Unalienable Rights: For Loyal Americans Only?

Paul Dean
Paul Dean
2012 16 Apr

Debate routinely swirls around accused terrorists or enemy combatants of the United States concerning whether or not they have a right to due process. An answer to that question may be determined case to case. Unfortunately, rhetoric and political posturing from both sides often clouds the real issues and the principles that undergird them. For the Christian, principle must always trump politics and indeed personal prejudice.

Let me illustrate. Suppose a U.S. citizen has called for terrorist attacks against the United States. He is now an avowed enemy of the U.S. In response, this avowed enemy is targeted by the U.S. government and subsequently taken out by the U.S. military. In an effort to defend the actions of the U.S. government, a Christian commentator begins to talk about the difference between U.S. citizens and enemies of the U.S. He talks about citizens having the right to due process but not self-avowed enemies. He then talks about the fact that American citizens, not enemies, have been granted unalienable rights by the U.S. Constitution.

There’s a problem; by definition, unalienable rights are not granted by government but by God. That’s why they’re unalienable; no one has the right to separate a person from rights granted by God. The American founders did not come up with those rights but rather recognized them from the Creator. While many of America’s founding documents refer to unalienable rights, the Declaration of Independence puts it this way: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men. . . .” The role of government is to secure the rights granted to us by God, not grant them to us. If government granted them to us then government could revoke them.

The upshot of this truth is simple: if these rights are unalienable and granted to us by God, then all human beings have been granted these rights, not Americans only and certainly not loyal Americans only. They are not derived from the U.S. Constitution but from God. A man may forfeit his right to life or liberty to be sure. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t possess them until that determination is properly made.

What’s the real point? The issue is not that Christians sometimes misspeak, though sometimes we do. The issue is that sometimes Christians allow their feelings or their political persuasion to trump biblical principles. Regardless of how we feel about a person or a situation, the Scriptures must be our authority. Our thoughts on whether or not this avowed enemy should be targeted and taken out by the U.S. government must be determined on biblical grounds and not on fleshly or nationalistic grounds. Because all persons have certain unalienable rights, not just loyal Americans, we cannot argue the rightness of the government’s actions on the grounds that avowed enemies or non-U.S. citizens don’t have unalienable rights. We have to find another argument, and that argument must be rooted in biblical principles.

We’re not partisans; we’re Christians. As Christians we have a higher allegiance than the U.S. government. Our allegiance is to Christ. It’s His kingdom we’re seeking to advance. That means our focus must always be on that reality even when, and perhaps especially when, we’re talking in the public arena about what someone or some government ought to do and why. Personal prejudice or partisan politics will never change anyone’s life or advance God’s kingdom. Those things come about by the powerful propagation of the truth.


Dr. Paul Dean invites you to discover more about the role of Government, the role of the church, and the role of the market  . . . and develop a Christian worldview. Dr. Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. Please visit http://www.governmentcurrentevents.com