Because God created males and females in his image, we are endowed with rights and responsibilities. In order to carry out these responsibilities, human beings need life, liberty, justice and security, along with the freedom to form associations, formulate and express beliefs, and act on conscientiously held commitments. Governments are responsible to protect these basic human rights. Insofar as a person has a human right, that person should be able to appeal to an executive, legislative or judicial authority to enforce or adjudicate that right.
Even when people choose paths contrary to biblical teaching, they retain God-given dignity. A person’s legal rights often entail freedom to choose wrongly or to sin, particularly when the rights and well-being of others are not directly harmed.
As recipients of God’s gift of embodied life, people need food, nurture, shelter and care. While it is not the primary role of governments to provide everything that humans need for their well-being, they must provide for the general welfare and promote the common good. Governments are also obligated to ensure that people are not unjustly deprived of their inalienable rights and fair opportunities to meet their needs. Governments can play a significant role in convening private institutions to work together to promote human welfare.
American foreign policy should encourage respect for human rights and prudently employ sanctions against countries that abuse or deny such rights. We urge the United States to cooperate with other countries in encouraging strong democracies and civil societies in all nations.
Because the Creator gave human beings free will, religious liberty — including the right to change one’s religion — is foundational and must be respected by governments and societies. Religious liberty includes the right to freely present, share, discuss and critique various religious viewpoints both privately and publicly. Christians support this freedom not only for itself, but for other religions as well. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are closely related to religious liberty. For example, people must be free to express their vision for a just social order without fear of torture, persecution or other reprisal.
Human life is embodied, and the well-being of persons is tied to their physical existence. Therefore, every human has the right not to have one’s life taken unjustly, the right not to have one’s body mutilated, and the right not to be abused, raped, violated, molested, maimed, tortured or starved. The right not to be arbitrarily detained and the writ of habeas corpus are also based specifically on the concept of bodily rights.
All people must be protected from sexual harassment and violence regardless of their gender, race, age or socioeconomic standing. Businesses, schools, churches and government should foster environments of respect and protection and have confidential avenues for reporting inappropriate behavior without fear of retribution. Those who have been violated need encouragement and support as they recover. We affirm efforts to help women have a stronger voice against sexual harassment and abuse. As Christians, we should treat each other with love and purity (1 Timothy 5:1–2).
We are guided by the Bible to be particularly concerned for the plight of refugees — individuals who have been forced to flee their countries due to oppression, violence and persecution. We urge churches and ministries to continue welcoming, resettling and assisting in the integration of refugees. We call on governments to offer resettlement opportunities to refugees who are unable to return to their homes, with a particular priority on the most vulnerable and family reunification.
Human rights also extend to those accused of crimes, persons locked up behind prison walls and those who have a criminal record. Our misguided response to crime has neglected victim restitution while locking up more of our citizens — particularly racial minorities — than most other nations. This has pervasive, devastating and long-lasting human and financial consequences for individuals, families and society at large.
We can prevent crime by cultivating the “seedbeds of virtue,” including healthy families, churches, neighborhoods, schools and other sources of moral formation. Our criminal justice system should provide for meaningful participation of crime survivors, fair and proportional punishment of offenders, protection of prisoners’ safety and human dignity, rehabilitation of offenders and help with reintegration into society as contributing citizens. We urge churches to celebrate redemption by helping survivors of crime to heal and forgive, and by welcoming those who have paid their debt.