Americans are proud of their freedoms. Perhaps there is no one place where our freedoms are more on display than the amendments to the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights was written to balance out the power of the federal government inherent in the United States Constitution. Thomas Jefferson and the Antifederalists feared that individual American citizens were left unprotected by the establishment of the federal government in the Constitution. It was George Mason who first composed the declaration of rights, which eventually evolved into what we now know as the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights explicitly guarantees a number of individual freedoms – freedoms of speech, press, religion, and assembly, for example. They guarantee each citizen a fair trial and protect us against unreasonable search and seizure.
Who says these rights should belong to us? On what basis where they established? The origin of the Bill of Rights can be found in the philosophies of John Locke (1632-1704), who proposed that each person is born with natural rights that belong to us by virtue of the fact that we are human beings. No one has the right to interfere with these rights.
Thomas Jefferson expressed these ideas in the Declaration of Independence, which reads,
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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (emphasis added, D.K.)
Locke and Jefferson believed that individual rights were endowed by the Creator, that we have them by virtue of being created in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), and therefore no one can take them from us because they are fundamental to our nature.
The Bill of Rights and the philosophies behind it have always intrigued me because they are so widely accepted, yet Christian religion and even the existence of God is increasingly challenged. Can we toss out the idea of a Creator and keep our rights? That seems impossible to me, and from what I am able to read in the documents upon which this country has been founded, it seemed impossible to our founding fathers as well.
If you are looking for evidence that there is a God, you need look no further than the rationale behind this country’s laws. Without him, they would be meaningless. He is the sensibility and sound footing upon which they had been framed.