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Article 1 — Framework
This is a declaration of universal rights, rights which belong to all men everywhere, male and female, in every age, in every situation.
These rights are conferred upon men by God, and are thus immutable with respect to men. They were not devised by men nor can they be modified by men. They are not subject to change by governments. These rights are created by God and not by man. They are endowed by God at conception.
These rights are rights of the person, inalienable rights which a man is not permitted to transfer or surrender. No government can ever lawfully abridge these rights in any person, but must be careful to acknowledge and respect these rights.
A right is a grant of authority given by God to man. Man has authority to live for God and to serve God according to His rules and plan. Man has a duty to exercise his God-given authority as a steward for God. Man has authority to do only that which is right. God has established what is just and right, and commands man to live justly and righteously. Man's duties to God proceed from the authority God confers upon him. That authority is also right, especially with respect to other men. Thus, man's authority or right is to do only that which is right. Man never has a right to do wrong.
The duties or obligations, and rights or just claims declared herein shall not be construed to deny or disparage other duties or rights not named.
Rights are defined as just claims which men may assert in civil society. Men may assert these rights because God has created them, and accordingly civil society is under a duty to respect that endowment. Liberty is the civil acknowledgement of such rights.
This declaration does not concern itself with privileges or immunities, but is limited rather to that category of rights which is immutable or unchanging from one nation to the next and is also inalienable, that is incapable of alienation or impairment. It is also concerned with limitations on the institutions of government which best secure these rights, though this document establishes no form of government or constitution.
The modern notion of civil government in particular overriding any universal right of the people is rejected as inconsistent with this principle. If civil government can lawfully override a right, it is either because the 'right' is really a wrong, or the 'right' is actually a privilege, that is, a function of the compact existing in a nation. The lawful operation of civil government with respect to universal rights, however, may only come into play where forfeiture is involved. See also the Preamble and Article 2, Sections 2 and 3, and Article 5, Sections 13-17.
When the document refers to right endowed in all men, it does not mean to diminish jurisdictional considerations, such as self, family, voluntary associations, churches or civil government. These are noted in Article 1, Section 4. Universal rights and a jurisdictional understanding of the institutions of government go hand in hand.
God has ordained various types of authority which he confers upon men. These differing authorities when exercised by men are also rights which must be respected by those holding other forms of authority. Among these are the authority of the individual, the family, the voluntary association, church, and civil government.
Each of these differing authorities is a kind of government before God. No one government in particular may lawfully interfere with the just exercise of authority and rights of any other government. Human government as a whole compromises all these forms of smaller governments, each with its own independent jurisdiction, separately responsible to God, operating freely in society within the purposes for which it was ordained.
Each government is independent from the others. Though interrelated, they share no common jurisdiction. Self-government is noted in Genesis 2:16 and 17 and in Philippians 4:6-9; family government in Genesis 1:26-30, 2:20-24 and Ephesians 5:21-6:4; ecclesiastical government in I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9; and civil government in Romans 13:1-7 and I Peter 2:13-17. The jurisdiction of each government is exclusive and does not extend to another government, nor is there sharing of jurisdiction.
Reciprocal respect, rather than compulsion, is the best safeguard ensuring that each government remain free to discharge its obligations and exercise its rights. See also Article 4, Section 5.
When men enter into a state of civil society they do not and cannot divest themselves or their posterity of any universal, immutable, inalienable right. These rights are not subject to dilution, restriction, or contravention, and no interest of civil society, compelling or otherwise, is sufficient to override such rights or duties.
God has ordained both the general authority of civil government and the authority of men to institute a form thereof. God has not made civil government a divine act alone. Civil government is also a human creation, with particular governments being instituted by men through their common consent. God has granted authority to men through their mutual agreement to found civil government on just principles and to organize its powers in order to secure the universal rights of men.
Civil rulers are accountable not only to God, but to the people of a nation who institute civil government, rulers being servants and trustees of the people. Tyranny, despotism, and arbitrary rule are a breach of the ruler's promise and of the people's consent, and strips a ruler of office and the right to rule. The loss of office becomes effective upon the public declaration by the representatives of the people of the nature, causes, and proofs of a ruler's breach, and that the people through their representatives choose to institute new government and rulers.
No free government, civil or otherwise, nor the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people who do not adhere to the recognition that all rights have reciprocal duties, and that the Creator God is the source of them all.