On December 10, it was Human Rights Day. On December 15, it was Bill of Rights Day.
In terms of the documents themselves, have you ever wondered about the differences?
Sure, in terms of most people in relation to the holidays, one is a rarely recognized UN based holiday, while one is a rarely recognized (probably even less recognized) American holiday.
But, in terms of the documents that are claimed to be celebrated on these respective calendar days, is there a level of analysis that can determine the superiority of one over the other?
This article will attempt to illustrate just a couple of the possible points that can be made in this regard.
They are both pieces of paper, bills of rights (in which many of the listed rights are comparable) and, of course, both are part of documents that are vehicles that have been used for creating federal structures, that is, a meeting-place of sovereign states (regardless of the historical difference that is found in terms of the ratification processes). Also, It could be validly argued that both are certainly violated on a regular basis by these very institutions.
First, it should be asked if men derive their rights from “bills” of rights, in the first place. A related question would be whether or not a governmental system or state mechanism is the source of fundamental rights.
The Bill of Rights assumes a prior existence to Rights; in other words, it assumes the understanding attributed to Thomas Paine in stating that:
“Rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another…It is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man; it consequently follows that rights appertain to man in right of his existence, and must therefore be equal to every man.”
Notice some of the wording of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” (underline added)
“THE“ freedom of speech pre-supposes the rights’ existence! (To say nothing of the applicability of such a phrase assuming the importance of every individual, as well)
It does not state that Congress shall “grant” or “give” or even “create” the Right of Free Speech. It states, in simple fashion, that Congress shall not make statute that violates the fundamental pre-existent right that is termed: Free Speech. In other words, it assumes the principles of The Declaration of Independence wherein it states (to quote what is probably the earliest original version we have – the John Adams copy):
“We hold these Truths to be Self evident; that all Men are created equal and independent; that from that equal Creation they derive Rights inherent and unalienable; among which are the Preservation of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (underline added)
Rights are not only equal to every person, but each person’s rights are equal in value in relation to everyone else! They are also unalienable, or in other words, incapable of being alienated from the individual person. (Which is not to say that the exercise of Rights is unalienable – which is obviously not the case).
What about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN Charter? It obviously lists, numerically, even more rights. But is the document as clear in it’s expressions concerning the source of human rights?
Here are two quotations from the UN Charter that should give pause to any liberty-loving person that views the principles of the Declaration as True.
Article 8 of the UN Charter explicitly states, within a provision about “The Right to Remedy by [a] Competent Tribunal” – that “fundamental rights” are “granted him by the constitution or by law“. (underline added)
Is the implication not extremely obvious?
This provision of the UN charter in directly contrary to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which principles not only speak of unalienable individual rights – but also speak of these principles being derived from “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”. In other words, it assumes a “Higher” Law, basic to Nature itself which is superior to any Constitution, or any statute or decision that comes from a government or state created through it!
We should always remember the logic communicated so clearly by Ezra Taft Benson when he stated that:
“Starting at the foundation of the pyramid, let us first consider the origin of those freedoms we have come to know as human rights. There are only two possible sources. Rights are either God-given as part of the Divine Plan, or they are granted by government as part of the political plan. Reason, necessity, tradition and religious convictions all lead me to accept the divine origin of these rights. If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government.” (The Proper Role of Government, underline added)
If that provision isn’t bad enough, check out Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in the second clause:
“In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.” (underlines added)
So, the limitations are not found in Natural Law – but are found in the various bureaucracy-quality decisions that are decided in passage of UN statute, or “determined by law”? What if those limitations are, on a more superficial level, out of harmony with the Bill of Rights? Or even more locally passed statute?
“Public Order” according to whom?
The simple discrepancies between the original intent, principle, and current understanding of the “general welfare” clause of the United States Constitution should be enough to warn us of ever endorsing such a provision, unqualified and undefined as it is, ever again.
“Democratic” society? So, whatever a majority of the people want? Or even a majority of the elected officials want? Wouldn’t it be ironic if an American Constitutional System, in which the US Constitution requires a “republican form” of government for every state that is part of the Union, became subject to an additional federal union based on the simple and barbaric principles of mob rule (or mobocracy)? Perhaps the irony is too relevant to truly be considered “funny”.
If there is one enormous structural problem with the US Constitution (assuming the ratification of the Bill of Rights, of course) – it is the fact that it is not semantically precise enough. There is no glossary of terms (or a section for definitions) – and thus, many phrases and terms have simply been defined and constantly re-defined in such a way as to render them practically meaningless, and therefore, as a result, useless.
That being admitted, how in the world could a document such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be any better when even more semantically imprecise language is used even more prominently without even so much as a section for definitions?
To continue in quoting the third clause of Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“These rights and freedom may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”
So there you have it! Based on the implications of the wording of the UN Charter – YOU not only only have those rights created by the constitution or “law” (statute), but even those limited creations may only be exercised in line with the so-called “purposes” and “principles” of the United Nations.
Even assuming good intentions, can anyone find the clearly defined purposes and principles of the United Nations?
Perhaps the civilians of Katanga or Libya who have been murdered as a result of UN action, or actions done with “UN” sanction, were simply violating the “purposes” of the UN by simply breathing! (see here, and here) Yet, as immoral as those things are, is it not arguable that those who in harmony with the quoted UN constitutional provision? And if that is the case, where is the line of defense for the document rest?
Of course, thank goodness that the UN bureaucrats are probably “politically correct” enough to recognize the reality of the “necessity” of enforcing a lack of discriminating based on race, and thus, hopefully the murderous schemes would be equally duplicated – as always, based on “UN purposes” – on “white” “western” nations as well, right?
Now, to be fair, just because the Bill of Rights may be violated does not wholly render the document pointless anymore than the bold tongue-and-cheek criticism of the UN made above would render the Charter wholly flawed. Yet, I am arguing that the gaping loopholes in the Charter are a consequence of the equivalent rejection of Natural Law, and, more specifically, a more flawed paradigm in relation to the source of Human Rights. In other words, the Bill of Rights is superior only based on the fact that it is closer to a correct understanding of Rights, in principle, than the UN Charter.
At the end of the day, even though I am arguing for a superiority of understanding and wording of the Bill of Rights (although admitting imperfections, and in some cases, less serious but similar flaws found therein) – those lists are truly just pieces of paper if the people do not give those words meaning. That argument is equally applicable to either document!
In fact, to quote the 16th Letter of the prominent Anti-Federalist, Federal Farmer when arguing on the issue of the lack of a Bill of Rights being a deficiency in the then-proposed Constitution of the United States:
“We do not by declarations change the nature of things, or create new truths, but we give existence, or at least establish, in the minds of the people, truths and principles which they might never otherwise have thought of, or soon forgot…What is the usefulness of a truth in theory, unless it exists constantly in the minds of the people, and has their assent…it is the effect of education, a series of notions impressed upon the minds of the people by examples, precepts, and declarations.”
Because, ultimately, it is entirely up to us.