Where do rights come from?

I spotted this at the Washington Examiner in a column by Cal Thomas:


“…the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” (John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961)

It isn’t often that a member of the media reveals the philosophy behind his political ideology, but last week, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo outed himself. In an exchange with Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore about  Moore’s refusal to adhere to a federal appellate judge’s order to ignore the state constitution and begin granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Moore said “…our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God.”

Cuomo disagreed: “Our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.”

Obviously, Cuomo flunked civics. Does he really believe that man is responsible for bestowing rights, and can therefore take those rights away as he sees fit? That a right bestowed today by a governing body of mere mortals can be invalidated by another body, say, following an election? That my rights and yours are as fluid as quicksilver and dependent on who sits in the big chair in Washington?

It is not a new debate, but a debate worth renewing.


Read the rest there.

This tells you a lot about libs.

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  1. colospgs says:

    Cuomo clearly tried to change the debate when he said in reply to “Our rights…they come from God” that “our laws do not come from God…” .

    So I guess he’s right. He didn’t want to address the issue of “rights” so he changed it to “laws”.

  2. Legisperitus says:

    I would go one step further and say that we have rights from God only because we have duties to God. That is, God gives us duties and then gives us the right to the things we need to fulfill our duties to Him.

    Clearly, same-sex “marriage” is not such a right.

  3. Scout says:

    Minor nit. The opinion piece is at the Washington Times, not the Washington Examiner.

  4. Gerhard says:

    Enter by the left door the usual suspects: Ronald Dworkin, the Bentham Auto-Icon with pickled head, JS Mill, A Hart. Enter by the higher door to the right Benedict XVI, , John Finnis. Enter by way of deus ex machine J Locke together, this time at least, with St.Thomas More, St. Thomas Aquinas, St JPII, Aristotle, Plato and Antonin Scalia. All set for round one (bis many times over)?

  5. Gerhard says:

    Sorry, that should be deus ex machina. Auto-correct did not have a liberal arts education, merely a liberal one.

  6. iamlucky13 says:

    ” Cuomo disagreed: ‘Our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.’

    Obviously, Cuomo flunked civics. Does he really believe that man is responsible for bestowing rights, and can therefore take those rights away as he sees fit? That a right bestowed today by a governing body of mere mortals can be invalidated by another body, say, following an election?”

    I’ve been seeing a lot of secular friends using phrases like “inalienable rights” in the last two weeks.

    I wonder if they ever think in depth about the meaning of the word “inalienable,” where it comes from, and what it does not mean.

  7. acardnal says:

    Cuomo could be a product of the Jesuit education system.

    This story reminds me of what a former (catholic) governor of New York state, Hugh Carey-D, said one time:
    “My mind doesn’t govern my conscience. My conscience governs my mind.”

  8. Thomas Sweeney says:

    Cuomo sounds like a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union. Totalitarian regimes are constructed on just such a premise. President Kennedy nailed it.

  9. tioedong says:

    Cuomo pulled a fast one there: they were talking about rights, and he equated rights to laws. Not the same thing.

    Our rights come from God (although I once had a philosopher tell me that present day philosophy not only can’t explain why an unborn child or senile person has rights, but why anyone has rights… so you see what happens when you let God out of the equation).

    However, our laws come from man: from a Man for all seasons:

    William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
    Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
    William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
    Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

  10. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think we need to be very careful. Rights and laws are two very different things. We must remember that Ancient Rome had a law that required Emperor worship. That law was clearly not from God. In 17th Century England (and in many American Colonies under English rule prior to the Revolutionary War) the Catholic Mass was forbidden. That law was certainly not from God.

  11. zama202 says:

    And his brother Andrew is playing the part their father Mario played to the applause of the liberal elite – the demagogic windbag stirring up hate and distrust for his own self-aggrandizement.

    Ahhh…you gotta love NYC, where the NY Times and the Democratic Party has shrunken the brains so many of my fellow New Yorkers.


  12. JimP says:

    I remember watching that discussion between Mr. Cuomo and Justice Moore last year, and my recollection is that Mr. Cuomo did say that rights come from man. At the time, I wondered if he would have agreed that chattel slavery was a right of slaveholders before the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified.

  13. The Masked Chicken says:

    This is all muddled thinking. There are three hierarchies if law: Divine Law, Natural Law, and Positive Law. Divine Law is given directly from God; Natural Law is given by God acting on Nature; Positive Law is made by man and must not contradict the higher Laws. As such, Rights, properly speaking, derive from Divine Law, while civil laws derive from Positive Law (positive as in man, “posits” or puts forth a law). It is this confusion that has allowed marriage to be defined as a merely positive law instead of a Divine act.

    The Chicken

  14. robtbrown says:


    Not all rights derive from Divine or Natural Law. Natural Rights certainly do. But it’s possible to have Civil Rights that are little else than Positive Law, e.g., the right to a Driver’s License at a certain age, which has varied from state to state. Or in some states grocery stores have the right to sell wine, in other states they don’t (cf New Jersey, where people don’t have the right to pump their own gasoline).

  15. robtbrown says:

    Also: Civil Law should not contradict Natural Law.

  16. Sonshine135 says:

    If people in this country ever start remembering where there rights come from, watch out. That will change the world.

  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Also: Civil Law should not contradict Natural Law.”

    Or Divine Law, but unfortunately, they frequently do, so man-made rights are the most illogical and ephemeral. Obviously, man-made rights cannot be inalienable.

    The Chicken

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