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A Declaration of Universal Rights
God the Creator made the world and everything in it. He is the Lord God, who is also Jesus Christ, King of all kings, Lord of all lords. God is Lord of all and governs all. He holds all authority, power, right, and justice. He alone is sovereign, and all things are his servants.
God created man in His own image, male and female, therefore all men are created equal. Man is God's servant, a creature completely dependent upon God for all things. Every man is under an absolute duty to his Creator to glorify and serve Him by living in His world as a steward of His creation, endeavoring fully to live in His image.
This duty which every man possesses is the basis of rights. Man's duties to God are rights toward other men. From the creation of the first man, God has given rules which govern the actions of all men; first concerning man's duties or obligations, second concerning their just claims or rights.
From one man, God made every nation of men to inhabit the whole earth. He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live and labor. God did this so men would seek Him, find Him, and acknowledge Him as the author of that which He has already made known to them, and by which their nations are also to be governed.
Since we are God's offspring, we should not think that His rules of action are made by our design or skill. Men, having been instructed by God, understand that they are bound to His service, and perceive that they are endowed by their Creator with certain universal, immutable, and inalienable rights.
Among these are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to acquire, possess, and protect property, and to pursue and obtain happiness and safety. To secure these and other rights, God has ordained government, and has given to men the authority to institute government. A people, as His stewards, have the duty and right to lay the foundation of government on just principles and organize its power according to their common consent.
This Declaration outlines rules of action declared by God with respect to rights. It does not, nor is it intended to, institute a civil government, constitution, or any form thereof.
The preamble is based on the understanding that from one man, God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live and labor. God did this so men would seek Him, find Him, and acknowledge Him as the author of that which He has already made known to them, and by which their nations are also to be governed.
Therefore, since we are God's offspring, we should not think that His rules of action are in fact made by our design or skill. But men, having been instructed by God, perceive that they are endowed by their Creator with certain immutable and inalienable rights.
That among these rights are the enjoyment and defense of life and liberty, the means of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That to secure these and other rights, God institutes governments among men, leaving to their consent its foundation on such principles and organization of its just powers in such ways as the people believe will secure their inalienable rights.
It is an axiom that rights are a function of duties and that duties are based upon the universal obligations which all human beings owe to their Creator. These duties arise as a function of being created in God's image from conception. Human beings also owe these duties to their Creator as a function of the various offices and forms of government articulated in Article 1, Section 4.
For example, while a child or minor has the immutable right to contract or own property, these rights may be stopped from exercise by his or her parent until the period of infancy or youth expires. Thus the duty and right are always seen in the preexisting context of the various institutions of government, in this instance family.
By definition, duties involve obligations owed to another. Generally such duties arise either by virtue of creation, birth, or promise. As men have duties, so too they have a corresponding right to perform those duties. A right is not a wrong. It involves adherence to the law of God or His will. It is defined as a just claim, meaning the exercise of a duty consistent with the creation order and the various institutions of government, whether it be civil government, ecclesiastical government, familial government or self-government (including voluntary associations). Liberty pertains to the unhindered discharge of a right. The existence of a duty is in no way indicative of which institution of government, if any, has jurisdiction to compel or prohibit its exercise. This is covered more thoroughly throughout the document.
To attempt to name all of the rights would be to initiate an endless list which would enumerate all of man's freedoms and liberties. The freedom to choose among lawful activities is perhaps the essence of the pursuit of happiness and this unending list of rights. The fall recorded in Genesis 3 in no way alters the nature of the rights God endows men with.
In general, immutable rights are incapable of alienation except by forfeiture for wrongful acts, either civil or criminal, and then only by due process of law. Forfeiture occurs when subsequent to an individual committing a civil wrong (with a subsequent procedural finding of liability), or committing a criminal act (and being adjudged guilty by a competent tribunal at a trial with essential procedural safeguards), he or she is deprived of life, liberty or property depending on the offense. The reason such deprivations do not work an alienation of an inalienable right (such as life, liberty or property) is that life, liberty or property is forfeited by the wrongful act, either civil or criminal, of the individual.
Forfeiture differs from seizure in the case of property, or arrest in the case of persons, in that forfeiture comes into play when the state obtains property as a mere trustee to satisfy civil liability or criminal restitution. Whereas in the case of seizure, the state obtains property to use as evidence or because it is contraband. God-given rights are both immutable and inalienable because they emanate from the Creator.
Likewise, that all men, male and female, are created by God is shown in Genesis 1:26-27 and that they are equal in his image is also shown there and in Acts 17:26. That they are accordingly endowed by God with the immutable right of life is shown in Genesis 2:7 with respect to the breath of life and in Genesis 4:10 with respect to blood.
Men are endowed with liberty by virtue of their being created by God. For as God has given man an understanding to direct his actions, consequently he has also been given a freedom of will and liberty of action within the bounds of God's law which he is under. The rightful exercise of this liberty is self-government. Slavery, the slave trade, and involuntary servitude is antithetical to self-government and should never be permitted.
There is a discussion over whether restitution can include compelling labor. One view notes that compelling labor as a function of restitution is required by the Bible. The other view indicates restitution may not be extended to compelling work of any sort as work is a function of voluntary self-government. Another argument is that labor cannot be coerced for the purpose of profit, but only for the means of restitution in criminal cases. This needs further discussion. Presently Article 2, Section 2 bars forfeiture of liberty in civil proceedings, but permits it in Article 2, Section 3 relating to criminal matters.
The rights of private property are shown in Genesis 1:28-30 and Genesis 2:8. The theory of private property is based on the proposition that property is a gift from God, irrespective of its lawful means of acquisition. Rejected is the notion that property is a creation of civil society. The principle of eminent domain is rejected accordingly. Property is considered an inalienable right. This does not mean that property can not be alienated. It means the civil government can not alienate one's rights with respect to property.
The theory of rightful resistance to tyrannical and unlawful authority is not described here but appears in Article 5, section 2 which notes that the right to resist tyranny by force is not one exercised by mob rule but by the due representation of the people acting for that purpose.
In essence, the preamble reflects the ideas of Acts 17:24-29, which describes God's universal purpose for civil society. Whereas the apostle Paul leads his listeners towards resurrection, the preamble focuses attention on life in a civil society under the rule of the Creator's laws regarding rights. While Jesus is not referred to by name in Paul's discourse, His name has been included in the Preamble.
There has been some discussion as to the necessity or propriety of this inclusion. There is no dispute that Jesus is the Creator or that all men have their immutable rights as a function of creation. All men possess these rights irrespective of their belief or disbelief. The point of departure is downstream of these propositions. One position notes that the use of Jesus' name necessarily brings in an element of redemption. It is argued that while Jesus is the Creator of the world, he is also the Savior and that the document will be perceived as one which extends a redemptive purpose to a future civil government. The other position suggests that Jesus can be adequately distinguished in terms of creation and redemption to avoid confusion. For the sake of clarity and to avoid any inference to the contrary, the God referred to is the God of the Scriptures whose Son is Jesus Christ.