The Coherence of Natural Inalienable Rights

UMKC Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 4, 2008

55 Pages Posted: 6 May 2008

See all articles by Craig A. Stern

Craig A. Stern

Regent University School of Law

Gregory M. Jones

Foundation for Moral Law

Date Written: 2008


The Declaration of Independence asserts that human beings are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, including Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. But human beings often do alienate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Recruits serving in the armed forces, for example, have given up both liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and have placed themselves in a position also apt to call for giving up their lives. And if the Declaration charged the Crown with taking unalienable rights, how is it that the Fifth Amendment explicitly contemplates that the federal government may properly take life and liberty?

Perhaps even more puzzling, if "[a]t the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life," Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S.833, 851 (1992), what supports the notion of natural inalienable rights at all, rights the right holder cannot alienate, however much that may be the holder's well considered desire in exercising this liberty?

The present article answers these questions. Ultimately, natural inalienable rights presuppose a transcendent legal order. They presuppose this order formally, because natural inalienable rights are rights against lawless takings of the objects of those rights. More fundamentally, they presuppose a transcendent legal order materially, because they spring from theories resting upon transcendent law. Natural inalienable rights are coherent only when such a legal order is presupposed.

Keywords: Inalienable rights, Natural law, Constitutional law, Political theory, Intellectual history

JEL Classification: K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Stern, Craig A. and Jones, Gregory M., The Coherence of Natural Inalienable Rights (2008). UMKC Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 4, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Craig A. Stern (Contact Author)

Regent University School of Law ( email )

1000 Regent University Drive
Virginia Beach, VA 23464
United States

Gregory M. Jones

Foundation for Moral Law ( email )

P. O. Box 4086
Montgomery, AL 36103
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics