Equal Rights

In commenting on the distinctive features of civil law in this country, Andrews, "American Law" states, "The people of the United States ventured beyond the limits of precedent and founded a new system of government based on their peculiar conceptions of right, law and government." One of these conceptions or features is stated thus: "The declaration of the equality before the law of persons subject to it." This conception, in its essential nature, may not have been entirely new to the world; but its declaration as one of the primal and fundamental features of American law, with other radical conceptions, formed a distinctive system of democracy expressed in a civil government "beyond the limits of precedent" hitherto established in the Old World.

The declaration of "equality before the law," just quoted, was clearly based on Biblical teachings, which found their highest statement in the divine laws set forth by Jesus of Nazareth, centering in the Golden Rule, the rule of true equality. While not always so stated, "equality before the law" implies an equal obligation to obey the law, and an equal right to enjoy liberty within the scope of the Golden Rule. Some thinkers have admitted this, and promoted its animus; and some commentators acknowledge that this rule underlies all the distinctive conceptions embodied in American law. But have we seen this Golden Rule wrought into the fabric of American state laws affecting the rights of womanhood to the extent that it should be? Do we yet see a general acknowledgment of the fact that human law, to be just, must conform to the Golden Rule, and that fundamental law is impersonal and knows not sex?

Preaching and Practice
September 22, 1923

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