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Why we should elevate the individual over group rights

Lorie Smith, owner of the website design company 303 Creative, speaks outside the United States Supreme Court following oral arguments in the case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, Dec. 5, 2022.
Lorie Smith, owner of the website design company 303 Creative, speaks outside the United States Supreme Court following oral arguments in the case 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, Dec. 5, 2022. | The Christian Post/ Nicole Alcindor

While our United States government is not “Christian” per se, I would argue that it is Christianity-inspired. The Declaration of Independence cites inalienable rights endowed to us by our Creator, and individual civil liberties are explicitly listed in the Bill of Rights, establishing our core American ethos. This reflects the Protestant Christian principle that faith is comprised of a personal relationship between the individual and God. As we are equal individuals in the eyes of God, so too are we equal under the law. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has halted a growing movement in the United States to elevate the rights of selected groups over the rights of individuals. This check on institutional power was affirmed by two just and critically important decisions: 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis and Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina.

In 303 Creative, the court upheld the First Amendment right to free speech, ruling that a Colorado-based web designer could not be compelled to create a site that incorporates messages with which she, the individual designer, disagrees.

The second ruling rolls back the use of affirmative action in elite college admissions, as the majority determined that such policies violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. In essence, they’re affirming that our Constitutional rights correspond with our God-given individuality. These rulings maintain the religious liberty foundational to our American freedoms.

Both cases shed light on how the government exercises power. The case ending race-based Affirmative Action determined that individual merit outweighs the claims of groups based on skin color, gender, or other criteria. In the case of the Colorado web designer, her individual right not to be compelled to produce content she disagreed with outweighed the claims of aggrieved groups. When our Constitutional government adjudicated this dilemma, it rightly chose to uphold the explicitly guaranteed rights of the individual, as opposed to group rights created by legislation or edict.

As Americans, we must resist efforts to be herded into tribes, each with a discrete set of rights that serve only to pit group against group. Further, a government empowered to describe groups could also ascribe groups. Would you want to find yourself assigned to a group with fewer rights than another group?

Elevating group rights over individual rights diminishes our explicitly guaranteed freedom of religion. Christians believe individuals forge their relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the result of a binary, personal choice.

In turn, we must honor and protect a government that aligns with Christian doctrine honoring and protecting this same individual choice. I posit that the individual is best equipped to withstand societal pressures to conform to sin. Malleable group consensus, especially when enforced by the government, diminishes the individual’s ability to forge a relationship with God.

Though the Church certainly recognizes the value and power of the collective, that collective must serve to strengthen the bond between the individual and God. The collective power of government serves best when it empowers and protects the freedoms of the individual.

Eric Hogue is the president of Colorado Christian University, the leading interdenominational Christian university in the Rocky Mountain region. Hogue is known for his roles as a former political candidate; practicing theologian and pastor; and long-tenured radio, television and media professional. He is the author of The Winning Side of the Ask: The Heart and Skills of the Donor-Centric Professional Fundraiser, a book dedicated to helping nonprofits design a thriving philanthropic culture.

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