The op-ed below concerns the Equal Rights Amendment the Virginia legislature attempted to pass. It was provided to a local paper, but not printed. The bill’s supporters are attempting to resurrect it again, even though the House of Delegates killed the bill in committee. I was at the capital last week and one of the delegates stated he couldn’t understand how any woman could be against this bill. He hit the nail on the head. He didn’t understand. The article below lays out a case for why this is a bad bill. It is anti-biblical. If your delegate supports the Equal Rights Amendment, would you consider sending a copy to them? Maybe they will learn. If your senator or delegate voted against this bill, would you drop them a quick thank you for taking a stand? They need to hear your voice to govern effectively.
Why the ERA is Unequal
Our people are deeply divided today. This division comes mainly from changes in our views about rights, a shift changing how we govern.
From a biblical view there are at least two types of rights, natural and human. God grants natural rights and they are almost exclusively negative. Man creates human rights and they are almost entirely positive. Positive and negative in this case do not imply good or bad. Think of them instead like force or power. Positive attracts you to something, while negative repels you from it.
God’s rights are higher than man’s. First, God is creation’s creator. It belongs to Him. Second, God is good. Creation is proof of His goodness. Negative rights repel us from evil. Third, God does not change, so His rights do not change. Fourth, we are all Adam’s children, so everyone has the same nature and natural rights. Only God is infinitely good, wise, and powerful. Man is one of God’s creations. Human rights come from man’s character. They apply only to who man decides they should apply.
The Equal Rights Amendment represents a positive human right. It corrupts the true equality we have in our nature by creating an equality based on what we see. Nothing could be more wrong or morally corrupt.
How Positive And Negative Rights Differ
Negative rights set our expectations for the few things we are to avoid doing. Positive rights set expectations about each specific thing we are to do or benefit we are to receive.
Both types set limits, just in different ways. Negative rights allow you to choose your actions unless they are prohibited. Negative rights provide freedom, but goodness and personal responsibility are needed to morally use that freedom. Positive rights, on the other hand, simply direct what you are to do. They only require your obedience. Negative rights focus on serving others. Positive rights with serving ourselves. The Equal Rights Amendment is a positive right.
Why the Differences Matter
First, negative rights promote peace as we each make our own decisions. Positive rights cannot do that. Instead each positive right often conflicts with other rights. When society turns to positive rights, inequality and division grow. Second, negative rights promote good—that is, virtue. Positive rights only require obedience. They corrupt virtue, including the virtue called justice.
Governing also differs. With negative rights, society develops rules based on everyone’s decisions. Rules bringing success are kept; they become custom. Customs are usually unwritten, so each generation must learn them. Legislative power is also limited as law is created either to punish for violating a rule, or when following a rule creates injustice. By supporting society’s rules in making law, politicians serve the people—and in turn serve God.
America was founded upon the preceding principle, using rules derived from Judeo-Christian beliefs. We’ve sometimes missed the mark. Not because the rules were bad, but instead we forgot to follow them. We always have our natural rights, but only realize their benefits when turned toward God.
Positive rights, however, simply direct what we are to do. They are concerned only with achieving specific goals created almost solely from law. Legislative power therefore becomes nearly absolute within positive right societies, and governing requires uniting enough groups to create a majority. Each group receives some things it wants, at everyone else’s expense, what amounts to legalized bribery. The Equal Rights Amendment is a human right that corrupts freedom and governance.
I recently saw a policy debate in Houston between James Baker and Barack Obama. The two agreed much more than they disagreed. Mr. Obama observed, “We are a nation governed by politicians.” With respect to both, they couldn’t be more wrong. Principles govern our nation. When serving those principles we serve each other—and thereby serve God.