Obama's Inalienables

Each time President Obama ventures to mention America's inalienable rights, I get emails. Last week was no exception. "Did you see Obama left out 'Creator' again?" began this one.

The most recent occasion was a June 17 presidential statement in response to a U.N. resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama stated that "LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights -- and entitled to the same protections -- as all human beings."

I can imagine why Obama and his speechwriters excluded the Creator in this statement: To say that "LGBT persons," meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, had inalienable rights is one thing. After all, in the Declaration of Independence, the poetic and profound political manifesto that lists such rights, Thomas Jefferson affirmed that "all" human beings are endowed with "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

I take the Founders at their word. "All" means "all." And this, wrote Jefferson, with the hearty approval of John Adams, Ben Franklin, and the entirety of the Continental Congress, is a truth that is "self-evident."

No one should argue that "LGBT persons" don't have inalienable rights.

And who endows those rights? The Creator does.

President Obama and his speechwriters and staff surely knew that to bring the Creator into this statement on sexual orientation would generate a firestorm over origins -- from the origins of man and marriage to the origins of sexual orientation, from the ancient words of Genesis to the modern text of the Defense of Marriage Act.

That said, this is far from the first time that President Obama has been selective with inalienable rights and, more tellingly, with their preeminent author. As CNS News reported, this was the third time this year alone that Obama has used the language of "inalienable rights" but omitted the "Creator."

In fact, this tendency by Obama began literally at the very start -- first minutes even -- of his presidency. When delivering his inaugural address, Obama said that that "all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."  Here, our new president seemed to borrow from both the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, the latter of which appealed to the slogan of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and fraternity. (Click here for my earlier article on this.)

More than that, this time, in his inaugural, Obama left out the inalienable right to "life" as well as the "Creator" that endows that right. It was a quite statement for his first presidential statement. My email box was flooded by conservatives, and pro-lifers especially, who noticed immediately.

What to make of all of this? It's hard to say, but it's surely no accident.

Presidents have speechwriters. They write speeches with carefully crafted words that the president himself believes and wants to say. Those speeches go through an exhaustive process of editing, reviewing, and approval by key players inside the White House. To say they are vetted is an understatement. Exclusions like "Creator" and "life" from America's sacred inalienable rights (or "unalienable," which was used in the final draft of the Declaration) do not happen causally -- or shouldn't happen casually.

In truth, one cannot separate our Declaration's inalienable rights from their Creator.  That would be a significant transgression, whether intentional or not. Jefferson and the Founders understood this, knowing that Americans must realize that these inherent rights come not from man or government but from God. They are the basic "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to which human beings are entitled.  Thus, men and governments shouldn't mess with them.

Is Obama's repeated failure to overtly link the two an attempt to separate them in a deeper, metaphorical sense?  Or is he simply assuming that they're intertwined, with no need to openly acknowledge God as the source of the rights?  I don't think we can assume the latter, especially given Obama's consistent omission of the source, but -- to be fair -- I also can't say for certain.

Nonetheless, something is going on here. And this much I can say:

President Obama and his administration pride themselves as modern progressives. The progressive project, for 100 years and counting, has been about reshaping and redefining the very essence of American political thinking as expressed by our Founders and in our founding documents. The Constitution itself has been the obvious target. Enlightened and anointed progressives eagerly reinterpret the Constitution constantly, declaring it a "living document" subject to their unceasing, always-evolving "changes" and "reform." They have quite literally discovered "rights" that simply are not there. For liberals/progressives, especially those of a secular bent, the newest "brilliant" take on the Constitution is as recent as the latest twaddle at the faculty lounge.

So, given their liberties with the Constitution, why wouldn't progressives dare do the same with the Declaration of Independence?

With Obama's statements, are we witnessing larger symptoms of a progressive push to reshape and redefine the Declaration's inalienable rights and, even more fundamentally, their very source? Bear in mind, that source is a far higher authority than Jefferson. Are we observing an attempt to remake these rights in the progressives' own image, with the Creator the first thing that must go?

Progressivism is nothing more than moral relativism at the political level. Truth is never constant, with no fixed starting point, whether (theologically) in Sacred Scripture or (politically) in sacred political documents like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  Truth is determined not by an absolute, single authority but by the individual -- or, here, progressive individuals en masse -- who are always marching and ever-advancing toward evolving truths revealed somewhere down the road.  There is no goalpost set in concrete.  Progressives themselves cannot tell you their ultimate endgame; they will know when we get there -- maybe.  Actually, because they are constantly progressing, there really can be no goalpost or endgame. (Click here for my previous article on this subject.)

Is this an exasperating ideology? Oh, you bet it is. And you don't want it applied to any political system, particularly this splendid republic conceived by our Founders.

What does this mean as America prepares again to mark the Declaration of Independence? Does it mean our "inalienables" -- or, more so, their ultimate source, their fountainhead -- is not so self-evident, or at least subject to reinterpretation?

To some of our citizens of a "progressive" mind, yes, I'm afraid it does. Is our president among them? I fear so.

And I'm even more afraid that few Americans know, understand, or care.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and the newly released Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

 

More than that, this time, in his inaugural, Obama left out the inalienable right to "life" as well as the "Creator" that endows that right. It was a quite statement for his first presidential statement. My email box was flooded by conservatives, and pro-lifers especially, who noticed immediately.

Each time President Obama ventures to mention America's inalienable rights, I get emails. Last week was no exception. "Did you see Obama left out 'Creator' again?" began this one.

The most recent occasion was a June 17 presidential statement in response to a U.N. resolution on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama stated that "LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights -- and entitled to the same protections -- as all human beings."

I can imagine why Obama and his speechwriters excluded the Creator in this statement: To say that "LGBT persons," meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, had inalienable rights is one thing. After all, in the Declaration of Independence, the poetic and profound political manifesto that lists such rights, Thomas Jefferson affirmed that "all" human beings are endowed with "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

I take the Founders at their word. "All" means "all." And this, wrote Jefferson, with the hearty approval of John Adams, Ben Franklin, and the entirety of the Continental Congress, is a truth that is "self-evident."

No one should argue that "LGBT persons" don't have inalienable rights.

And who endows those rights? The Creator does.

President Obama and his speechwriters and staff surely knew that to bring the Creator into this statement on sexual orientation would generate a firestorm over origins -- from the origins of man and marriage to the origins of sexual orientation, from the ancient words of Genesis to the modern text of the Defense of Marriage Act.

That said, this is far from the first time that President Obama has been selective with inalienable rights and, more tellingly, with their preeminent author. As CNS News reported, this was the third time this year alone that Obama has used the language of "inalienable rights" but omitted the "Creator."

In fact, this tendency by Obama began literally at the very start -- first minutes even -- of his presidency. When delivering his inaugural address, Obama said that that "all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."  Here, our new president seemed to borrow from both the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, the latter of which appealed to the slogan of the French Revolution: liberty, equality, and fraternity. (Click here for my earlier article on this.)

More than that, this time, in his inaugural, Obama left out the inalienable right to "life" as well as the "Creator" that endows that right. It was a quite statement for his first presidential statement. My email box was flooded by conservatives, and pro-lifers especially, who noticed immediately.

What to make of all of this? It's hard to say, but it's surely no accident.

Presidents have speechwriters. They write speeches with carefully crafted words that the president himself believes and wants to say. Those speeches go through an exhaustive process of editing, reviewing, and approval by key players inside the White House. To say they are vetted is an understatement. Exclusions like "Creator" and "life" from America's sacred inalienable rights (or "unalienable," which was used in the final draft of the Declaration) do not happen causally -- or shouldn't happen casually.

In truth, one cannot separate our Declaration's inalienable rights from their Creator.  That would be a significant transgression, whether intentional or not. Jefferson and the Founders understood this, knowing that Americans must realize that these inherent rights come not from man or government but from God. They are the basic "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to which human beings are entitled.  Thus, men and governments shouldn't mess with them.

Is Obama's repeated failure to overtly link the two an attempt to separate them in a deeper, metaphorical sense?  Or is he simply assuming that they're intertwined, with no need to openly acknowledge God as the source of the rights?  I don't think we can assume the latter, especially given Obama's consistent omission of the source, but -- to be fair -- I also can't say for certain.

Nonetheless, something is going on here. And this much I can say:

President Obama and his administration pride themselves as modern progressives. The progressive project, for 100 years and counting, has been about reshaping and redefining the very essence of American political thinking as expressed by our Founders and in our founding documents. The Constitution itself has been the obvious target. Enlightened and anointed progressives eagerly reinterpret the Constitution constantly, declaring it a "living document" subject to their unceasing, always-evolving "changes" and "reform." They have quite literally discovered "rights" that simply are not there. For liberals/progressives, especially those of a secular bent, the newest "brilliant" take on the Constitution is as recent as the latest twaddle at the faculty lounge.

So, given their liberties with the Constitution, why wouldn't progressives dare do the same with the Declaration of Independence?

With Obama's statements, are we witnessing larger symptoms of a progressive push to reshape and redefine the Declaration's inalienable rights and, even more fundamentally, their very source? Bear in mind, that source is a far higher authority than Jefferson. Are we observing an attempt to remake these rights in the progressives' own image, with the Creator the first thing that must go?

Progressivism is nothing more than moral relativism at the political level. Truth is never constant, with no fixed starting point, whether (theologically) in Sacred Scripture or (politically) in sacred political documents like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  Truth is determined not by an absolute, single authority but by the individual -- or, here, progressive individuals en masse -- who are always marching and ever-advancing toward evolving truths revealed somewhere down the road.  There is no goalpost set in concrete.  Progressives themselves cannot tell you their ultimate endgame; they will know when we get there -- maybe.  Actually, because they are constantly progressing, there really can be no goalpost or endgame. (Click here for my previous article on this subject.)

Is this an exasperating ideology? Oh, you bet it is. And you don't want it applied to any political system, particularly this splendid republic conceived by our Founders.

What does this mean as America prepares again to mark the Declaration of Independence? Does it mean our "inalienables" -- or, more so, their ultimate source, their fountainhead -- is not so self-evident, or at least subject to reinterpretation?

To some of our citizens of a "progressive" mind, yes, I'm afraid it does. Is our president among them? I fear so.

And I'm even more afraid that few Americans know, understand, or care.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and the newly released Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.

 

More than that, this time, in his inaugural, Obama left out the inalienable right to "life" as well as the "Creator" that endows that right. It was a quite statement for his first presidential statement. My email box was flooded by conservatives, and pro-lifers especially, who noticed immediately.

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