Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Short Lesson in History

By Jeff Mateer
General Counsel for Liberty Institute

My lovely wife, D’Ann Mateer, asked me to share my thoughts on the right to life. She rejected my first submission, claiming that it was too much of a history lesson and that it lacked personal experience.

My first response to her is, of course, anything that I would write would contain a history lesson. I’m a constitutional lawyer, who believes a large part of our problems today result from the failure of judges, law professors, and lawyers to strictly interpret the actual text of the Constitution given the original intent of the Framers.

My second response is I’m a lawyer and a man. I don’t share personal experiences, at least not for free.

Nevertheless, taking appropriate note of her suggestions, here goes my revised submission.

When I hear the words “right to life” what do I think of? Immediately, my thoughts turn to the current debate over abortion. I also mull over the controversy concerning euthanasia and other end of life issues.

The phrase “right to life”, however, is not a creation of the 20th or 21st century. It has its origin in the Declaration of Independence. Two hundred and thirty four (234) years ago, our nation’s founding fathers declared the self-evident truth that “all men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The founders unequivocally recognized that God granted all mankind basic moral rights that include, at the forefront, the right to life.

Our Founding Fathers’ recognition of these unalienable rights was not new, even in 1776. Instead, their recognition was grounded upon established English common law and ultimately God’s law. As recognized by founding father John Dickinson, “[o]ur liberties do not come from charters; for these are only the declaration of pre-existing rights. They do not depend on parchments or seals, but come from the king of kings and the Lord of all the earth.”

For centuries, our law consistently protected the rights of the unborn, the infirm and the elderly. As founding father James Wilson (who would sign both the Declaration and the Constitution and would become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1789) observed, “[w]ith consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law.”

Regrettably, things are different today. We have forgotten our history, centuries of common law, and in the end, our God.

In 1973, seven unelected judges determined that, despite hundreds of years of contrary precedent, the unborn had no right to life. Since that time, 52 million innocent lives have been taken. This past year over 1 million lives were terminated. Today alone, in abortion mills through out the country, 2,739 babies will be killed.

For over the past 30 years, we seem to be living in a society that does not honor life, but instead promotes a culture of death. The unborn, the old, the imperfect are often seen as expendable instead of having a right to life—including a right to impact our lives in ways that might make us uncomfortable. Or might even require some sacrifice on our part.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we can also rejoice knowing that He came to save us from death and to grant us true life. God’s word expressly tells us that while the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (sounds a lot like today’s culture of death), Jesus came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) Simply put, we have freedom and a right to life today only through the death and resurrection of our Savior and Lord.

So as we celebrate freedom this weekend, let’s remember that our freedom includes a right to life—physically and spiritually— as we stop to thank the One who created life in His image. Let’s also pausing to remember that the battle for the right to life and the protection of the unborn, the infirm and elderly continues.

How can we celebrate life this 4th of July?

P.S. For my lovely wife: “Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it.” And my personal experience in writing this post tells me blogging is hard work.


  1. Thanks, D'Ann and Jeff. I appreciate this post a lot. (Jeff, I think your hard work paid off.)

    I believe that much of the erosion of the value we place on human life began with the advent and acceptance of evolution. After all there's a big difference between killing something that was created in the image of God, and killing a mass of random cells.

  2. Jeff, your post was everything I expected and more. Sorry, but it's amazing and now we'll want you back!

    Lisa, I agree. Nicely said.

    Thanks D'Ann and Jeff. I know it's been a busy few weeks for you and I appreciate it.

  3. What a thoughtful post. A great lesson in history and the Lord at the same time! Well done.

  4. Thanks so much for visiting us today, Jeff. (And thanks for inviting him, D'Ann!)

    This is a great post and gives us so much to think about. I hope with the advent of better and better technology that shows us life at earlier stages of conception, the thinking about when life begins will be re-evaluted by many. Ultimately, God can turn the hearts of the people, if we let him. Thanfully, we still live in a country where we can have this discussion. As we celebrate the 4th, it's one of the many things we can thank Him for.

  5. Whew! It's been a busy day but here I am!

    I agree, Lisa, that we lost something when we quit recognizing a Creator. If we just "happened" then life doesn't mean much, does it?

    And yes I'm thankful we can still have this discussion, Jen. Jeff and his colleagues at Liberty Institute and other such organization around the country continue to work on a daily basis to keep those rights from eroding away!

  6. Thank you so much, Jeff and D'Ann, for a thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful post today on such an important topic.
    Yes, Jeff, I think we'll be wanting to hear from you again in the future!
    D'Ann, you're blessed to have a husband willing to write a blog post for ya, not once, but twice!

  7. Excellent post! As a former Pregnancy Care Center worker, I can attest to the fact that 'life' is looked at much differently than it was when the Constitution was framed. I would love to feature your post over on my blog, Life Lessons. It is so timely with the celebration of the birth of our nation just days away. Full credit would be given to Jeff as well as a link to Inkwell Inspirations. Please let me know if this would be ok. Ultimately, I'd love to feature this post either July 1 or 5. You can contact me @ morgan(dot)maria(dot)i(at)gmail(dot)com. Thanks again for this post and God bless! :)

  8. Yes, Niki, he's a trooper! I didn't know how it would go over when I nixed his first version!

    Thanks, Maria, for stopping by and for your kind words. I'll be in touch.

  9. Great post, Jeff.
    My second response is I’m a lawyer and a man. I don’t share personal experiences, at least not for free.
    Oh, that's precious. Who's taking notes on character sketches, today? LOL

    Maria, thank you for your interest. Blogging is just as good as 'word-of-mouth' these days. Let's get the word out.


  10. This is a GREAT post, Jeff. Thanks, D'Ann for letting your hubby share his wisdom and encourage us today.

  11. Yes, Anita, he's quite a character!

    Thanks, Carla--and everyone--for making Jeff's foray into blogging as painless as possible! He wanted to comment himself but had an eye appointment today and can't see the computer with his eyes dilated! But I read him all the comments.

    Y'all are the best!

  12. That is a great post, and I agree.

  13. Amen. Excellent post! Very compelling argument. I don't know anyone who disagree so eloquently. I'm going to bookmark this post and email it to my friends who constantly argue about abortion with me.

  14. Hi Adge and Bex! I'm always so happy when someone takes the time to read some of the older posts. This was a special treat for us to get someone with Jeff's experience to talk about this issue.

    Thanks for stopping in. It means a lot to us.


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