FREDERICKSBURG, Virginia, December 1, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The newly published book, Created Equal: Reflections on the Unalienable Right to Life, delves into American history to demonstrate that the sanctity of innocent human life is part of the founding of the United States.
Thomas Glessner, president of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, painstakingly details how the Founding Fathers of America based both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution on principles and understandings that explicitly upheld the right to life of preborn babies.
Glessner, an attorney and longtime leader in the pro-life movement, argues that the foundation for the U.S. Constitution is the Declaration of Independence, which declares all human beings are endowed by their Creator with an unalienable right to life. Although these words were penned by Thomas Jefferson, they have their foundation in the writings of William Blackstone, an English jurist and the author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Blackstone's commentaries reveal the pro-life intent of Jefferson's words and the pro-life foundation of America.
LifeSiteNews recently caught up with Glessner to ask about his book, which is available online.
LSN: What does the Declaration of Independence say about abortion?
TG: The words of the Declaration specifically mention the self-evident and unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These are words directly from Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. This legal treatise written in the 1760s set forth the foundation of the English Common Law and thus set forth the legal standards for the American colonies.
In Volume I of these commentaries, Blackstone specifically states that the unalienable right to life belongs to unborn children who reside in their mothers’ wombs. Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, studied Blackstone for his legal education and training and thus understood that the unalienable right to life belongs to the unborn as well as the born.
LSN: How did you come up with the thesis of “Created Equal: Reflections on the Unalienable Right to Life?”
TG: As a lawyer and a lover of history I have long been an admirer of Thomas Jefferson and his eloquent words in The Declaration of Independence. I realized the deep pro-life meaning behind these words when years ago I purchased Blackstone’s Commentaries and began to read them.
I was amazed at the detailed description contained in these works about the right to life and its implications for the American acceptance of abortion. The very foundation for the American Republic is the unalienable right to life, which exists because we are created, and the Creator created us equal. I felt that this profound truth should be clarified in writing.
LSN: You write, “The American Republic was founded upon the idea that all human beings are, first and foremost, created by an intelligent Creator, and thus, are afforded natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” While one may logically conclude that the Declaration of Independence's use of the description “created” clearly implies a creating agent, what makes you assume that the founding fathers meant both an intelligent and a personal creator?
TG: The Declaration says more than that we are ‘created.” It says we are also “endowed by our Creator” with self-evident and unalienable rights. Only an intelligent Creator can make an endowment.
Remember, the Declaration of Independence was quoting Blackstone’s Commentaries in its recitation of natural rights. Blackstone specifically refers in Volume I to an intelligent Creator who set the universe in motion with laws of physics, under which it operates, as well as natural laws of morality and virtue, under which human beings are subject.
LSN: The founding fathers do not define the “image of God,” nor do they even address or refer to it in the Declaration of Independence. What founding documents, accepted or assumed by all our nation's founders, accept the biblical idea that we are made in God's image, and/or promote the implication that having the image of God qualifies humans for inalienable rights?
TG: The founders were, for the most part, believers in the Bible. Some, such as Jefferson, did not accept certain traditional Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, but virtually all accepted the Bible as the ultimate source of morality and truth. Numerous writings from various founding fathers such as Washington, Franklin, Paine and others clearly set forth their belief in the basic truths of scripture. Hence, it is an easy and logical step to assert that since scripture specifically states that human beings are made in the image of God; the founders believed this. And this truth is clearly set forth in the words of the Declaration on Independence.
LSN: Under the topic that we are created, you write, “If humankind is simply a higher form of animal life that has randomly evolved, then there is no foundation to proclaim the equality of every person. Rather, through the Darwinist philosophy of the survival of the fittest, some human beings will certainly evolve higher than others in intelligence, wealth, talents, etc., and thus achieve superior status. The American Republic rejects this notion because it was founded upon the self-evident truth that all human beings are created equal.” How is this “self-evident,” when there are such natural (non-environmental) differences in intelligence, talents, and even diligence observed in humankind?
TG: The equality of every human being does not mean all are the same. Equality does not mean “sameness.” Rather, it means we all have equal value and thus should be afforded equal rights and opportunities under the law.
LSN: Darwinian evolution has been universally accepted throughout American schools, from kindergarten to post-graduate studies. In your educated opinion, is the Declaration of Independence at odds with macro evolution as a theory for the explanation of the universe?
TG: The main issue of importance here is that there is a Creator who created us, as opposed to humankind being a cosmic accident over billions of years. Some believe that we were created but that the process of creation was through evolution. I call such people theistic evolutionists. I do not hold to that view, but I chose not to venture into that debate. Suffice it to say that I personally reject the idea that humankind was created through a macro evolutionary process.
However, the major point to be made is that humanity was created by an intelligent Creator, who gave to us self-evident and unalienable rights. Such rights were not given to animals but to human beings because the Creator made us in his image.
LSN: What is the difference between equality and sameness? Practically speaking, between “equality of value” and the feminist goal of a constitutional Equal Rights Amendment, or, between “equal opportunities in life” and Affirmative Action, for example?
TG: The equality talked about in the Declaration of Independence is not an “egalitarian” view of humanity which says that all must be the same. Egalitarianism essentially says that achieving sameness (particularly in the economic field) is the ultimate goal of government, and that it is government (not God) that provides sameness through regulations, laws, and court decisions. This is not the equality that the Declaration speaks of which comes from a Creator who endows humankind with natural and unalienable rights.
Political initiatives such as Affirmative Action and the Equal Rights Amendment all are promoted under this concept. The debate, however, over these initiatives is not about achieving the goal of complete equality but rather how such a goal can be most effectively reached. The debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was not over the issue of the equality of women, which everybody agrees upon. Rather, it was over what provisions could be put into this amendment to prevent it from being used to promote abortion on demand, same-sex “marriage,” and other undesirable results that could come from an over-reaching court decision, such as Roe v. Wade.
LSN: You write that a government that denies equal opportunity has “violated the natural law of God.” What in the Declaration of Independence or other universally-accepted founding documents prove the existence of a “natural law of God”?
TG: Blackstone and the founders believed that scripture is the ultimate source of morality and truth. Blackstone refers to holy scripture, i.e. the Bible, as the written revealed law of God from which the natural law is derived. According to Blackstone, the natural law must be consistent with the revealed law. And we see in the revealed law from Genesis to Revelation a clear moral code that supports the equality of all and prohibits the taking of innocent human life.
LSN: Today, many Americans essentially (though not expressly or explicitly) define “the pursuit of happiness” with hedonism, or prioritizing personal (carnal) pleasure above all else. How did the founding fathers understand and define “the pursuit of happiness?”
TG: This self-evident right is not a pursuit of self-indulgence. … Blackstone says in his Commentaries that happiness is achieved by obedience to the eternal laws of justice set forth by the Creator. That is, true happiness is found when one obeys the Golden Rule, abides by the Ten Commandments, and follows the teachings of Jesus, cares for the widows and orphans, forgives his enemies, etc.
Liberty is not a license, and the pursuit of happiness is not the right to do whatever one wishes. Rather, such unalienable rights, when exercised, acknowledge the rights of our fellow human beings and are not valid if used to injure and destroy others. … Consideration of the rights of others is a foundational maxim for the exercise of the pursuit of happiness.
To promote this true happiness, a government must provide for and protect the freedoms of its citizens to pursue it. Hence, our Constitution and, specifically our Bill of Rights, were adopted to provide legal protection for the exercise of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. All of these cherished constitutional rights exist in order that we the people may pursue our own happiness. Such a pursuit is meaningless if we do not have equal rights and equal opportunities under the law and, of course, we all must have a constitutionally protected right to life to achieve our ultimate happiness.
LSN: How do you leap from the concept that the universe was created to the idea that its creator made moral laws humans must follow?
TG: The universe was created with laws of physics to guide its operation. If we accept the idea that this came from an intelligent Creator, then it is not a “leap” to believe that this Creator also created humankind with moral laws to guide it.
C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Abolition of Man, documents a universal moral code that cultures since the beginning of civilization have followed. Such a universal moral code clearly comes from a Creator who set forth within the heart of every human being knowledge of right and wrong.
LSN: In a Christian Post opinion piece, you said, “The “party of the little guy” has lost its way on sanctity of life and the issue of abortion — the littlest, and most vulnerable, of all human beings. This was made starkly clear as Democrats approved the most pro-abortion platform in U.S. history.” What do you say to the millions of “little guys” who feel the Republicans have not only always abandoned them but have worked against them economically, diminishing social programs and welfare payments?
TG: I am not promoting a Republican agenda. When it comes to life, however, it is clear that the Democrat Party is the party of abortion and is hypocritical when it claims to speak for the vulnerable and the weak.
There are many things that the Republican Party has done which have also been harmful to working class Americans. However, big government handouts with a massive government bureaucracy have created a dependent welfare class which finds itself increasingly dependent upon government with less opportunity to achieve individually. We don’t need a larger welfare state that creates such dependency. We need an opportunity state that provides incentives and help for individuals to achieve their potential and thus pursue and find happiness.
LSN: Do you agree with Mitt Romney's comment about the 47 percent “who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That's an entitlement. … Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect. … I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
TG: No. Governor Romney’s comments were flippant. He was clearly speaking in private off the cuff and obviously did not expect such casual comments to be reported as they were. I believe that most Americans do not see themselves as victims but rather want opportunities to be provided for them to achieve their own happiness — not government handouts.
LSN: What is your opinion of Ronald Reagan's controversial quote, which he attributed to Alexander Fraser Tyler: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy?”
TG: People generally vote for their own self-interests. Sadly, it sometimes appears that when a political candidate exploits such interests with promises of more government help, then such candidate is successful. However, I believe that there is still virtue in American society, which rises above the seeking of self-satisfaction and seeks to achieve a greater good for our nation.
This is what the right to life movement is about. There is no greater example in our country of a selfless group of people who have committed their time, talents, money, and sacred honor to defend the rights of others to simply live. Many of my friends have sacrificed money, influence, and prestige in order to speak up for those little ones who cannot speak for themselves. And their vote is not based upon what government can do for them but rather what government can do to protect these little ones. There is still virtue in our nation.
LSN: You quote Blackstone writing that preborn human beings “cannot legally be disposed of or destroyed by an individual … merely upon their own authority,” and, “Whenever the constitution of a state vests in any man, or body of men, a power of destroying at pleasure … such constitution is in the highest degree tyrannical.” Do you believe that the United States of America, post-Roe, has become tyrannical?
TG: Yes! Justice Byron White, in his dissent in the Roe decision, called that opinion an “exercise in raw judicial power.” I not only agree but I also believe that the Roe decision is judicial tyranny imposed upon our nation by an elite, unelected group of justices appointed to serve for life. It has opened up a Pandora’s Box for greater and more tyrannical control over the people by a small group of elitists in the judiciary, academia, and the government.
LSN: You quote Blackstone, “No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to” the law of nature. What human laws today would you consider contrary to “the will of the Maker”?
TG: Let’s just start with Roe v. Wade and the wanton destruction of innocent human life – more than 60 million in America since 1973. Then there are the government mandates for religious organizations to fund abortifacients in their health care plans — contrary to their religious convictions. There is now the Supreme Court mandate that, contrary to the popular decisions of 33 states, same-sex “marriage” must be accepted in the law. Religious liberty is now at risk as shown when a high school coach who goes to midfield after a football game to give a short prayer of thanks is fired.
Other things of this nature are happening in our country because our institutions have refused to acknowledge a Creator to whom we are all accountable.
LSN: Blackstone notes that the right to life “begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother's womb.” And yet, your stand is that the right to life is earlier, from the moment of conception. You note that subsequent science has shown that a unique human being is created before this “quickening,” but how do you explain Blackstone as the basis of your argument for the sanctity of life from conception?
TG: Blackstone was merely referencing what was the best scientific information available to him at the time. He was not making a scientific statement that life begins at quickening but rather he was stating a legal evidentiary rule. (He was a jurist and not a doctor.)
At that time, we could only know for certain that prenatal life exists (and thus, must be protected under the law) when the mother feels movement by the baby. Prior to quickening, there was no evidence of prenatal life.
This understanding was strongly rebutted by the American Medical Association in 1857, which announced that medical science had proven that life begins at conception. From then on, the old standard of quickening no longer was accepted. Based upon this AMA report, anti-abortion laws were adopted by virtually every state in the union.
Blackstone was saying that the legal right to life of the unborn begins when there is evidence of life in the womb. Today that evidence exists from the moment of conception. Hence, the legal right to life of the unborn must be from the moment of conception.
LSN: You note that Blackstone defines “liberty” as “freedom from being (physically) restrained by the government,” and that a later, gradual “perversion of the historical understanding of constitutional liberty” distorted the constitutional view of freedom. Yet you admit that government “should” “expand the rights of citizens,” albeit through the legislative process, “subject to accountability from the public,” and not the judiciary. What makes you conclude that the right to abortion isn't just one sort of expansion of “the rights of citizens?” If Congress passed a law legalizing abortion as just one such expansion of the rights of American citizens, would you admit this as acceptable?
TG: Only a virtuous people will adopt virtuous laws. If our culture loses its virtue, then the laws it adopts will be those that promote the interests of the rich and powerful.
Yes, popular sentiment could very well adopt immoral laws such as abortion on demand. Indeed it has in some instances through state initiatives. If the public were to vote for abortion on demand, as it has in some states, such a law may be a valid exercise of public political sentiment, but it would nonetheless be invalid because it denies to certain human beings their unalienable right to life as set forth in the Declaration of Independence.
The difference is that a popular vote of the people can be reversed later by another popular vote and thus the people have the power to correct such an injustice. Abortion on demand by judicial fiat, however, means that such ruling will never be overturned because the vehicle to do so through constitutional amendments will practically never happen.
Benjamin Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious they have more need of masters.” A loss of virtue in our culture will mean that the political power of the people will oppress others in the same way the unchecked political power of the judiciary has done so.
However, the issue of virtue is one for the religious community to deal with. If the culture loses virtue because it has turned away from the spiritual influences of the churches in our communities, then nothing will reign in the use of political power to oppress.