Sunday, July 03, 2016


Because tomorrow is the 4th of July and means a celebration of our Nation's birthday, today will see much made in local gatherings [churches] about God AND Country. But as one I read said, "We must be sure that while we are able to love BOTH, only the FORMER [God] is to be worshipped." That is a sentiment with which I could not agree more.

That said, I've found that a mistake is often made when people talk about the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. That historic document DOES declare that all Americans have certain UNALIENABLE rights among which are listed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, the word often used when people quote it is the word INALIENABLE, which is incorrect, but seldom realized as so.

Before someone says they mean the same thing and so the using of one or the other is insignificant, I would like to point out that the difference that may seem ever so slight is actually essential for an understanding of what the Framers of that Declaration intended for our nation.

The word "unalienable" refers to rights that are inherent in man and are rights that CANNOT be surrendered, bought, or transferred. "Unalienable" rights are a gift from the Creator to each individual and, as such, cannot be taken away for any reason. The government cannot TAKE them as the government did not PROVIDE them. In fact, the only responsibility the government has toward "unalienable" rights is to SECURE them or to create an environment that PROTECTS them.

This point was clearly stated in a court ruling in 1892 entitled Budd vs People of the State of New York. That ruling said, "Men are endowed by their Creator with certain "unalienable" rights, 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;' and it is to 'secure,' not grant or create these rights, for which governments are instituted."

 The list in the Declaration of Independence can be expanded since it says "among which are" and then lists life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We could add such things as self-government, self defense, nature's necessities of air, food, water, clothing and shelter as well as worship. Such rights are absolutely incapable of being transferred lawfully, unlawfully, privately or by implication or operation of law.

That which is your "unalienable" right is a part of you in an absolute sense and could no more be removed from you than could your blood be removed and you live without it.

INALIENABLE [notice the change only in the beginning letter] rights, on the other hand, CAN be surrendered, sold, or transferred with the consent of the individual because they are NOT inherent [unalienable] and the government CAN alienate these from an individual, if a person consents, either actually or constructively, since the government may be seen as the source of these individual rights.

Most State Constitutions refer to only inalienable rights. But it is our UNALIENABLE RIGHTS to which our Declaration of Independence addresses itself and recognizes them as given to us by our Creator.

It could be that the loss of recognition of our Creator is what is leading to the mistaken general use of these two words in our modern day language. There may also be other factors involved. But the point of this post is simply that people do have both, but they are not the same at all. So, clearly, the words are not to be used as synonyms though often is done so among otherwise intelligent people.

This 4th of July, 2016, we are celebrating our Nation and her Declaration of Independence which declares and her Constitution which preserves those UNALIENABLE rights! And I say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY America! We love you!

But on this Lord's Day, July 3rd, 2016, we are celebrating our Living Lord Jesus, as we do EVERY DAY of our lives as Kingdom Kids, and I say, HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY Lord Jesus, on this day and every other day of our lives! We LOVE YOU AND WORSHIP YOU!!

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


We are a lazy lot when it comes to language,then again, the popular use of words tends to change how we use them. It's interesting that you have written this article on a subject which the Washington Post wrote about at this time last year:

However we use the prefixes, either Latin, or English, the in/unalienable rights of followers of Christ are being challenged much more openly today than ever before.

Steve Miller said...

Great post Paul. I trust you and your family had a wonderful July 4th as I also hope you had another great time in Arkansas with the folks from Enid I believe.

Your post brings back a very simple but truthful memory from my father. He used to say all the time "that most people are down on what they are not up on." So many have never read the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, no wonder they change the wording because they do not understand the original meaning in the first place. Appreciate you highlighting the very important difference in the wording. Blessings


Rex Ray said...

Just thinking about the time you preached at our church and had to catch a plane so you left during the ‘dismissal prayer’. We didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. Do you remember a guy that followed you in the parking lot yelling “We love you Shane”?

Thanks for explaining the difference between “unalienable rights” and “inalienable rights”. I’m one of those guilty using the wrong word.

Andrew Jackson did not surrender but was captured. Which ‘rights’ did he stand for that resulted in him being scared for life?

If it was “unalienable”, were those rights removed by being a prisoner of war?

We have the unalienable right to breathe but if taken away we die.

Did I answer my own question? :)

Paul Burleson said...

. Things which are not in commerce, as public roads, are in their nature unalienable. Some things are unalienable, in consequence of particular provisions in the law forbidding their sale or transfer, as pensions granted by the government. The natural rights of life and liberty are UNALIENABLE. Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition

"Unalienable: incapable of being alienated, that is, sold and transferred." Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, page 1523:

You can not surrender, sell or transfer unalienable rights, they are a gift from the creator to the individual and can not under any circumstances be surrendered or taken. All individual's have unalienable rights.

Inalienable rights: Rights which are not capable of being surrendered or transferred without the consent of the one possessing such rights. Morrison v. State, Mo. App., 252 S.W.2d 97, 101.

You can surrender, sell or transfer inalienable rights if you consent either actually or constructively. Inalienable rights are not inherent in man and can be alienated by government. Persons have inalienable rights. Most state constitutions recognize only inalienable rights.The difference between the two isn’t that one can be taken away while the other cannot. Rather, as I understand it, an unalienable right cannot be GIVEN away or transferred to another by the person who has it. “Unalienability” is a restriction on the set of choices that individuals can make.

The Declaration borrows the word from property law. An “[in]alienable” right over property means that the property can be sold or given away by the owner. Property that is “unalienable” cannot be transferred by the owner.

I think this is the basic difference between the two. This would be VERY important were we to discuss say, the "Right to Life" issue or suicide, assisted or otherwise.

Aussie John said...


I have no doubt about the importance of the difference between the two prefixes, especially in the mental gymnastics of a barristers mind, who would not take cognisance of common usage.

Ineresting article here,which mentions the difference in prefixes:

Rex Ray said...

Aussie John,

I believe your link hit the nail on the head that the two prefixes mean the same thing due to the change in the English language through the years.

I have three questions that I hope could be answered yes or no.

1. Does a slave have these rights?

2. Can they be taken away?

3. Can they be given to others?

Paul Burleson said...


One__I'm not Aussie J.
Two__I don't give yes or no answers generally since no question is ever really that simple.

But my response is every human being by virtue to being in the image of God, albeit fallen, possesses these basic rights as a human being.

ALL rights can be taken away, death being the final taker.

No unalienable human right can be given away being the result of human nature as described in answer one. The freedom to enjoy, express, experience such rights can be taken away or denied obviously, But that DOESN'T negate the inherent right. It simply hinders the free exercise of it. it is these inherent rights that the founding Fathers sought to fully embrace in the founding of a new Nation, but even THEY didn't immediately allow for free expression or exercise. [Think slaves.] They later tried to rectify that and there is still work to be done on bringing about freedom in that manner.

Rex Ray said...


Thanks for the reply that help clear things for me.

“ALL rights can be taken away, death being the final taker.”

I’ll take “All” out of context just to bring out two rights that I believe you will agree.

1. Everyone has the right to be buried.

2. Every Christian has the right to spend eternity in heaven.

On internet I’ll never forget the last words a Christian said before being hung by ISIS…”This is the happiest day of my life.”

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Thanks for the link. I had read it as part of my research on the subject before my post was put up.

Here are a couple of other things I found.

If one goes back to Black‘s Law Dictionary, Second Edition (A.D. 1910) one sees that “inalienable” was defined as:

“Not subject to alienation; the characteristic of those things which cannot be bought or sold or transferred from one person to another such as rivers and public highways and certain personal rights; e.g., liberty.”

Black’s 2nd Edition also defines “unalienable” as:
“Incapable of being aliened, that is, sold and transferred.”

At first glance the two terms seem pretty much synonymous. However, while the word “inalienable” is “not subject to alienation,” the word “unalienable” is “incapable of being aliened”. I believe the distinction between these two terms was seen by the founding Fathers. [Maybe not Thomas Jefferson as much as John Adams.]

If one looks at Bouvier’s Law Dictionary , First Edition (A.D. 1856) one sees:

“INALIENABLE. A word denoting the condition of those things the property in which cannot be lawfully transferred from one person to another. Public highways and rivers are inalienable. There are also many rights which are inalienable, as the rights of liberty or of speech.”

“UNALIENABLE. Incapable of being transferred. Things which are not in commerce, as, public roads, are in their nature unalienable. Some things are unalienable in consequence of particular provisions of the law forbidding their sale or transfer; as, pensions granted by the government. The NATURAL rights of life and liberty are unalienable as well.”

I read someone who said this, "Clearly, the words are not synonymous. While “inalienable” rights can’t be “lawfully” transferred “to another,” they might nevertheless be waived by the holder or perhaps “unlawfully” (privately??) “transferred” to someone else."

"However, those rights which are “unalienable” are absolutely incapable of being transferred lawfully, unlawfully, administratively, privately or by implication or operation of law. that which you have, which is “unalienable,” is your rights in an absolute sense that cannot possibly be discarded, transferred, sold, or otherwise abandoned."

Aussie John said...


Thank you my friend. By the way. I wasn't seeking to correct your understanding of the two words, but have often been rather pedantic with my children and their use of language, hence your article motivated me to doing a bit of research.

What I do know is that very few school teachers are concerned about such things, as was demonstrated to me as I overheard a conversation between two of them, one being my son-in-law.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I didn't get the slightest suggestion of any attempt to correct anyone in what you said in an excellent response. I did want to share those other couple of links or facts that added to my understanding of this issue. As I said, it isn't major by any means but it's fun to see nuances isn't it!