There is a phrase in the preamble of the US Constitution that seems to be confusing many people these days. “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.”
This sentence may seem straightforward, but people nonetheless cannot seem to grasp the concept. Rights. We have rights. We have a right to life. We have a right to liberty. We have a right to happiness…wait. Let’s read that again. We have a right to life—yes it does say that. We have a right to liberty—yep, that’s in there too. We have a right to happiness—nope. It doesn’t say that. It says we have a right to the “pursuit of happiness.”
What this means is that no one has the unalienable right to be happy. If something makes you unhappy, you have no legal recourse in the matter. Oh, you can pursue happiness till you’re blue in the face or until you find it. But if you fail to find happiness, you have to chalk it up to the inequities of life. Just because someone else is happy doesn’t mean you get to be.
The American Civil Liberties Union likes to sue people who make others unhappy. They do so under the auspices of Constitutional Law. Now, I am not anti-ACLU. As the fictional American President said, “This is an organization dedicated to upholding the Bill Of Rights. Why would anyone…reject upholding the constitution?” I agree. But the ACLU sometimes overlooks the obvious in their dogged pursuit of their idea of constitutional law—such as that one word: Pursuit.
The ACLU is suing a school district—the very same school district they sued years ago over school prayer—to force them into holding a prom and permitting a proclaimed lesbian student to attend with her girlfriend. They say that the district’s decision to cancel the prom was unconstitutional. Forgive me, but where in the constitution or the bill of rights does it say that students have a right to go to the prom?
Where does it say that people have a right to make any choices that they make? Where does it say we have a right to do anything we want? There is a limit on what we have a right to do and that limit is responsibility. We have to be responsible in our decisions before we get the privileges of citizenship. School Proms are not a right. They are a privilege provided to students who demonstrate the responsibility of citizenship by complying with the rules. If a student does not wish to comply, then that student does not get the privilege.
The school district in question cancelled the prom because the student threatened a lawsuit if she was not allowed to attend with her girlfriend. In a written statement, the spokesman said that the matter was distracting from the important work of educating students and would undermine the school’s mission. They also encouraged local businesses and individuals to plan a private prom to be held off school property for those students who wanted to go to prom. This was not enough for the ACLU.
It’s the same logic with any organization. Individuals do not have a right to join just any group they want. They have to comply with the groups’ rules or bylaws and admissions processes. Many people seem to think that having these rules is somehow unconstitutional; that it is their right to join. Nothing is further from the truth. If you want to join, comply. If you cannot or do not wish to comply, do not join. It is quite simple. Start your own club.
Pursue your happiness within the established guidelines. If those guidelines make you unhappy—well—tough tookies. You cannot use the judiciary to change laws. That is what the legislature is for. If the rules of society irk you, try to get a congressman to write a bill. Rules are for everyone and it takes the majority, not the minority to change them. Deal with it and move on.
Oh, and just an aside…note that the preamble says one other thing in that sentence. It tells you where these rights originate: endowed by their Creator. That doesn’t mean mom and dad; it doesn’t mean the President or congress. It means God. Try to remember that.