‘Our rights come from God, not government’: Is Gov. DeSantis right?
- In a speech, Governor Ron DeSantis defended Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law regarding American civics in the classroom, stating, “Our rights come from God, not from government.”
- A March 2022 Politico/Morning Consult poll found that most Floridians supported the bill (50%), while 34% opposed it out of 2,005 voters.
- According to a March 2021 Pew Research Center poll, 18% of Americans believe the US Constitution was inspired by God, while 67% believe it was written to reflect human vision rather than God’s vision.
- The founding of America was built upon the Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
- The Founding Fathers are thought to have used Judeo-Christian morals as well as Deism in the Declaration of Independence. The document uses terminology like “Nature’s God,” “their Creator,” and “Supreme Judge of the world.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has again made bold and untethered claims to stir up his base in his relentless and frankly predictable culture war on progressives with a claim that the rights Americans enjoy 'come from God,' not from the government. One might be tempted to ask the governor, who's God exactly bestows these rights on us? Since America doesn't have an official religion, it seems prudent to ask.
Presumably, DeSantis is speaking of the God of the Bible perceived by Catholics, evangelical Christians, and those of the many other Christian denominations, who likely interpret the Bible similarly. But what about other religions? It is very likely that the sizable Jewish, Muslim, other religious, and especially non-religious populations would find this idea highly offensive, particularly since some of these individuals have come to America to flee religious persecution. From these contradictions, it's clear that DeSantis is only spouting this nonsense to fire up his base.
If one were to humor the governor and explore his position, questions immediately arise, such as, did the right to count African Americans as three-fifths of a person come from God? Or perhaps God was the reason women were originally barred from voting early on in American history.
Ironically, one of the very rights DeSantis claims as coming from God is the right to freedom of religion. In fact, the earliest American settlers often came from Europe to worship in their own way. To claim that our innate rights as Americans come from a specific god, of a specific religious tradition, is frankly unAmerican, and DeSantis is wrong to claim it.
Stating our rights “come from God,” as DeSantis recently did when speaking out about Florida's recently signed Parental Rights in Education law, is neither a new nor controversial concept. He made the reference while stating that parents have a right to know what curriculum is being taught in schools to their children.
To say that rights are derived from God, not the government, is invoking the concept of natural rights as reflected in our founding documents. John Locke was the first to articulate the concept of natural law. In his 'Second Treatise of Government,' Locke wrote that rights are God-given and can never be taken away or even given away. Sovereignty belongs to the people; a government has no sovereignty of its own. America was the first nation to embrace and embody such a concept, leading to the unprecedented freedoms we enjoy collectively today. Government exists for the benefit of the people and can be replaced if they fail to serve that end. Again, DeSantis is correct, articulating the view undergirding this nation by the founders.
The US is founded on this simple principle, as Thomas Jefferson, influenced by Locke, included 'unalienable rights” that are “endowed by their Creator” to the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson also acknowledged the Laws of Nature and Nature's God. The Bill of Rights enumerates the rights of American Citizens as well as restraints on government. In fact, the Ninth Amendment states explicitly, 'The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.'
Rights granted to its citizens by a government can also be taken away by that same government. Rights derived from natural law can neither be granted nor taken away by any government.