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Last Change: 2017-05-26
Civil rights, also civil liberties, are the rights that each individual possesses. Those rights are recognized by the Constitution and the Uniting Amendment. Civil rights include the right to be treated fairly and equally under the law and to be able to participate in society without discrimination based on things that are beyond an individual's control, such as race, sex or beliefs.
The Uniting Amendment follows the philosophy of the original founders, i.e., liberty and justice. However, our founders didn't fully implement that philosophy in a way that included everyone within that umbrella of liberty and we've been continually working to correct that. Events such as the Civil War; the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th Amendments; the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and other efforts have contributed to the progress we've made toward liberty and justice for all. Now the Uniting Amendment is expanding civil rights and liberties even further.
Why are civil liberties a natural right?
The underlying philosophy that preserves our civil rights is the recognition that our creator and nature have created everyone to be autonomous so we can freely make the choices that facilitate our survival and propagation. The specific mechanism by which those choices are made is through our pursuit of happiness. We make choices that we feel will most likely bring about our happiness and result is a prosperous life. Our natural drive to pursue happiness is what makes us succeed and thrive, and we pass that trait on to our progeny. Natural selection has selected for our autonomy. We are naturally made to be free – to be able to do whatever we want to do in order to be happy, to thrive, and to pass that on to our posterity. This is why liberty is a natural right.
One of the choices that we make to assure a prosperous life is to live with others – to form societies – so that we can mutually protect and promote our happiness. However, to participate in a society people accept certain limited attenuations to their rights. Specifically, they agree not to infringe the rights of others. The ultimate manifestation of that agreement is law. So although we agree to follow the law, we primarily have the right to do whatever we want and the governments we create recognize that right.
How do our fundamental laws protect our civil rights?
The design of our Constitution and the Uniting Amendment is such that first it assumes that everyone is completely free to do anything, then it specifies certain limitations in order to facilitate the functions of society. The amendment says:
- "In order to establish harmony, promote tolerance and diversity, and minimize points of contention, the right of all people to do anything they want shall not be abridged, provided that they respect the rights of others and abide by the provisions of this Constitution."
The provisions of the Constitution are, in effect, those certain limitations that are absolutely necessary for the government and society to function in a fair and transparent manner. For example, those who choose to represent us as elected officials agree to give up some rights (such as a portion of their privacy) and follow certain rules so that there is transparency and people can know what the representatives are doing. Additionally, the laws that limit what can be done must be constructed and implemented fairly. This is important, because without fairness in our laws and government, people will choose not to participate and civil society will breakdown to the point where people will no longer respect the rights of others, resulting in less happiness for everyone.