The Declaration’s vision—not (yet) fully realized

 

By Paul Stark

Editor’s note. This obviously was written before Independence Day, but I just ran across it today. See if you don’t agree its message is timeless.

Not yet.

Not yet.

On the Fourth of July we celebrate our Declaration of Independence and the founding principles expressed in that document. The most basic and important principle is “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.”

Every great question of justice in American history, Randy Alcorn notes, concerns the proper application of this principle. Does “all men” include women? African Americans? Native Americans? What is the scope of the community of those who are “created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”? Who counts as one of us?

We have, over time, expanded the circle of our moral concern to include persons who had been unjustly relegated to the status of mere property or second-class citizenship. We have come to recognize the fundamental equality and rights to life and liberty of all human beings—irrespective of gender, and race, and ethnicity, and social status. Those differences don’t matter morally. Everyone counts, right?

There is today only one glaring exception. The treatment of human beings before they are born is now the greatest issue of justice in American society. No other class of innocent humans is excluded from basic legal protection and dismembered and killed on an industrial scale (abortion is the leading cause of human death).

Does “all men” include human beings at their earliest developmental stages? Does each and every human being matter—simply on the basis of our shared humanity, irrespective of age, and size, and level of development—or do only some humans matter by virtue of criteria that some of us meet and others do not? No moral, cultural or political question is more important.

The Declaration presented a vision of human equality. We have not yet fully realized it.

Paul Stark is Communications Associate for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, NRLC’s state affiliate.