Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) is one of the most dishonest, hyper-partisan and untrustworthy of all members of Congress, so naturally he can do nothing right in the eyes of the conservative media. Thus his Twitter rebuke of Florida’s governor was widely mocked by the Right. Here’s RedState:
We’ve seen a lot of ignorance from Democrats in Congress and frequently, it seems like a tight race for who may hold the crown for the most ignorant…
But I have to give him big points for his latest entry in the “Ignorance Olympics.” He tried to dunk on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis but it was an epic self-own.
DeSantis was talking about a basic principle upon which our government was founded: that we have natural rights that were not granted to us by the government.Some on the left flipped out that he dared to mention “God,” not seeming to understand that we’re founded on the concept of natural rights — inalienable rights you have, that do not come to you from the government. We see this, perhaps most famously, in the Declaration of Independence, “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.” The Bill of Rights in the Constitution is further recognition of those fundamental rights….
Oh, my, how can he be so wrong? “Separation of church & state” is not part of the Bill of Rights. It’s a common falsehood pushed by people on the left, but it’s a failure to understand the First Amendment. While the First Amendment forbids the establishment of religion and guarantees an individual’s right to the free exercise of religion. It has no such separation provision.
The concept of natural rights is not dependent on believing that a Supreme Being created them. Jefferson’s language was rote in his period (the evidence suggest that he was not convinced of the existence of God, but like Abraham Lincoln later, he knew that political realities and the need to lead made such nods to religion pragmatic.) Many of the philosophers who defined natural rights did so without references to God or any god, and a divine entity is not essential to justify the idea that every human being should have certain rights as a matter of simple right and wrong: ethics.
The Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment as a ban on state-mandated religion, and furthermore, has banned government entities from teaching any God “gave” them to us. It is contradictory for DeSantis to simultaneously condemn indoctrination and yet to insist that schools teach that our rights come from “God.” That is indoctrination, and obviously so. Apparently indoctrination to the governor is when the schools program children with ideas and positions he doesn’t agree with.
This is why school prayers are not permitted in public schools: promoting any religion (or no religion) is the state interfering with the free exercise of religion. Separation of church and state is a perfectly legitimate description of the First Amendment’s meaning and force.
Rep. Swalwell is right. (Blind squirrels and all that…) DeSantis is frighteningly wrong.
30 thoughts on “Stop Making Me Defend Eric Swalwell!”
I find it amusing that people who claim they do not care about what some long-dead slaveholders thought about the Constitution suddenly become very interested in that very topic when it comes to the separation of church and state.
Correct, the Bill of Rights and other founding documents suddenly become as important as those fine upstanding statesmen George H.W. Bush and John McCain when the Left can use them to buffet the Right.
A question (since my Twitter experience is limited to two messages to a cyclist guy seven years ago):
Do the bracketed ellipses in the Governor’s message indicate text that has been removed?
I read the […] as meaning that there were other words in the quote there that are not quoted.
I know this doesn’t look good for DeSantis in regards to fully understanding the separation of church and state as part of the First Amendment and seemingly being hypocritical about indoctrination; however, I’d really like to have the entire DeSantis quote(s) to understand the full context of what he said/wrote before I outright condemn him as Swalwell did. I’m not jumping on this bandwagon, yet.
Swalwell has shown me that he’s a sleazy partisan hack that employs the ends justifies the means whenever he can get away with it and it wouldn’t surprise me one damn bit to learn that Swalwell has cherry picked statements completely out of context and combined them to smear DeSantis. On the other hand; if Swalwell actually presented this without bastardizing the context with his intentional cherry pickling then I’m in complete agreement with Jack.
I finally found the full quote and Swalwell got it right this time and the cherry picking he did didn’t bastardize the context.
Here’s the video…
DeSantis was wrong. What DeSantis should have said is something like this, “They need to understand that our rights do not come from the government, the Constitution simply enumerated some human rights to intentionally limit the government.”
” WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
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. ”
Seems to me that something endowed man those natural rights. If we assume that natural rights are simply those rights determined by the fiats of society then there are no rights endowed to man by something other than man.
I am not sure we can say that natural laws are not endowed to man by some type of creator. To do otherwise, the alternative is that man giveth and man can taketh away. Through the reference of an existential entity outside of man, the framers effectively reduced the power of man to strip away natural rights. DeSantis is not completely wrong in his assertion he simply stated what the framers put down in writing in the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution.
The problem is how do you convey the idea that natural rights simply exist without suggesting a creator? How do you explain to a child or an elected adult that no human being has the authority to strip away a natural right because if they can it is no longer a natural right? Even if you resort to using Kant or any other philosophers who establish their ideas on what is right and wrong, they are still human beings that can be countermanded by other human being like Machiavelli. You need to have something that transcends man’s governance over others.
No doubt that schools should not impose a particular dogma on students. But they do that anyway by denying that a god exists. What is necessary is that government respect the rights of individuals to practice their faiths undisturbed even if it occurs on public property so long as it does not impose costs on others. If there is to be a total separation of Church and State, then we should do away with the national prayer breakfast and the chaplains in Congress.
I should point out that the Constitution is a limiting document on what government can and cannot do. In essence it is the bylaws of the governing charter. All rights not specifically reserved for government are held by the people.
The document establishing the need for the Constitution is the Declaration of Independence which preceded the ratified Constitution by more than a decade. So, which holds more weight in terms of relevance?
This is fundamental.
If rights can be found in an *objective* standard then they cannot be man-made. If our philosophers are merely trying to work out what rights work best for a society then they are ultimately man-made and cannot be objective. Regardless – when pushed back to the rhetorical origins of the debate – if we want to aim for understanding a set of *objective* rights and goods then we have to admit they come from somewhere external to us – regardless of what we call that externality.
From there we can either decide whether we believe that what is right and good has been revealed to us from “above” or we can decide that what we believe is right and good has been concealed from us but is findable (which academically can become like the first problem of man-made rights). Or is somewhere in between those poles.
But to openly state there is no origin of the rights is to automatically say they are man-made. In which case they aren’t rights – they are just the fickle results of a majority opinion of a slice of mankind at the time the question is asked.
Michael West wrote, “But to openly state there is no origin of the rights is to automatically say they are man-made. In which case they aren’t rights – they are just the fickle results of a majority opinion of a slice of mankind at the time the question is asked.”
Nicely stated but in my opinion, it’s false.
Stated or written human rights are not necessarily man-made rights even if an origin is not stated, they’re man trying to quantifiably define and protect that which they know to be true of all human beings and it all begins with the right to life and self preservation. All human beings have the right to life and self preservation, period. The human right to life and preservation is not a man-made right even if it doesn’t have a definable origin, it’s an inherent right built into the psyche all human beings regardless of the words that we currently use to describe that right or a perceived origin. The human right to life exists without any words to describe it or any perceived God to dictate it, in fact the commandment “thou shalt not kill” is simply an assertion of the already existing human right to life, the commandment didn’t create the right, it enumerated what everyone already knew existed.
The origin (if that’s what you choose to call it) of the human right to life is simply that a human being is a human being, period.
“that which they know to be true of all human beings”
How do they know this?
“it all begins with the right to life and self preservation”
Why? Evolutionary impulses alone can lead us down a dark path that denies ALOT of what we consider to be inalienable rights.
“an inherent right built into”
Built how and by who or by what? We’ve got a lot “built” into us that competes for what motivates our conduct in the here and now.
“is simply that a human being is a human being”
So might makes right?
Ultimately the argument does involve some level of something that *looks* man made anyway. Because even once the logical conclusion is admitted that if we have an objective set of an inalienable rights those rights had to come from something external to mankind – we then have the question of what externality is that – is the Christian one? a Buddhist one? Shinto? Whose revealed standard is the revealed standard? So yes – there is still an argument that boils down to some level of current era “democracy of values”.
But at least acknowledging the first premise is already a better start than not.
Locke advanced two arguments for natural rights: One involved the common origin of all humans, being made in the image of God. But the second involved Man in a state of nature, not possessing organized government but affected by mutual obligation. The later requires no agent, divine or otherwise, to bestow rights upon man. They are, to use more modern phrasing, emergent phenomena that arise out of man’s nature and the way the world works.
Who decides what “mutual obligation” means?
“The problem is how do you convey the idea that natural rights simply exist without suggesting a creator?”
The same way you convey the idea that GRAVITY simply exists without suggesting a creator. Or take your pick of any basic, unmoving truth that exists as a part of the existence of the Universe: Newton’s laws of motion, Conservation of Mass, Conservation of Energy, tidal forces, the way water almost uniquely expands when it freezes instead of contracts, the list goes on and on.
What all of these things have in common with mankind’s natural rights is that they undoubtedly exist, and that their existence is NOT the result of any human being anywhere making a decision that they should exist.
One can dive deeper into the actual reason and possibly conclude that there is a “Creator” of some sort or not, but it doesn’t change the basic tenet that such things do exist, have always existed, and will always exist–and no human decision, be it individual or collective, can change that.
This is the essence of Natural Law. It is absolutely 0% man-made.
Whether or not there is some “Creator” isn’t the important point. The important point is that Mankind is absolutely NOT that “Creator” and never can be.
This is also, by the way, why it’s important to see that (most of) the Bill of Rights is simply an enumeration of certain natural rights that all people everywhere already have. It is NOT the reason nor the source of such rights. Nowhere does it say “The People shall have the right to ….” but rather “Congress shall pass no law abridging the right to ….” instead–and that’s a very important distinction. The authors weren’t deciding that people are henceforth going to have that right. They were acknowledging that the right simply already exists in Natural Law and explicitly forbidding the government from infringing on it.
If the First Amendment were repealed tomorrow, you would still have the freedom of speech, it just wouldn’t be explicitly listed in the Constitution anymore. It would be like the Right to Privacy is today. We know it exists, we acknowledge it, and we don’t pretend that it exists because government says so.
nominated for COTD
Bingo. Great comment.
Dwayne you said
“The same way you convey the idea that GRAVITY simply exists without suggesting a creator. Or take your pick of any basic, unmoving truth that exists as a part of the existence of the Universe: Newton’s laws of motion, Conservation of Mass, Conservation of Energy, tidal forces, the way water almost uniquely expands when it freezes instead of contracts, the list goes on and on.”
Each of the above is measurable, testable and quantifiable. Gravity is a function mass. It is explained by geometry. “Gravity is just geometry, the result of the curvature by massive objects of the space and time around them. The strength of the gravitational “ field ” at any point in space or time is just the degree to which that coordinate in space-time is invisibly curved. Massive objects fall down these curves towards each other.”
Water as a liquid contracts as it cools, but when it gets to a certain temperature it crystallizes giving it a distinct shape that is less dense than its fluid form that has no defined shape.
Now if we try to explain why that these scientific facts exist it becomes more complicated. Why can energy neither be created nor destroyed? If all of these “laws” are simply there by virtue of nature what created nature? This is the point of the entire argument.
No one can say only their way is the only correct set of facts as to the origin of these what appear to be immutable laws of nature. Science gains an upper hand in the matter because those conditions and “laws” are measurable and provable that they exist, but you cannot state the rationale for their existence and what caused them to exist. Science requires the ability to say anything we have not proven true or false is possible. Those who claim that one group’s answer to the origin of the universe is the only one are not being scientifically honest. The same holds for the man-made religions of the world
You also said, “The authors weren’t deciding that people are henceforth going to have that right. They were acknowledging that the right simply already exists in Natural Law and explicitly forbidding the government from infringing on it.”
Nowhere in the Constitution are natural rights mentioned. It was in the Declaration of Independence that the reference to Natural rights and those rights endowed by their creator.
“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—”
Thus, the concept of simply only having the right to defend your life as Steve suggested is false. The operative words are “unalienable Rights”, and “among”. The word “among” therefore suggests far more Creator given rights than simply Life Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I don’t think they were simply acknowledging natural rights when the Bill of Rights was created. The Bill of Rights was a document/set of amendments pressed for by James Madison because he saw the inherent deficiencies in the Constitution, without which the Constitution might never have been ratified.
The entire point of the original post was that DeSantis incorrectly used the word God in his Tweet. Had he used the term Creator would that have made a difference? Are we ready to eliminate all references to deities from social discourse for political gain? I hope not because society is devolving fast enough into a Lord of the Flies environment on its own.
Chris Marschner wrote, “the concept of simply only having the right to defend your life as Steve suggested is false.”
Yes what you wrote is false and it’s also not what I suggested, I simply chose to only talk about that one unalienable right and if you took what I wrote to mean that that’s the only unalienable right that I think exists then you took it wrong.
Please read my comment again.
Ok. I did and realize I misinterpreted the point. When I saw the word period I took that as the one and only natural right. I should have reread that initially knowing your high level of commentary.
I do think society would be better served if we stopped trying to condemn and began trying to elevate the dialogue on issues such as these. There is no doubt in my mind that Swaleell saw an opportunity to harm and he took it. For that reason I will not defend him nor will I defend DeSantis who could have been more circumspect in his remarks.
Others have cited natural law as being the arbiter of unalienable rights and have cited physical science facts but one cannot prove that nature endowed us with the right to speak, worship as we please, or be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion. The concept of a being external to man enjoins man from assuming power over others. That is my take on the issue.
Chris Marschner wrote, “Ok. I did and realize I misinterpreted the point. When I saw the word period I took that as the one and only natural right. I should have reread that initially knowing your high level of commentary.”
Funny, no one questioned whether Swalwell believes all of our rights are ordained by government. If he believes there is no creator why not just say so?
This thread is an example of why EA is such a remarkable, unique, and valuable blogsite, regardless of the vacillation in commentary numbers.
I was going to say this all boils down to whether or not something can arise from nothing which is another way of asking “does God exist” or a supreme creator.
However, Chris and Michael covered anything I would have said and far better.
So, can something arise from nothing?
DeSantis simply came down on one side of the existential God question and I for one have no problem with that even though he is a politician. I like that he isn’t a weenie and Michael and Chris have explained how he is on solid logical footing.
Once one denies the existence of God and His authority, then all human concepts of right and wrong shrink to insignificance. Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes…” and so it is today. People who deny the authority of God are largely doing what is right in their own eyes. If man is the final arbiter of right and wrong, good and evil, then who is one fallible mere man or one group of fallible men to tell others how they should live? Once ultimate authority is relegated to the human realm, then “morality” is only determined by dominant opinion and whim (I could say politics) or, ultimately, “might makes right” or mob rule (Leftist politics). Not that we see this happening or anything…
I have no problem with the term “natural rights,” if that keeps someone’s panties out of a wad, since God created all of nature and maintains authority over it. For Christians, this topic is not open to serious debate, regardless of the verbiage chosen.
The leftists never seem to have a problem invoking God when it fits their narrative. I want to point out that I am not a devout anything. I last went to church decades ago. I simply believe that every religion has at its root’s similar constructs which are socially beneficial. It is how those constructs are interpreted and exhibited is what led me away from organized religion. Man has the ability to bastardize that which is good for their own welfare. The text, “Forgive them for they know not what they do” comes to mind.
Nonetheless, until someone can tell me what precipitated the Big Bang or how matter first was created then I have no reason to deny the existence of a supreme entity. When science denies the existence of something for which they have no measurement device it is not science but merely lazy dogma. Simply because Science cannot prove the existence of something does not mean that it does not exist. Quarks existed long before they were measurable.
I saw a somewhat witty t-shirt graphic that read “I’d rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned”. It was clearly intended way to favor Science by slamming religion. I rather like using it to slam to so-called settled science that has and still does wreck havoc on our society. After all, scientific theories that cannot be debated are just what you have pointed out…dogma.
“…he knew that political realities and the need to lead made such nods to religion pragmatic…” pragmatic because the overwhelming vast majority of people who were establishing a new country believed in a non-extraterestrial Creator.
At some point, there being a Creator/God is fact apart from religion.
When DeSantis proposes to teach that our rights come from God, isn’t he proposing teaching the Declaration of Independence?. “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.”raw
With respect to the Bill of Rights, teaching that rights come from God proposes the establishment of what religion exactly?
“…done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven…”
Maybe they shouldn’t have mentioned Christ. The French didn’t.
I never would have considered the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, as something that the authors may have purposely dumbed down so that lesser thinkers otherwise seeing Christianity as their guide could understand what the Constitution (& Declaration of Independence) was intended to be.
Without reference to a Christian God (or Creator), the ratification of the Bill of Rights might not have occurred; without something supernatural, these self-evident truths could just be seen as a collective bargaining agreement between government and the People.
Something has to guarantee these Rights; if not something supernatural, these Rights are endowed by men and can be suspended at will.
Sorry if I stunk the place up.