth paragraph needs a wording change, from the above new source, to say “by “Catholic Charities USA”,” If Rebecca allows, I will add a documented edit.


    Moving on to FW Ken’s comment, I’m not quite sure why s/he is bringing up how relatively charitable people with different life stances may be. That is not relevant to the topic of this thread, which is the Catholic church’s non-ministerial businesses.

    FW Ken may be responding to my first error noted above. If so, I apologize again. My intention was to focus on the spending through the Catholic church that could be affected by disinvestments in non-ministerial businesses.

    I was not addressing other charitable giving through other channels by people who are Catholic because that would not likely be affected.


    Addressing FW Ken’s main point, “disobedience to unjust laws has a long history.” Yes, it does. And civil disobedience leads to civil consequences.

    The Catholic church will be fined if it does not comply with the law, increasingly so over time, and the government will find a way for the the church’s non-ministerial employees to have full access to the health care called for in the law anyway, which will probably be covered in part by the fines.

    If the Catholic church refuses to pay the fines, some of its business administrators may be jailed for contempt of court, and its hospitals will lose the > 60% of their revenues that come from the government, and its charities will lose the 62% that come from the government and its universities will lose access to government financial aid and research funds, and the church would be forced to sell them.

    Or, it is possible that the church’s on-going protests will sway the hearts and minds of Americans who will affect their legislators and then the law could be changed.

  19. I would guess FW Ken is thinking that charitable giving is germane to the issue because that is the source of the Church’s funding. The church charges enough to cover it’s expenses and probably some capital costs but its revenue is the collection plate.

    On the point of civil disobedience it’s a long history all right. From St Augustine to Magna Charta, the underground railroad, Ghandi, and the Civil Rights movement. Thanks for conceding the field, we like the company.

    No, I think it more likely that the law will collapse of its own weight, be repealed and then we can reform health care instead of doing big pharma crony capitalism.

  20. I agree with you in the main that “the church,” for any denomination, means the people. However, it is also true that, in a significant sense, “the church” also refers to a legal and financial entity (or cluster of entities that have various degrees of interconnection), the entity over which the US Conference of Bishops has control.

    You wrote: “That was long before these services became businesses.”

    That is true. But then they did become businesses. And they are, legally, businesses. A Catholic non-profit hospital and a secular non-profit hospital are, legally, two businesses of the same kind.

  21. To be fair, the American Humanist Association -does- raise funds for disaster relief.

    The amounts are fairly small, but I suspect most members donate through established charities which are better known for emergency aid e.g.the Red Cross