January 20, 2022

The Truth of Inalienability

by Professor Robert J. Barth

The words “unalienable” or “inalienable” are not used very often in today’s culture because inherent within their meaning are certain truths. Unalienable means unable to be taken away from, or given away by, the possessor. How can something not be subject to being given or taken away?  The answer is rooted in the creator’s authority over his creation.

In this country, we recognize the authority a creator has over his creation because a person’s creation is an extension of the person’s being as expressed in products, symbols, language, thoughts, music, designs, or inventions. Because of this recognition, the expressions of a person’s creativity and originality are protected by copyright and trademark laws. This means that the creator has authority over his creation and no one else has the authority or right to use, copy, or infringe upon the creator’s work without the creator’s permission or consent.  But the creator has the right to sell, license, or lease his creation because it originated with him.

An individual’s authority over his creation, is similar to, but also very different from, the unalienable gifts from our Creator. The similarity is that the creator of a work or patent has authority over the creation, just as the Creator has ultimate authority over each of us. But the difference is in the nature of the creation. A person can only originally create nonliving things. The Creator is the giver of human life and breath, which no person can do. A human-created item or concept has no life and can only do or be used for what it was designed. The items have no mind, will, or emotions subject to choice. They can be programmed to respond to input, but they have no free will to choose whether to abide by their design or to act contrary to their design.

Human creators can alienate or surrender part or all of their authority by selling, leasing, or giving away their creations to another human being. But the Creator of life is the ultimate authority and there is no other being His equal to whom He could alienate his authority. Thus, the Creator retains all authority over life and those to whom He gives life are subject to His design for life, even though the Creator gives us a free will. That free will includes even the ability to disobey and live contrary to His design–but not without consequences. Remember, you cannot put water in a gasoline engine and expect it to run as it was designed to run.   

As the Creator, God is the source of unalienable gifts to each person. Our founding fathers acknowledged that only the Creator has ultimate authority over these gifts and that each person has a duty or responsibility to the Creator as to how they steward or take care of the gifts with which the Creator has endowed them. On the interpersonal level, no person has the authority to interfere with, take away from, or exercise authority over another person’s unalienable gifts from God.  Thus, one’s unalienable gifts from God are unalienable rights among men.


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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.


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