Justice Thomas Decries “Rights”

Before a group of high school students, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas revealed a real lack of enthusiasm for the Bill of Rights.

“Today there is much focus on our rights,” he said. “Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights. I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances. Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?”

Where would I even start?

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5 responses to “Justice Thomas Decries “Rights”

  1. Where would you start?

    How about linking to the full speech ( http://www.beinganamerican.org/files/essays/thomas_keynote.pdf), rather than to the NYT’s misleading account?

    Prof. Zywicki, on Volokh, (http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2009_04_12-2009_04_18.shtml#1239890008 ) who suggested the following approach:

    “Read the speech, then read Adam Liptak’s story, and then ask yourself why the Times now has so little credibility with many of us.”

    Indeed, in the quote you selected, the NYT left out a part of what Justice Thomas actually said:

    “Today there’s much focus on our rights, indeed I think there is a proliferation of rights. I don’t deny that these rights are important, they are. But I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances. At least it seems to me that more and more people are celebrated for their litany of grievances about this or that. Shouldn’t there at least be equal time for our “bill of obligations” and our “bill of responsibilities”? What is required of us? I think we have an idea.”

    The Justice goes on to encourage his young audience to honor those who won the rights that they enjoy today and to recognize their own responsibilities to live lives that are worthy of the sacrifices of those who came before them.

    Not a bad message, I’d say.

  2. However you qualify the following statement:

    “Today there’s much focus on our rights, indeed I think there is a proliferation of rights.

    It stills seems radically dangerous for a SCOTUS Justice to be decrying a “proliferation of rights” in a nation that has historically struggled to live up to its creed that all “(wo)men are created equal.”

  3. Radically dangerous?

    Oh c’mon.

    You disagree with Justice Thomas’ approach?

    Ok, I get that.

    But do you really think that it’s “radically dangerous” for a Supreme Court Justice to encourage high school students to think a little less about themselves and a little more about the responsibilities of citizenship, particular the responsibility to honor the memory of those whose sacrifices won us the rights we enjoy?

    Pretty scary stuff to some, I guess, but probably not to most Americans.

  4. I would be fine if that was the essence of his talk. Yet he qualified these comments with this:

    “Today there’s much focus on our rights, indeed I think there is a proliferation of rights. ”

    As I said, it is radically dangerous for a SCOTUS Justice to be decrying a “proliferation of rights” in a nation that has historically struggled to live up to its creed that all “(wo)men are created equal.”

    If he wants to talk about responsibilities and obligations related to citizenship, great! But not at the expense of “rights!” And he definitely linked the two!

  5. What?

    Justice Thomas linked our rights with the responsibilities of citizenship?

    And you find that dangerous?

    Thank God, the many who answered the call in 1775, or 1861, or 1941, etc., saw that linkage and recognized their responsibility as citizens to fight to protect their fellow citizens’ freedoms.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong — and much that is right — with passing that message along to a new generation.

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