By: Dr. Paul Kengor
Each time President Obama addresses Americaâ€™s inalienable rights, I get emails. â€œDid you see Obama left out â€˜Creatorâ€™ again?â€ began the latest.
The most recent occasion was a June 17 presidential statement responding to a U.N. resolution on sexual orientation. Obama stated that â€œLGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rightsâ€”and entitled to the same protectionsâ€”as all human beings.â€
I can imagine why Obama and his speechwriters excluded the Creator in this particular statement. To say that â€œLGBT persons,â€ meaning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, have inalienable rights is one thing. After all, in the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson affirmed that â€œallâ€ human beings are endowed with â€œcertain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.â€
I take the Founders at their word. â€œAllâ€ means â€œall.â€ And this, wrote Jefferson, with the hearty approval of John Adams, Ben Franklin, and the entirety of the Continental Congress, is a â€œself-evidentâ€ truth.
No one should argue that â€œLGBT personsâ€ donâ€™t have inalienable rights.
And who endows those rights? The Creator does.
President Obama and his speechwriters and staff surely knew that to bring the Creator into this statement on sexual orientation would generate a firestorm over originsâ€”from the origins of man and marriage to the origins of sexual orientation, from the ancient words of Genesis to the modern text of the Defense of Marriage Act.
That said, this is far from the first time President Obama has been selective with inalienable rights and, more tellingly, with their preeminent author. As CNS News reported, this was the third time this year alone that Obama used the language of â€œinalienable rightsâ€ but omitted the â€œCreator.â€
In fact, this tendency by Obama began literally at the very start of his presidency. In quoting what seemed to be an amalgam of the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, our new president excluded â€œlifeâ€ among the inalienables, as well as the â€œCreatorâ€ that endows that right to life. It was quite a statement for his first presidential statement.
What to make of all of this? Itâ€™s hard to say, but itâ€™s surely no accident.
Presidents have speechwriters. They write speeches with carefully crafted words that the president wants to say. Those speeches go through an exhaustive review. Exclusions like â€œCreatorâ€ and â€œlifeâ€ from Americaâ€™s sacred inalienable rights (or â€œunalienableâ€) donâ€™t happen causallyâ€”or shouldnâ€™t.
In truth, one cannot separate our Declarationâ€™s inalienable rights from their Creator. The Founders understood this, knowing that Americans must realize that these inherent rights come not from man or government but God.
Is President Obamaâ€™s repeated failure to overtly link the two an attempt to separate them in a deeper sense? Or is he simply assuming theyâ€™re intertwined, with no need to openly acknowledge God as the source? I donâ€™t think we can assume the latter, especially given Obamaâ€™s consistent omission of the source, butâ€”to be fairâ€”I canâ€™t say for certain.
Nonetheless, something is going on here. And this much I can say:
President Obama and his administration pride themselves as modern progressives. The progressive project, for 100 years and counting, has been about reshaping and redefining the very essence of American thinking. The Constitution itself has been the obvious target. Progressives eagerly reinterpret the Constitution, declaring it a â€œliving documentâ€ subject to their unceasing, always-evolving â€œchangesâ€ and â€œreform.â€
So, given their liberties with the Constitution, why wouldnâ€™t progressives do the same with the Declaration of Independence?
With Obamaâ€™s statements, are we witnessing larger symptoms of a progressive push to reshape and redefine the Declarationâ€™s inalienable rights and, more fundamentally, their very source? Are we observing an attempt to remake these rights in the progressivesâ€™ own image, with the Creator out of the process?
Progressivism is moral relativism at the political level. Truth is never constant, with no fixed starting point, whether (theologically) in Sacred Scripture or (politically) in sacred political documents like the Constitution and Declaration. Truth is determined not by an absolute authority but by individualsâ€”or, here, progressive individuals en masseâ€”who are always marching and ever-advancing toward evolving truths revealed somewhere down the road. There is no goalpost set in concrete. Progressives themselves cannot tell you their ultimate endgame because they are constantly progressing (click here).
Is this an exasperating ideology? You bet it is.
What does this mean as America again prepares to mark the Declaration of Independence? Does it mean our â€œinalienablesâ€â€”or, more so, their fountainheadâ€”are not so self-evident, or at least subject to reinterpretation?
To citizens of a â€œprogressiveâ€ mind, yes, Iâ€™m afraid so. Is our president among them? I fear so.
And Iâ€™m even more afraid that few Americans know or care.
Dr.Â Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director ofÂ The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism,” and the newly released “Dupes: How Americaâ€™s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism," and his latest release, "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."