It’s my right and I’m entitled to it!

22 Mar

Our culture is rife with ‘rights’ talk.  Just consider a few contemporary claims:

  • right to free health care
  • right to censor views one doesn’t like
  • right to end life whenever one wants
  • right to define oneself however one wants
  • right to approval, acceptance and approbation for one’s lifestyle choice
  • right to a certain income level

My husband and I were discussing the concept of rights the other night while fixing dinner.  He made the interesting point:

A right granted should not burden anyone else

As we discussed this idea, I recalled a statement I heard on a call-in show about Second Language Acquisition (SLA) that

All claims must be falsifiable to be legitimate.

The classic example is the Christian claim that Jesus Christ rose from the dead

What would it take to disprove that, but a dead body identified as the crucified Jesus, son of Joseph of Nazareth!

So back to my husband’s premise that granting a right to someone should not burden someone else.  He and I started to tick off rights granted to Americans by the Constitution:

  • life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – we saw no harm or burden imposed on someone else
  • the Supreme Court granted women the right to choose an abortion – but even though LEGAL, it certainly harms many (the baby, the family members who wanted that baby to live, and not a few mothers themselves)
  • how about the right of a person who claims to be a different gender and wants to choose the bathroom most comfortable to him/her? – does that harm anyone?  Yes! the biological bearers of the gender who don’t want to share a public bathroom with someone born a different gender

What about environment?  Are we entitled to live in a smoke-free or perfume-free or a ‘differing viewpoint-free zone’?

If I want to smoke a cigarette, which is legal, should I be free to smoke where I want?  Is that a right or a privilege?  I could argue that it is included in my right to pursue happiness.

But what if you want to occupy that same spot and NOT have to smell my smoke, does that mean you can make me leave?  Is someone harmed there?

This gets tricky and requires thoughtfulness. If two people are required to work or live in a spot (like prison or the military) then a compromise can be worked out to accommodate someone’s privilege of smoking with someone’s preference (or health-related necessity) to work/sleep in a smoke-free area.

What about the right to a free education?    The Bill of Rights handles that and other rights not enumerated by the Constitution by leaving them to the states to handle.  The wording goes like this: 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.

Can you think of a ‘right’ that might be justifiable and one that brings harm to someone?   Of course we should define our term ‘harm’.  I can foresee the challenge such an exercise in clarity might be.  Bringing a group of people to consensus over an acceptable definition of ‘harm’ would take a while.

No small task for sure, but once we gain agreement on the meaning of our principle term, then we can turn attention, to let’s say, the 9th amendment and put those ‘granted rights’ up against the claim that granting a right should do no harm.  Take a look at how the Supreme Court has used this amendment.

Amendment 9 of the Constitution

With just a short look at a few rights, I do think that my husband’s premise that not harm should be done when granting a right to someone.

What do you think?

Add your thoughts in the comment section and let’s see if my husband’s claim stands or can be defeated by a counter-example.

4 Responses to “It’s my right and I’m entitled to it!”

  1. Darlene N Bocek March 22, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    I loved your article, but read it with a bit of despair. It’s the same song we’ve been singing since the beginning: Don’t Tread on Me! Individual rights are sacrosanct these days and the most liberal person’s rights trump the conservative person’s rights. No one hears the inequity because they are the center of their own universe. Their POV matters most.

    Turn the other cheek. Give to him who asks. Do good to those who mistreat you. Love your enemy. Christ’s message was to negate the power these offenses make on us, and to remind us pleasures of this world is not our end-goal. The end-goal is glory to the Lamb, which will be received by God as we are meek and kind and obedient in the face of our rights being stomped on.

    And mostly, we must not let the ethos of this age make us into its likeness, demanding our own rights. God will avenge. We must pick up our cross and tread forward in kindness and generosity.

    Thanks for your great words.

    • Maria March 22, 2017 at 9:30 am #

      Darlene – thanks for taking the time to write. And for reminding us of America’s ‘sacrosanct’ motto of Don’t Tread on Me! We are by nature self-protective/self-promoting. But like you point out, we have a NEW nature that does have divine power to count others as more important. I need to remember how counter-cultural are our daily marching orders from our Older Brother. I pray for your safety and ministry often!

  2. Patricia Godel Gray March 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    Your rights end at the tip of my nose. That’s what came to mind – wonder who penned that one?

    On Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 4:10 AM, Surprised by Logic wrote:

    > Maria posted: “Our culture is rife with ‘rights’ talk. Just consider a > few contemporary claims: right to free health care right to censor views > one doesn’t like right to end life whenever one wants right to define > oneself however one wants right to approval, acce” >

  3. Jeffrey Liakos February 6, 2018 at 9:13 pm #

    Nobody has a “right” to healthcare.

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