Human Exceptionalism

SC “Personhood” Bill Violates 1st Amendment

Well-intentioned legislation has been filed in South Carolina to try and establish “personhood” as beginning at fertilization. I don’t prefer that approach. I think what matters is humanhood. If an organism is human, certain rights attach, regardless of “personhood”–a philosophical concept being changed in bioethical and ideological circles as requiring self awareness or other such capacities. In other words, personhood is subjective, whereas humanhood is more objective.

That point aside, the South Carolina legislation seems fatally flawed, in that it would be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds–at least as the Establishment Clause is currently interpreted. From the text of AB 457, the “Personhood Act of South Carolina:

(A) The General Assembly acknowledges the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence is one of the Organic Laws of the United States of America found in the United States Code. 

B)  The General Assembly acknowledges all persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

(C)    The General Assembly acknowledges personhood is God-given, as all men are created in the image of God.

(D)    The General Assembly finds the Preamble to the Constitution of the State of South Carolina contains the sovereign peoples’ acknowledgment of God as the source of constitutional liberty saying: ‘We the people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, grateful to God for our liberties, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the preservation and perpetuation of the same.’

Well, the Declaration says all “men” are created equal–which could be interpreted to mean born people. But to declare that a law is explicitly based on a religious belief, e.g., that “personhood is God-given” and that “all men are created in the image of God,” is unquestionably to turn the law into the establishment of religion, to be specific, Christian and Jewish, since the concept comes from Genesis 1:27:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

This simply won’t pass constitutional muster. Surely, the sponsors can try to protect unborn life without unconstitutionally (in my view) establishing religion.  Back to the drawing board, please. 

Most Popular

Energy & Environment

The Climate Trap for Democrats

The more the climate debate changes, the more it stays the same. Polls show that the public is worried about climate change, but that doesn’t mean that it is any more ready to bear any burden or pay any price to combat it. If President Donald Trump claws his way to victory again in Pennsylvania and the ... Read More

Kamala Harris Runs for Queen

I’m going to let you in on a secret about the 2020 presidential contest: Unless unforeseen circumstances lead to a true wave election, the legislative stakes will be extremely low. The odds are heavily stacked against Democrats’ retaking the Senate, and that means that even if a Democrat wins the White House, ... Read More

What We’ve Learned about Jussie Smollett

It’s been a few weeks since March 26, when all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and the actor declared that his version of events had been proven correct. How’s that going? Smollett’s celebrity defenders have gone quiet. His publicists and lawyers are dodging reporters. The @StandwithJussie ... Read More