Civil Disobedience In an Age of Tyranny:
by Gerald R. Thompson
THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF NATURAL RIGHTS
It now falls to us to determine the nature and extent of our natural rights, seeing as how they have not truly been given up. Or, how can I assert my rights, unless I first know what they are?
All Natural Rights Are Individual Rights
It has long been recognized that all natural rights are inherently individual, not corporate. Why is this important? Because civil governments have no rights, they merely have powers. Powers and rights are two different things. Therefore, when there is any conflict between individual rights and government powers, the government must always yield to the individual, and not the other way around. Let’s go through the analysis, step-by-step.
1. All natural rights are God-given and inalienable. All natural rights are the birthright of every human being. Which means that we obtain these rights when we are born, and that these rights are part of our very nature. The fact that we are born is by itself sufficient evidence of having natural rights. And when you factor in the existence of a Creator God, it means that all natural rights are properly understood to be God-given rights. Our natural rights originate with God, not in mere materiality.
In other words, it is not the fact we are made from the dust of the earth which vests us with natural rights. Rather, it is the fact that God breathes into us the breath of life. (If you want to do a neat Bible study, look up all the correlations between life, breath and spirit.) Note the correlation between life and breath in these verses. Not breath = Not Life, therefore, Life = Breath.
then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen. 2:7.) In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:10.) The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4.)
The fact that our natural rights come from the Creator makes those rights inalienable – i.e., they are incapable of being transferred or deprived, except by our voluntary choice or actions, and then only for ourselves, not for any others or our posterity.
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. Declaration of Independence (1776).
2. All natural rights are individual and not corporate. The law of nature’s God is quite clear that the nature of all sin is individual, the nature of redemption is individual, and the nature of the Church covenant is individual. Ezek 18:20; Acts 10:43; Rom. 1:16. The same is true for all spiritual authority, spiritual gifts and spiritual offices – all are individual, none are corporate. 1 Cor. 12:11; Eph. 4:7; Heb. 2:4. There is no collective salvation in the laws of nature and nature’s God, no matter what you may have heard a former President say. With God, all responsibilities and duties – and therefore authorities – are individual.
So why would God deal with mankind differently in dispensing natural rights – for what are rights, except one more attribute of authority? God has a modus operandi here, and it is to deal with people individually. Further, in dealing with all people universally, God also deals with all individuals on an equal basis. Which means that every person is born with the same natural rights, and in the same degree (or extent of authority) as every other person. All men are created equal – a sentiment universally adopted by the American founders.
SECTION 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights ….8
If “all men are by nature equally free and independent,” all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights.9
But more to the point, it cannot possibly be any other way. If we are vested with natural rights by virtue of being born, then how are we in fact born? Individually. Not even twins or triplets are all born at the same instant. There are no group births or corporate births. Therefore, natural rights can only be vested on an individual basis.
3. Accountability for our rights runs solely to their source. It would be the height of illogic to claim that we are accountable to government (or even our neighbor) for the use of rights which we obtain from God alone. The accountability for the use of any delegated authority runs to the source of the delegation. For that is what every right really is: right = authority. If God grants natural rights to every person, to whom are we accountable for the exercise of those rights? To God and God alone – this is the law of nature. James Madison understood this:
The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. … It is unalienable also; because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe … with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign.10
I submit to you that the logic and rationale of Madison’s argument pertaining to the inalienable right of religion necessarily applies with the same force to every natural/inalienable right. Thus, all natural rights are incapable of governing by force or violence (the realm of civil government), but must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man. All natural rights precede the claims of civil society in time and priority, and are reserved (i.e., our allegiance is saved) solely to God. And all natural rights are both a right towards men, and a duty towards the Creator. Since all such duties are owed to God, then that is where accountability for the discharge of those duties belongs, as well.
Thus, we are accountable for the use of our civil rights to the source of those rights, i.e., the civil government. But if our natural rights come from the Creator, then to give homage to civil government for them is a slap in the face of God. There is no civil power – it simply does not exist, and never has – which can command a person in the use of his or her natural rights, constrain or limit them, or require anyone to give an account for the use of such rights to civil government.
Natural rights are part of God’s reserved jurisdiction – which simply means God has not delegated to mankind the full extent of His own authority (more on this later). Some laws no man can enforce, and when civil governments attempt to enforce those things, they usurp the Creator (never a good thing). Our natural/inalienable rights are one of those things God never gave to any man or group of people the authority to oversee. The scriptures speak plainly of God’s reserved jurisdiction:
And He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Lu. 20:25. “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” Jer. 17:10.
4. Civil government should secure and protect our rights. So instead of suppressing, discouraging or violating my natural rights, public officials should rather encourage, strengthen and protect them, and the use of them as between me and God alone.
That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed. Declaration of Independence (1776).
Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind. (James Wilson, Of the Natural Rights of Individuals, 1790-91.)
I could here embark on a long proof of why it is civil government’s job to secure and protect my natural rights. But instead, I will simply remark that because the Declaration of Independence says the government of the United States was formed for that reason, then it is an unbreakable commitment so long as this nation exists. The obligation to protect my rights precedes in both time and priority whatever the U.S. Constitution may say or be interpreted to say. Specifically, nothing in the Constitution can grant to the U.S. Supreme Court or any other federal official the right, power or authority to contradict the Declaration. As America’s charter, the Declaration is supreme – the Constitution can be altered or abolished, but the Declaration cannot.
As for other nations, I refer back to 1 Pet. 2:14 and the universal admonition for all human institutions to “praise those who do good.” How can any government praise what is good by attacking, suppressing, or undermining the natural rights God has given? God did not give us natural rights, only to later empower civil government to ignore them, subvert them, or deny them. Whatever powers civil government has, it takes subject to the preexisting natural rights of the people.
5. Civil government (as such) has no natural rights. In other words, neither any nation or other political society, nor any civil government, nor any civil ruler or public official, has any natural, inherent, inalienable or God-given rights, in any of those capacities. Of course, every person working for the government has their own natural rights, and merely because of their job they do not lose any of such rights. But neither do they – solely by reason of their position – acquire any additional rights that the rest of us don’t also have.
And the reasons for this are: First, that no nation or civil government is an individual person to whom God gave the breath of life, nor is any civil government born as part of any procreative process. Civil governments are made (just like a contract is made), but they are not born. All civil rulers and public officials who receive any kind of authority from a nation or civil government, therefore, can only wield such authority as has been delegated to it (not by God, but) by the consent of the people. And natural rights, as such, cannot be transferred from one person to another, much less to an artificial person (i.e., an entity).
Second, all the powers nations and/or civil governments have are delegated and derivative (i.e., granted by the consent of the governed and not because of their inherent nature). Which also means that when people consent to form a government, they can only vest it with less than what the people have to begin with. No matter how much power and authority the people grant to their government, the people – as the one true source of it – will always retain some attributes of power and authority that remain undelegated. The people never exhaust themselves of all power and authority to the point where they are left with nothing. Therefore, the people always have more power and authority than what the government has.
This fundamental understanding is built right into the U.S. Constitution. Consider the 9th and 10th Amendments:
ARTICLE IX – The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
ARTICLE X – The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Do you see the difference between these two provisions? The 9th Amend. says the people (i.e., individual members of society) have rights that have been retained. The 10th Amend. says the states and the people have powers that have been reserved. So the people have both rights and powers the government does not have, but the states have only powers, not any rights. So who is the greatest, and who is the least? People are the greatest, states are next, and federal government is the least. (I by no means disparage the authority of the private sector, which is placed squarely among the rights of the people, and therefore are at the top of the food chain.)
6. All civil powers are inferior to the rights of the people. First, this logically follows from all that has just been said. Second, just because you get a large number of people together who agree to do something, does not mean that the group has more authority than any of its individual members.
Here is an inconvenient truth from the law of nature: you can never transfer to someone else (or delegate to someone else) any thing or any authority you yourself do not actually possess.
For example, if you do not individually have any rights over your neighbor’s property, you cannot get together with a bunch of your fellow citizens and collectively claim the right to tell your neighbor what he can and cannot do with his property. Your fellow citizens stand in the same shoes as you do with respect to your neighbor’s property. Merely putting a bunch of people together, none of whom has any rights over your neighbor’s property individually, does not somehow magically transform into a larger or superior right vesting in the group.
Nor can you delegate any authority over someone else’s property to your city council, because you never had that authority to begin with. Next time you think about zoning laws (or the majority of common municipal ordinances), remember this. I said it was inconvenient, remember? But true.
Furthermore, it is also impossible for the people to grant to their civil rulers a power equal to what the people had to begin with. Why? Because this fundamental law of nature has a sister principle (if you will, another inconvenient truth). Namely, that no one can create anything equal to or greater than themselves. Even God is completely and utterly unable to create anything equal to or greater than Himself. All of His creations and creatures are necessarily inferior to Him.
Similarly, people are completely and utterly unable to create anything equal to or greater than ourselves. Everything we create is inferior and subordinate. Therefore, the machines will never rise up and defeat mankind. Artificial intelligence will never outsmart us. Computers may make calculations faster than people, but they will never be our equals. Similarly, mankind will never rise up and defeat God (although we will try more than once), nor will we ever be as wise as Him. Nor can any human become truly divine. We will never be God’s equals. We are His creatures. Period.
Everything created is less than its maker – including civil government, which is the creation of the people. Civil governments are inevitably, invariably, and incontestably inferior to the people. Civil government is not our master, we are its master. And don’t ever forget it. (As far as I am concerned, this is a very convenient truth.)
7. When natural rights and civil powers conflict, rights always win. Yep, that’s the bottom line.
Of course, the world is evil and corrupt, so in humanity’s experience civil power actually trounces on natural rights rather routinely – almost exclusively, in fact. But in God’s economy and polity, we must continually push back against that evil, striving to bring about more of that true progress for the human race which is measured in expanded freedom to do God’s will. In the midst of that conflict, it is easy to lose sight of the end goal, so let me clearly mark the goal here: it is God’s will that we keep pushing society in the direction that enables natural rights to win over civil powers in cases of conflict more and more.
A Partial Enumeration of Natural Rights
Now let me list the natural rights I have been talking about, mainly for the purpose of showing how comprehensive they are, without necessarily trying to completely identify all of them. In other words, our natural rights go far beyond the rights named in the Declaration of Independence (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) and those which are named in the Manhattan Declaration (sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, and religious freedom) – which I will discuss later on.
Therefore, all of the rights which follow are matters in which we are accountable solely to God, and not to any government, or even our neighbor. Consequently, all these same rights are matters which may legitimately be the subject of civil disobedience. Here is the (partial) list:
Life – the right not to be maimed or tortured, or suffer the infliction of cruel or unusual punishment, nor to be killed except in military service or for the commission of a capital crime.
Personal liberty – the right not to be restrained or imprisoned except upon proper conviction of a crime, nor to be kidnapped or rendered to or from any location, or held in any secret place.
Individual responsibility – the right not to be held accountable for the sins, crimes, debts or liabilities of anyone else, including family members.
Contract – the right to make or refrain from making contracts, or choose to make contracts with some people but not others, in each person’s absolute and unfettered discretion, for any lawful purpose whatever.
Association – the right to associate or refrain from associating with others , in each person’s absolute and unfettered discretion, for any lawful purpose,(including without limitation in employment, labor and social or religious groups).
Occupation – the right to choose any lawful career or line of business without first getting government permission, and for any business owner to set hours, wages, prices, and employee benefits in each person’s absolute and unfettered discretion.
Monopolies – the right to restrain and prevent any civil ruler or government from favoring any business or enterprise over others, and from bestowing the exclusive right to do business on anyone.
Private property – the right to own, use, and control one’s own property in each person’s absolute and unfettered discretion, without government permission or regulation, so long as such use does no waste, nuisance or injury to another person or their property.
Agriculture – the right to possess, cultivate, grow and utilize any plant (for food, medicine or any other purpose) without government permission, regulation or control, including without limitation the right to make, use and sell alcoholic beverages and plant derivative substances.
Self-government – the right to govern one’s own affairs and personal conduct in each person’s absolute and unfettered discretion, without government permission or regulation, so long as such conduct is neither immoral nor criminal. There is no right to define or alter one’s own sexual identity or gender.
Privacy – the right to engage in transactions anonymously if the other party is willing, to keep one’s finances and property private, and to avoid having one’s communications, travels or dealings surveilled, tracked or monitored by any government instrumentality or contractor.
Marriage – the right to marry one person of the opposite sex by mutual consent, including the right to a common law marriage, and the right to remarry after the death or divorce of a spouse.
Children – the right to conceive and bear any number of children within a lawful marital union. There is no right to conceive out of wedlock or by using a donor bank, nor to bear children via a surrogate.
Physical care – the right of parents to choose the manner, means of the physical care of their minor children, and to determine the level of provision, in their sole and unfettered discretion.
Discipline – the right of parents to choose the manner and means of instilling discipline and administering correction of their minor children, in their sole discretion and without government interference, short of doing any actual injury.
Education – the right of parents to choose the manner, methods and subjects of the education of their minor children, and to choose their instructors (including themselves) in their sole and unfettered discretion. There is no right to either receive or provide a government-sponsored education.
Expression – the right to speak, write, publish or record one’s own views on any subject whatsoever without government regulation or censorship, except for the offenses of profanity, defamation or obscenity. Government may not prohibit any expression considered to be heresy, blasphemy, or sedition.
The rights of Religion – Conscience – Teaching – to Evangelize (proselytize) – Travel – to Bear Arms – Due Process – Criminal Procedure – that crimes should be limited to offenses specified in the laws of nature and nature’s God, yada, yada, yada. Do I have to spell them all out for you? Did you think this was going to be a short list? I told you it was a long list, and only a partial one.