Mr. Speaker, I think it is wise from time to time that we in this House reflect upon our heritage, who we are and where we get our dignity as individuals in this country. As a former judge in Texas for over 22 years, I like to spend time in our schools, our elementaries, junior highs, high schools and even our law schools, discussing all aspects of the United States and our history. And I would often ask this question to the groups that I was talking to: "Where do we, as Americans, get our rights?"
Sometimes asking that question would cause people some concern that made them somewhat uncomfortable, especially the elites in our law schools. I would ask those questions to not only law professors but justices on our courts throughout the fruited plain.
But the answers would vary from the students. Some would say we get our rights from our parents. Others would say, well, we get our rights from the President. Even one student last week told me we get our rights from Harry Potter. But most of the kids that I would talk to and most of the professors I would talk to say, well, we get our rights as Americans from government.
All of those answers, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, are wrong because we don't get our rights from any of those entities. We talk about our rights, we claim we have rights, but we never talk about where we get them. I think it would be easier to describe a story that occurred shortly after the Iron Curtain, as Churchill called it, came down, the Berlin Wall, the wall that separated East from West, freedom from slavery. When the wall came down, there were numerous political prisoners in Eastern Europe that were finally freed but put in prison by those oppressive governments for exercising what they believed to be freedoms. One was a Prague, Czechoslovakian student who had gone to prison for 7 years and was serving time because he was reading on the steps of Prague University a forbidden document, a document that that Communist regime said that no one shall read in public.
I would like to read a portion of that document here tonight. He quoted someone from the United States. In that statement where he spent 7 years in prison, he stated, "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, the pursuit of Happiness, that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving the just powers from the consent of the governed."
Yes, Mr. Speaker, that Prague student who spent 7 years in prison understood where his rights came from. It was not from government, but it was from the Almighty, the Creator, as quoted in the Declaration of Independence that he chose to read and cost him 7 years of his freedom, that Declaration of Independence that was written and authored by Thomas Jefferson.
Of course that document was the status and the statement and the indictment against King George, not the people of England, but King George, the Government of England, for why the United States had a right to be a separate and independent nation. It was an indictment stating the causes, and finally the Constitution was the government that we set up to preserve the rights in the Declaration of Independence.
We get our rights from the Creator. Because if we get our rights from government, governments can take those rights away from us at any time government wishes to do so. Mr. Speaker, 49 of the 50 States have in their preambles a reference to the Almighty. Many of those preambles mention the fact that they get their rights in the States from the Creator.
The Bill of Rights in our Constitution limits government. Government does not have rights. Government has power. And government gets power from us when we choose to give up individual liberty and give up individual rights. Government has the power to control us and control our liberties only if we let it. So the Bill of Rights and the Constitution says government was set up to protect the rights that we have, those God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In fact, the ninth amendment to the Bill of Rights says there are more rights that aren't even listed in the Bill of Rights that we have.
Mr. Speaker, on the Jefferson Memorial down the street from where we all are is written a quote by Thomas Jefferson which says, "God who gave us Life gave us Liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?"
Mr. Speaker, if we fail to acknowledge this legal principle of God-given rights, then we deny our heritage as Americans and our reason to be a free people.
And that's just the way it is.
Click here to see a list of the state Constitutions that reference God
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