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The US Constitution vs The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

with 26 comments

What follows is a comparison of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The United States Constitution (Bill of Rights) and Declaration of Independence . It may be advisable to use the above links to have copies of each in new browser windows for your consideration.

A critique should start with the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the preamble of the two US Documents. I have included the Declaration of Independence because it singularly summarizes the founding philosophy behind the US Constitution. As such, it is a virtual preamble to our Constitution.

The first striking difference I see is that the UN document uses the word “inalienable” whereas our Constitution uses “unalienable” as a descriptor for the rights of men. Is this a semantic difference or is there a subtle change in meaning being introduced here? I cannot say for certain, however, I found an examination of the issue online. It is clear that both “unalienable” and “inalienable” describe rights that may not be taken away.  Some would argue that  inalienable rights can be transferred by consent whereas; unalienable rights are a permanent part of a person and are not transferable by their very nature.  The two words both seemed to have been used in drafts of the Declaration of independence. The final edited version specifically changed that word from inalienable to unalienable. I’ll leave this item for further research and discovery.

Further discovery: I found Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary online. It was written to specifically capture the meaning of the words of the English language at the time of adoption of the Constitution. Noah Webster understood that English, unlike Latin or other languages that have gone out of use, is a living changing language. To guard against abuses of the Constitution, Noah thought it wise to capture the meaning of the words for posterity, so we would always have a way to discern the original intent of the Constitution. We owe him much for that. Here is how he defined the two terms: unalienable and inalienable. For clarity here is his definition of alienable. Noah Webster does not draw any distinction between the two. He refers to unalienable as a definition of inalienable and so the terms appear to be interchangeable.

What follows is a list of the Articles in the UN Declaration which is in conflict with the US system accompanied by some thoughts and elaboration by your author of this blog. The UN Declaration citations are referenced as (Article#). The article number is accompanied with “.s#” if there are multiple sections to the article.

US Declaration
We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.


UN Declaration
(1)All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(2)Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
(3)Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

So this short list of rights seems pretty straight forward. What is there to be concerned about? You should be more concerned about what is not there. There is no mention of where rights come from. There is only a vague reference to inalienable rights in the preamble. No mention of God as a higher authority to man and no mention of man as a higher authority to government. There is no allusion to the idea that men create governments to serve their purpose and have right to abolish and reform them. The assumption is that government grants rights. If you doubt this assessment take a look at these entries…

 UN Declaration
(14.s1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(14.s2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(29.s1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(29.s2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(29.s3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(30)Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

There are more problems. Our Constitution says “Congress shall make no law” and then lists the areas of restriction. The UN declaration just assumes the power to regulate these areas. Afterall, if the UN can declare something is so, it can certainly undeclare it later. Compare these statements:

US Constitution
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

UN Declaration
(18)Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
(19)Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(20.s1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(20.s2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
(21.s1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(21.s2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(21.s3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Call me silly but I think there’s a big difference between “petition the Government for a redress of grievances” and “Everyone has the right to take part in the government”. What does the UN have to say about criminal proceedings?

UN Declaration
(8)Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
(9)No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
(10)Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
(11.s1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(11.s2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Where is the mention of warrants necessary for search and seizure? What about double jeopardy? Is there a right to not be compelled to testify against one’s self? What about the right to a speedy and public trial? What happened to the jury trial in the state and district where the offense was allegedly committed? Where is the mention of a right to be informed of the offense being charged and to be confronted by witnesses? Do I have a right to furnish my own witnesses and to have counsel for a defense? What about excessive bail?

So you see, this UN document is a facade. It is full of high language and idealism but it also has self-contained language to legislate away all the proposed rights enumerated. It is steeped in a philosophy which aims to rule rather than serve. In short, it is a blueprint for subjugation.

Written by federalexpression

February 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm

26 Responses

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  1. I’ve gone over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights many times,and I understand where you are coming from.

    On the first note, the source of your rights is left out for the soul reason that these rights are not given (which means they can be taken away) they are the basic rights we are born with and have no source other than being human. I will admit that the person being held above the government should be added in however. (or at least clarified more)
    As for the semantics…I’ve never enjoyed semantics, but it should be clarified that you cannot transfer or give up your rights under the declaration.

    On to the second part, the entire section relates to the laws put forth in the declaration and that no law will be allowed that goes against them…which makes sense, since these are rights that should never be ruled against.

    Congress shall make no law compared to the declaration:
    Establishment of religion – The declaration says you are free from being forced into a religion or an organization, the creation of a state religion would thus force someone into the faith, while I agree it needs clarification, the law is there.
    Freedom of speech – freedom of opinion and expression
    Freedom of Assembly – Almost word for word in the declaration
    Petition for redress of grievances – This is one that should be clarified in the declaration, it says that government is on the authority of the people but I will admit it does not clarify the details of changing the system or holding it accountable.
    However, most actions you would seek compensation for from the government would have to be within the rights of the declaration…in which case the law of the declaration takes over, clarity on actions against the government would be nice though.

    As for the last issue, I’ll agree with those, warrants, double jeopardy, etc should be included.

    Overall, the system has loopholes, however, the wording of the document also leaves fewer gray areas than the united states declaration, officially making equals among genders, religious views, sexual orientation, and race.

    I will say that a few more clarifications would allow for a truly impressive document that I would ask the US to adopt as law in a second. However, until the power of the people, the transfer of rights, the limiting of government power on property, jury law and such is clarified it can be twisted a bit too much for my liking.


    February 13, 2011 at 3:29 am

  2. forgot to add at the bottom that this is just my personal opinion, I can very well see where you are coming from, and honestly, you did show me a major loophole in the trial laws that I had missed.



    February 13, 2011 at 3:35 am

  3. Thanks Toasty, I appreciate your candid assessment and response.
    On your very first point: “On the first note, the source of your rights is left out for the soul reason that these rights are not given (which means they can be taken away)”
    I would ask that you look at some of the restricting language that seems to indicate that the UN reserves the right to restict rights based on actions contrary to the mission of th UN.
    This could very well be the reason for some of the ommission, such as, “the person being held above the government “. You can easily see how people exercising their right to disolve a future World gov’t might be interpreted as “contrary to the mission of the UN”.


    February 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

  4. Why exactly should I be concerned that there is “no mention of God as a higher authority to man”. I don’t believe in imaginary friends and I don’t think humans should either, it’s laughable.


    July 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    • Well, you see. If the authorty of God is recognized by the government. The rights of the individual can be protected by the fact that the government cannot justify infringing upon rights that are God-given. In other words, our system recognozes sovereignty in this order: God, man, community, state, and finally federal.
      Under the UN system, rights are recognized by the authorites, but the ability to cancel those rights is assumed. This assumption is the result of a lack of recognition of the origin of rights. The constitution’s sole purpose is to limit the government’s authority to only those area which the governed have surrendered and the governed cannot infringe upon the rights of an individual. At least they cannot do so lawfully.


      July 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm

      • The UN document clearly states that people have equal and inalienable rights. Inalienable meaning not even the government can take them away. It also puts man above government. “Whereas it is essential…to rebellion against tyranny and oppression…”

        Furthermore, you assume that the Bill of Rights speaks of God. The document says that we are endowed by certain inalienable rights by our creator, which as far as I’m concerned is my set of parents. The UN document was written to be universal and secular. The rights are define in the preamble as “inherent” and “inalienable.” God has nothing to do with the inherent and just rights that we deserve.

        Jacob Gill

        November 20, 2012 at 12:58 am

    • Ignorance is bliss, and it will be the death of you.

      Only fools mock.


      July 10, 2011 at 9:49 pm

  5. Check out Section 29(c) which is the loophole for denying any or all of the rights.


    August 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

  6. Of course you are dead on right Sneezy. I have it listed as such:
    (29.s3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
    (30)Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.


    August 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    • You are missing the point here. These articles make it clear that a state cannot violate someone’s human rights in the name of protecting other human rights. For example, if a chemical company has dumped toxins into a river near your property, the state cannot remove you from your property or take away your property to protect you from the toxins.

      From the broader perspective, you are also misrepresenting the UDHR. It is merely a declaration of human rights. It is not binding in any way. The United Nations, with the US leading the way, made it clear that each state will sign on to treaties (International Convention on Civil and Political Rights/International Convention on Economic ,Social and Cultural Rights) and then incorporate the rights into their own state law through legislation or constitution. There’s not much to worry about in the US when it comes to due process, since the US is already ostensibly protecting those rights through our constitution. We have signed a treaty called International Convention on Civil and Political Rights that now obligates us to upholds those rights.

      The UN cannot take your rights away. This struggle is between you and your own government. The UN is the chief protector of sovereignty, through the UN Charter, Article 2.7. If your government starts to commit a genocide or crime against humanity against you, the UN will try to take some action., But don’t worry–if the US govt. tried something like that, the UN could not do anything, because of US veto power.

      And on the topic of God, the UDHR, just like the US Constitution, gives you the freedom to believe that the rights are God-given if you like, and the freedom to believe they are created by man if you like. If you are going to deny all the rights of the UDHR because the preamble doesn’t mention God, then you are violating articles 29 and 30, that is, denying my rights in order to promote your own beliefs in God over all other beliefs.

      But my right to not believe in God does not impinge in any way on your right to believe, under both the constitution and international law. So we can live in harmony!

      Julie Bradley

      August 3, 2012 at 11:31 am

      • Thanks for your reply.

        I don’t think I am missing the point at all. These articles make it clear that the UN reserves the right to violate your rights if the exercise of those rights interferes with the UN mission. The question to be asked is “What is the UN mission?”. I think it is clear that the UN wants to be master of all. That is why they push the disarmament program. They want to “maintain world peace” on their terms as they define “Peace”.

        To say there is nothing to worry about in the US when it comes to due process is a bit naive on your part. Tell that to the air travellers that have lost their right to be secure in their persons, papers and affects against unreasonable search and seizure. Tell that to the parent who has child protection services questioning their authority in a whole range of parental decisions and in many cases charging them with some kind of abuse because the parent doesn’t agree with the state as to what is best for their children. Tell that to the homeowner who has had attempts to improve their home or develop their land rejected by the planning commission. Tell that to the devout catholic that has to provide reproductive services to his employees against his conscience. Tell that to the student who will never know that our Declaration of Independence claims that rights come from God because our gov’t schools outlaw the free exercise of religion under the guise of separation of church and state. I could go on…

        To refer to the UN as the chief protector of soverignty is like saying Phillip Morris is an advocate for The American Heart and Lung Association.

        The US Constitution does not give you rights. It restricts the government from abridging rights that are yours by your very nature. It leaves no room for debate. Sure, under the Constitution you are free to be agnostic, but not because the Constitution says so. Specifically, because the constitution restricts the congress from legislating away your rights.

        I don’t wish to deny the rights enumerated in the UNHR. I just want people to understand that the UNHR is no substitute for our American system and that our involvement in it simply waters down what we already have and jeopardizes our ability to maintain it.


        August 4, 2012 at 3:40 am

    • This section is similar to one in our constitution, with broader and more universal language. It’s just the idea that an individuals rights only go as far as another’s ends. Basically, we don’t have unlimited rights in the sense that we cannot abridge another’s right to life, liberty, property, etc… It doesn’t say anything about the UN’s “mission”, it says that “these rights and freedoms may in no cad be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”

      Also, the kid that will never know about the constitution-god relationship? I took high school history, I have read the constitution and Declaration of Independence many times over. I am fully aware of the one line that mentions a “creator”. No teacher preached that that meant the Christian deity God, however. I had the freedom to make my own assessments on that.

      Jacob Gill

      November 20, 2012 at 1:08 am

      • Law students know that in questions of ambiquity of law it is critical to determine the intent of the lawgiver in order to justly apply the principle of the law. You may have been free to assess your own interpretation of “all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” but a dis-service is done when a child is not taught the intent of the framers in this respect. No interpretation is necessary. The founders wrote about it over and over and over again. This is not a mystery. It is plain history.

        You say “as far as I am concerned my creator is my parents” fine. That simply begs the question, where did your parents get their rights and the authority to pass them down? That brings us back a generation. We can do that ad infinitum. In the end, we arrive at the beginning of the human race and the question is yet unanswered. Who was the original author of life? Who is THE CREATOR? Think about it.

        You should sneak some introduction to logic in between readings of the Constitution.


        November 20, 2012 at 2:30 am

    • Please people stop ignoring this, it is your right to have rights according to the UN!
      Please stop making my heart hurt by misinterpreting basic facts!

      Maximalian Kaiser

      February 14, 2018 at 10:17 pm

  7. I’d just like to say our system is NOT god given. Our government has nothing to do with God. The government should if anything recognize the authority of human life.


    April 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

  8. I don’t think I said our system was God-given. I think I said our system was designed to recognize our rights as having been God-given. Of course this speaks to how the system was originally viewed. I certainly recognize that these sentiments were never truly realized universally within society and the reality today is far from ideal. Thanks Rico. Human Life should surely be defended by our government at all stages.


    April 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm

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  11. To what extent does the US follow the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration? What changes do you think the U.S. would need to make in domestic or foreign policy to follow these principles?


    November 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    • I think the Bill of Right is far superior to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As far as changes go… The US Government should stop abusing the Constitution and start honoring the Bill of Rights. To hell with the UN and their so called Declaration. Get US out of the UN. Get the UN out of the US!


      November 21, 2013 at 9:52 pm

  12. I’m not so sure you realize how little impact the UN actually has. Take a long look at the UN Declaration of Human Rights and then take a long look at its members. Saudi Arabia. Yup, last I checked women can’t drive. THE ONLY COUNTRY WHERE WOMEN CAN NOT DRIVE IS IN THE UN. “In short, it is a blueprint for subjugation,” not exactly… a document is only as useful as its enforcement. Whether you believe this document for the better or worse of mankind doesn’t deny the fact it isn’t pushed for. Anywhere. Also, truth be told, the US has always had little to no interest in the UN, we’ve just been silent for the most part.

    Concerned Dude

    January 7, 2014 at 12:21 am

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    April 28, 2014 at 7:48 pm

  14. Interesting discussion. I remain VERY strongly in favor of US Constitution. The US Const wins on the matters of structure and procedure. Our competitive system (checks and balances, separation of power) is more likely to protect individual rights than the “progressives'” world government.model of top-down dictates (which un-progressively resembles every college sophomore’s ideal of an enlightened dictator with wise nobles – leader and bureaucrats).
    The treaty of Westphalia began recognition of nation-states boundaries, but the UN “peace-keeping” usually assures that the bully will win — as the UN imposes stasis after conquest, not restoration
    The first 21 articles of the UN are aspirational, but ruined they are betrayed by articles 22-30 — which negate individual rights in favor of collective power.((Ex. Art 17 [right to property] versus Art 22 [right to seize property and transfer wealth],))


    July 22, 2015 at 10:55 am

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