Many nations’ constitutions guarantee a right to human dignity; the U.S. Constitution does not. That is what I learned this past week in a webinar sponsored by the American Bar Association with panelists legal scholars Erin Daley and James R. May, co-authors of the first casebook ever on human dignity rights law, entitled simply, Dignity Law. Montana’s and Puerto Rico’s constitutions do include dignity. Dignity is the core of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Why our constitution does not include dignity makes sense. Ours was written for white males who owned property. Slavery was legal. American Indians were not viewed as humans. The death penalty was legal, and still is at the federal level and in some states like Wyoming. Wife and child beating was acceptable. Removal of children from their homes bound for boarding schools was viewed as needed to erase Indigenous cultures. Discrimination against homosexuals and transgender people is still allowed in Wyoming where Matthew Shepherd was killed. Putting children of immigrants in cages at our southern border is still allowed. Pollution of the water and air necessary for life has been permitted. Demonizing others is rampant in today’s political arena.
Dignity law goes beyond equal protection, liberty, and the right to privacy. Dignity law has four components: universal, inherent, self-worth and equality. If we placed a high value on dignity, we could have peace building and community harmony with an appreciation of diversity. There may be a trend in the U.S. courts to view dignity as a right, as extensions of other rights like the Equal Protection Clause but also using case law from other jurisdictions. We can hope. It could help end the pipeline from schools to prison. It could help end racial profiling. It could help end excessive use of force by police. It could help end the spread of COVID-19. It could help end health inequities and disparities.
Monday, January 18, is Martin Luther King Day. Join us at 12 Noon for a complete reading of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail written April 16, 1963. This is as relevant today as it was in 1963 as it was to Birmingham, Alabama as it is to Riverton, Wyoming as we address issues like how Native Americans are treated at some Riverton businesses, lack of transparency and accountability with Riverton police, environmental and health concerns that disproportionately affect Native Americans and the reluctance by white settlers to become true allies.
- Introduction: Chesie Lee
- Readers: Rev. Bonita Knox, Darrah Good Voice Elk and Rev. Rodger McDaniel
This will last about 50 minutes. Below is the link.
Fear not. Be bold. Build relationships. Be humble. Do justice.
Tap to join from a mobile device (attendees only)