Pope Benedict XVI, in his Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in April 2008 stated: “The emphasis on the universality of God’s design for human beings was to put human rights into the context of stability and continuity, which the state must safeguard and foster, especially in today’s globalized world.” This concept had been articulated in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson as the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”—an archaic English term for the divine precepts and the natural law (the norm based on nature written by the Creator in our hearts, which permits us to distinguish good from evil)—and thereby became the foundation of liberty and freedom in the West.
Jefferson and the American Founding Fathers, while not recognizing any established religion in the newly created United States, realized that in order to enact laws that would ensure the ‘unalienable’ and ‘self-evident’ natural rights, they could not separate themselves from God and his natural law. Today the Western body politic, including multilateral organizations, such as the UN and the European Union have created a moral vacuum in society favoring individualism characterized by selfishness as human rights in its promotion and fostering of the pro-abortion movement, and in a more politically predominant manner by the LGBT campaign. Prominent figures, such as Prince Harry and Meghan to Corporate America and many on social media have shamelessly supported this by flashing the LGTB rainbow colors; there are even laws that require that children be taught in schools that such relationships must be accepted, or be penalized.
While both natural and human rights are nearly synonymous, the former are based on nature, i.e., they are inherent to the human person, while the latter do not necessarily have to be. For example, the state may recognize the right of a woman to abort the infant in her womb or may concede two persons of the same sex the faculty to contract a marriage. There are even those who seek to alter their gender identity arguing that it is inconsistent or not culturally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. They thus seek to surgically change their anatomical structure from male to female or from female to male. This, classed as transgenderism, became rampant in the US when the federal Department of Education recently mandated that schools provide access for nonconformist students to the toilet and locker room facilities of their choice, on the grounds that requiring biological males and females to use the facilities appropriate to their biological sex amounts to a violation of rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
Although the state may recognize abortion, same-sex marriage, or the freedom to change one’s sex as human rights, they are not natural rights because they contradict the natural law. The first example violates the inalienable right to life of a person who is not able to fend for him or herself. The second transgresses the internal essence of sexuality, which is the universal understanding and acceptance of a man and woman uniting in fidelity with the end of procreating and properly forming their progeny. The third violates the very nature of the creation of male and female as ordered by the Laws of Nature.
Church leaders, too, because of their pluralist approach to morality and doctrine have facilitated such antisocial behavior to be recognized as rights. As the Catholic Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan said: “Whereas Christ tolerated sinners but did not tolerate sin—always calling on sinners to “repent”—today most Western Christians believe they must tolerate (or “celebrate”) both sinner and sin. The latter, thanks to entrenched moral and cultural relativism, no longer even seems to exist.”
Consequential to all this is the firm foothold Islam has gained in Western society. Muslims have collectively reacted to the fundamental national, religious, cultural, and even gender identities that are being denied or relativized. As a community, in a complete paradox to the West, they tend to uphold natural law principles by refuting abortion: holding that the fetus possesses a spiritual right and the the parents are obligated to observe these rights for the safety of the fetus before, during and after pregnancy. Muslims also see as unfairly treating a family with many children as equal (juridically speaking) to same-sex marriages, to say nothing of transgenderism. This has further coerced the Islamic community, in order to defend its principles, to seclude itself within the refuge of the sharia which equally threatens the exercise of our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Robert R. Reilly, in his book The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, argues that it is in part of the ‘political correctness’ that the contemporary socio-political doctrine of sharia—the Islamic law in which Muslims find both constancy and unity—has successfully inserted itself into the West as a legitimate juridical structure. Despite the fact that sharia discourages any proper development of human rights—such as freedom of speech and of religion—or that it fails to recognize the equality between man and woman, Western statesmen (and Church leaders) remain reluctant to criticize it. They willingly refuse to publicly admit that it not only justifies the illegitimate use of force but requires that all human beings subjugate themselves to it. This is something that is even stipulated in Article 24 of the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam: “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia.”
The solution to the aforementioned problems is to embed in society the Judeo-Christian notion of the family: defend the unborn and sustain the substance and direction of sexuality, which is to bring about the union of man and woman and in this way give humanity posterity. This calls for its tutelage and promotion on the part of states and civil society actors. Notwithstanding the complexities that stem from both charismatic and visible dimensions of life, the irrevocable treasures that the family has to offer are to be continually approached and respected without any prejudice, with the understanding that they are not just an ideal but a reality to be embraced.