Most people misinterpret where rights come from. Even our constitution does not grant rights. Many of the founders considered our rights to be God given.
In an essay on the Bill of Rights at the Daily Signal Michael Berry makes an important distinction:
The governed gave their consent to lend some, but not all, of their individual authority as human beings to a central government. For instance, while they would remain free to defend themselves individually, they would vest the authority for the collective defense of the new nation to a government that could raise an army.
Thus, it is significant that after outlining the positive rights of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government on matters ranging from taxation to foreign relations, the Bill of Rights begins by negating the power of Congress—“Congress shall make no law … ”—and recognizing the inherent rights of the people.
The reason for this is simple, revolutionary, and profound: Congress shall make no law because the people retain those rights articulated in the Bill of Rights by virtue of their humanity.
He also destroys the notion that the First Amendment covers toleration of private religious practice.
But mere “toleration” of “private” religious conduct was precisely what James Madison, a primary author of the Bill of Rights, was careful to avoid. He favored the protection of robust freedom.
Take God out of the freedom equation, as many have done and you still need to consider this: Those freedoms are ours. Call them natural rights if you want to.
We allow government to take a bit away from us, but only with our consent. My right to peacefully assemble, speak, to offend, to carry my faith into my public life, and my write to type these words…all are mine and guaranteed by our government.
Or not. We’ve been there before.