So, what are inalienable rights? And how does one obtain them?
Inalienable rights are those rights that people have by virtue of being human and they cannot be rightfully given up or taken away. As developed by John Locke and used in the Declaration of Independence, inalienable rights are the direct result of human creation by God. Just as we gain rights to those things we create, God, as our Creator, has rights to us. Some rights have been granted to us, but some rights God retains. From our perspective, these rights that God retains are seen as inalienable rights. Such rights cannot be given up, taken away, or transferred by us because they do not belong to us, but to God.
Inalienable rights include:
· The right to life (the most fundamental right)
· The right to liberty, and
· The right to own property (notice that this is not the right to use any particular property, but the right to own property in general).
These three are among the most basic inalienable rights. Other inalienable rights such as the right to bear arms, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of speech and religion are mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Note, however, that not all inalienable rights are listed in the Bill of Rights (nor was the document intended to be a comprehensive listing).
In order to better understand inalienable rights, it is helpful to contrast them with alienable rights.
Alienable rights are rights that can be transferred to another person or given up. For instance, the right to any particular property such as a car or house is an alienable right and can be transferred to another person or given up.
The implications of the inalienable rights concept are profound and far reaching. This concept provides logical rationale for many of our laws. For instance, the concept of inalienable rights means that I cannot rightfully kill another person (or even myself) because to do so would be destroying God’s property. Thus murder and suicide are both wrong and illegal. Similarly, I cannot rightfully enslave another person (taking away their liberty), nor can I sell myself into slavery. Thus slavery is illegal.
*Inalienable rights are also known as unalienable rights. See Part 5 of this series for more information.
In Part 2 of this series, I discuss the rationale for inalienable rights and explain why inalienable rights can only come from a Creator.
Questions for further discussion:
1. List 3 alienable rights that you have. How do you know that they are alienable rights?
2. Why is the right to life the most fundamental of the inalienable rights?
3. Read the Declaration of Independence. According to this document, what is the purpose of government? What was the justification that the signers of the Declaration used in declaring their independence from Great Britain and forming their own government?
The Inalienable Rights Series
Part 1: What are Inalienable Rights?
Part 2: The Source of Inalienable Rights
Part 3: Liberty in Society and Government
Part 4: Government by Consent of the Governed
Part 5: Some Common Misconceptions