[14]   Human Rights (1): Human Rights & Responsibilities

STORY: Here are the positions pushed by an organization: oppose any form of praying in schools and colleges, oppose tough punishment for criminals, oppose hate speech in general yet encourage hate speech against Christians, oppose any discussion of health consequences of abortions, oppose teaching abstinence in sex education, oppose curfew laws for students, oppose drug test for employees; yet on the other hand, support the use of illegal drugs, support abortion-on-demand, support the cruel and horrific partial birth abortion, support all homosexual rights including homosexual marriage, support government grants and public display of obscene arts with sexual themes and anti-Christian themes, support providing condoms to students, support radical feminism. Which organization do you think this is? /// American Civil Liberties Union

Background:

·       “Rights” are privileges. Once recognized and legislated, it will be illegal for anyone to do anything to stop the exercise of those rights. In other words, a “right” has legislative force behind it and everyone is compelled to allow the free exercise of that right.

·       A different term related to rights is “freedom”. It refers to an individual’s freedom of choice. While no one can actively restrict another person to exercise that choice, no one is compelled to yield to it either.

·       For example, one has the “freedom of association” so one can try to attend any church one likes but the church can refuse admittance. But if it is the “right of association”, the church will not be able to refuse admittance; otherwise, the church can be prosecuted for not allowing that person to exercise the right of association. While the distinction of the two terms is a fine but an important one in legal terms, rights and freedoms are usually referred to together.

62.  What is the Biblical basis for human rights?

a.   Human rights are moral claims of basic privileges necessary to living a truly human life.

b.   Human rights are founded on the belief of “human dignity” which is defined as the worthiness or the claim to respect of being human. In other words, just being human is sufficient reason for deserving a list of human rights. Why? Because Man was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27). If not, then man is no different from other animals and human dignity has no solid foundation. There can be no rights of man except on the basis of faith in God.

c.   Gen 1:27-28 expresses the basis of human dignity and describes 3 relationships. Note that the world only emphasizes rights. But with rights comes responsibilities; otherwise, rights will be abused (which is what happens in western civilization today).

(1)  “God created man in his own image”: our relationship to God - right and responsibility of worship

o        Basis of right to life; freedom to profess, practise and propagate religion; freedom of worship, of conscience, of thought and speech

(2)  “Male and female he created them”: our relationship to other human beings - right and responsibility of fellowship

o        Basis of sanctity of sex, marriage and family; freedom of peaceful assembly; right to receive respect, whatever gender, age, race or rank

(3)  “God blessed them and said to them, ‘...fill the earth and subdue it.’”: our relationship to the created world - right and responsibility of stewardship

o        Basis of right to work and rest; freedom to share in the earth’s resources; freedom to food, clothing and shelter; freedom to health and self-preservation; freedom from poverty, hunger and disease

Clarification on rights vs. freedoms

The right to work is not equal to the right to employment. The right to work means that no one can stop another person from working (or not working), that is, a striking worker cannot stop another person from going to work by crossing the picket line, even if they belong to the same union. But if it is the right to employment, one must have the chance to be employed. If one could not find employment, then it is up to the government to ensure an employment. Otherwise, the government will have deprived one’s right to employment.

Similarly, if the government legislate the right to same-sex marriage. It willl mean that anyone who obstructs a homosexual couple to obtain a marriage licence will violate the law. In other words, any homosexual couple who desires to have the pastor of an evangelical church to bless their union must be accommodated as pastors are given the responsibility and the authority by the government to officiate marriages. Any pastor who refuses such request will have violated the law.

d.   The worthiness of man is demonstrated by the action of God. God cares for man so much that He sent His son Jesus to the world to save man through His death.

Secularists’ new commandments that Christians should oppose

1.     You shall have the right and power of self-government. The emphasis is on autonomy, narcissism (extreme egoism, love of self), choice (but see Dt 12:8), and the replacement of God with our own will. The result is the widespread selfishness.

2.     You shall keep your private life separate from your public life. The result is hypocrisy.

3.     You shall be accepting the beliefs of others. This is moral pluralism which puts equal value on all beliefs. Pluralism may work in ethnic and political arenas but it does not work in arena of morality. The idea that there is more than one kind of ultimate reality is dangerous. It turns our society in to one that demands tolerance of all kinds of conflicting ideals, morals, and values. Yet unfortunately, many Christians do not contest this permissiveness.

4.     You shall be tolerate of the behaviour of others. The assumption is that in order to love and care for someone, we must tolerate his/her moral choices – even if these choices are destructive or offensive. G.K. Chesterton says: “Tolerance is the attitude of those who don’t believe in anything.” Jesus did not always condone others’ lifestyle choices. He said, “Go and sin no more.” God is most definitely a judgmental God. When those differences are moral, tolerance and acceptance must end.

5.     You shall not place burdensome limits on individuality. “If it feels good, do it.” Virtually everything is permissible. [Note that liberals talk about “feeling” while Conservatives talk about “reasoning”.] Today is a “rights-based” culture that is drenched in pleasure and drowned in materialism. But rights must necessarily come with responsibilities.

6.     You shall honour the moral interpretations of others. The society and liberal “Christians” decided that God’s laws as recorded in the Bible are outdated and incompatible with the realities of modern culture. They reinterpret it in a way that is more agreeable to their own way of thinking, living and feeling. They will be seriously judged by God in the end.

63.  What are the basic human rights?

a.   There are 2 main areas of human rights: right to life, and right to liberty. While the highest right is the right to life, more human rights activists now concentrate on the right to liberty, especially equality rights. Some even put one’s own right to liberty higher than another person’s right to life.

b.   Besides basic human needs (food, shelter, clothing, health care), there are 4 categories of basic human rights to liberty (civil liberties):

(1)  Political liberties -- freedom of association, assembly, and speech, freedom of the press and other mass media, freedom of conscience and religion

(2)  Economic liberties -- freedom to own property, freedom of contract, right to work or withhold labour

(3)  Legal liberties -- freedom from arbitrary arrest, right to an impartial judicial process, such as independent judge and jury, and access to counsel

(4)  Equality (egalitarian) liberties -- without discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, or economic circumstances

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)

It specifies 4 fundamental freedoms (conscience and religion; thought, belief, opinion and expression; peaceful assembly; association) and 4 types of rights (democratic rights, mobility rights, legal rights, equality rights).

c.   Equality rights:

·         Equality is taught in the Bible (Acts 10:34-35). It is important that there should not be discrimination on the basis of characteristics that an individual was born with and cannot escape from, such as race and sex.

·         But the right to equality is now interpreted as meaning every distinct human charateristic is equal in value and must be accepted and treated equally (based on pluralism).

·         It is impossible to treat every group as completely equal. For example, should a Christian church be forced to employ an atheist as office worker? Non-Christians are welcome to attend Christian worship services but should they be allowed to participate in the holy communion?

·         Equality is certainly not applied to moral areas. This is particularly true for demands of equality based on the fabricated term of “sexual orientation” which is never legally defined. It is commonly used today to mean homosexuality. But secular humanists could use this term to justify all kinds of sexual perversions, such as polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality, etc.

Right to Privacy

One of the pillars of the culture of death is right to privacy. It is actually not in the US Constitution. It is a long-distance extension of the 4th Amendment which is “against unreasonable searches and seizures” by the government. The right to privacy, once recognized, is then again extended to mean the right to kill yourself (suicide) and the right to kill your preborn baby (abortion). This is again a good example of the slippery slope argument.

64.  Should Christians support all efforts of getting more human rights?

a.   There are two opposite facets to the problem involving human rights today:

(1)  In totalitarian countries where rights and freedoms are limited to the privileged class, there is frequent violation of human rights such as unjustified imprisonment, torture, and execution of innocent people. The church has the duty and responsibility of identifying, promoting, and realizing human rights in these countries.

(2)  In democratic countries where rights and freedoms are available to most, there is over-emphasis and abuse of human rights, especially in western industrialized countries. The western society has come to emphasize rights without responsibility.

b.   Christians should help to prevent human beings being demeaned, abused, depersonalized anywhere in the world (Gal 3:28). But human rights are not unlimited rights; they are limited to what is compatible with being the human person God made us and meant us to be.

c.   Rights do not exist apart from responsibilities. Man must exercise his rights responsibly. Otherwise, the unrestrained quest of rights will bring conflict between individuals.

·         Example: Every driver has the responsibility to follow some rules while driving, such as stopping at the STOP sign. If everyone insists that he/she has the liberty to drive the car in whatever way he/she likes, there will be disorder, conflicts, and disaster.

·         Charles Colson: ‘Rights divorced from responsibilities are the seeds of destruction.”

·         Today’s society uses verbal and mental gymnastics to avoid responsibility and accountability. For example, criminals and even murderers use excuses of poor upbringing or family violence to explain away their individual responsibilities and blame the society for their crimes.

·         Some Christians think that ethics should speak only of responsibilities and not of rights. They correctly remind us that modern society provide excessive encouragement for people to exercise their individual rights. Our culture does not understand the Biblical ideal of a community of people (the church) who willingly give up their own rights to serve others.

d.   Emphasizing both freedom and equality often lead to conflict because it is impossible to allow freedom for everyone and still maintain equality for everyone. Ethical dilemma arises when human rights of one are in conflict with human rights of another. Nobody can do whatever he likes. It is NOT proper to support all efforts to get more human rights.

e.   Examples for conflict of human rights:

(1)  Distribution of hate literature (or hate speech):

o        Christians should carefully distinguish what is classified as hate literature. This is a particularly vital question at the present time because homosexual people in Canada are trying to pass laws to classify anything that opposes homosexuality as hate literature. The draft legislation Bill C-250 has already been passed by the House of Commons. Although the legislation was halted because Parliament was prorogued. The Liberal government revived the Bill again. If the Bill is passed by the Senate, it will become law. Eventually, the Bible will be classified as hate literature. Any preaching against homosexuality will be classified at hate speech.

o        Hate literature is written material that directly promotes hate against particular individuals or a group of individuals, e.g. Ku Klux Klan publishes materials against blacks and Jews.

o        Hate literature can cause social problems because it may encourage discrimination or physical violence against the targetted group. Therefore, such literature should be prohibited.

o        Homosexual people try to use the same argument against the Bible. Christians can use the following arguments to reject it.

~         The Bible does not promote hate against any person.

~         The Bible simply points out that homosexuality is a sin (just like adultery is a sin). The Bible is against the sin but not the sinner (although homosexuals reject such distinction). In fact, Jesus loves the sinner. But He asked the sinner to repent.

~         The Bible is against any violence, including violence against homosexuals. Yet, even sinners within the church are disciplined, though not with violence.

Further debate on hate speech

Is the exclusion of non-Christians from the holy communion a discrimination? Yes, it is based on the policy of governance in the church and teaching in the Bible. In any case, no reasonable non-Christian would want to join in the holy communion except for someone who aims to disrupt the service.

Is saying someone is sinful hate speech? No. Talking about the wrong of sinning is not hate speech. Hate speech must be directed to particular persons.

Can you really hate the sin yet not hate the sinner? Yes, Christians can still respect a person who sins. Whether the person is a homosexual or an adulterer, he/she is still respected as a person made in God’s image. God still loves him/her as a person even though God hates how he/she sins. Take for example the procedure of how a church treats a member who sins (say adultery). First, the person is called to repent (to admit the mistake and to stop sinning). If the person repents, he/she is accepted fully, although sometimes disciplinary action may be necessary. If the person does not repent, his/her membership will be terminated and he/she will be treated like non-Christians. Even under this situation, he/she is still welcome to join in the worship service.

Is the restriction against hate speech a violation against the freedom of expression? In a way yes. But there is limit to any kinds of freedom. If one’s freedom of speech directly lead to a greater evil, such freedom should be stopped. For example, if somone publicly advocates illegal activities, he/she should be stopped.

(2)  Establishment of Satanic churches and other cults:

o        Members of a cult have religious freedom too. An uncommon religion should not be prohibited simply because it is uncommon or newly organized.

o        If a cult advocates unlawful practice, they should be prohibited because of the violation of laws, not because of their religious belief.

o        However, the church should caution Christians about the danger of cults and those involved with demonic spirits.

(3)  Joining civil liberties associations (such as the ACLU):

o        Those associations often advocate unrestrained pursuit of rights and freedom based on secular humanism.

o        The majority of things they support are contrary to the Biblical position. They should be exposed for what they are. A Christian who joins those associations need to be questioned about their true faith.

f.    Christians should be skeptical about people using buzz words such as “progress”, “social justice”, “equality” to push their philosophy of acquiring excessive rights. Today, the over-emphasis of human rights is gradually infringing on the religious freedom of Christians. As a homosexual rights activist declared, “The Charter of Rights trumps the Bible.”

g.   As salt and light of the world, Christians are to influence the society by upholding the Biblical standard: condemning violations of genuine human rights as well as cautioning unrestrained pursuit of rights without responsibility.

65.  What is the meaning of religious freedom for Christians?

a.   The Bible tells us not to be surprised if the world hates Christians. Today, we are living in anti-Christian social environment (1Jn 3:13). Although the majority of Canadians and Americans still called themselves Christians, many are nominal Christians (in name only) who support the unrestrained pursuit of equality rights by secular humanists.

b.   Out of the emphasis of diversity, all minorities are protected. The only group that is not protected in our society is Christians. For example, it is not politically correct to offend any ethnic minority or any religious group or homosexuals. If one vilifies (say bad things about) them, it is hate speech. Yet, one is allowed to freely attack the Bible and Christianity with very little consequence and it is never described as hate speech.

c.   While Christians are being restricted more and more in democratic countries, Christians in Islamic and communist countries are being persecuted or even murdered because of their beliefs (Lk 21:12; Jn 15:20). In many Muslim countries, the act of converting a Muslim to Christianity is punishable by death.

d.   Christians need to defend our religious freedom which includes:

·         free to publicly express our beliefs and our celebrations

·         free to distribute the Bible and proclaim the gospel in public

·         free to restrict the employment of church workers to people with the same beliefs

·         free to exclude unrepentent sinners from church membership

·         free from coercion by the government to change our Biblical moral standard

e.   Such freedom may appear reasonable, but there is a trend towards encroachment by the government to take away such freedom. See how the word “Christmas” is being gradually expunged from the public and how public displays of the Ten Commandments and crosses are being removed. If such a trend is not resisted, more of our religious freedom will be taken away. It is a “slippery slope”.

f.    The guarantee or religious freedom (or religious exception in Bill C-250) by the government will not be sufficient to protect Christians because of judicial activism (judges writing new laws). Liberal judges and the ultra-liberal Human Rights Tribunals in Canada have frequently upheld equality rights and penalized Christians. [Many such cases are provided in these class notes and in supplemental materials.] Christians need to participate in social action to stop further erosion of our religious freedom.

An example of judicial activism

The law in California (passed by a referendum) clearly states that marriage is for a man and a woman only. In 2004, the mayor of San Francisco decided on his own to issue marriage licences for same-sex marriages. An application to the court to stop such clear violation of the law was rejected three times by judges in California courts. It was eventually stopped by the court not because such action violated the law but in order for the courts to study whether the law is legitimate. This is a clear case of wanton disregard of existing laws and a trend of judges writing new laws, in effect a power grab to replace the legislature.

g.   We are ultimately accountable to God and will face divine judgment (2Co 5:10). Remember Edmund Burke’s famous saying: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Fortunately, the judges will be under the same judgment too. [My one-sentence letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 in opposition to the legalization of abortion: “Your judgment on abortion will be judged by the Supreme Judge on Judgment Day.”]