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Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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The Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are two vital documents dedicated to the safety, security, and overall well-being of two very different groups of people. The Bill of Rights was simply the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution, whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was made for all of the people governed by the separate and independent nations included in the United Nations. The key difference in the documents rests not in the words, but in the audiences to which they speak to and of. Comparing the one complete declaration of laws, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and part of another, Bill of Rights as part of the US Constitution, is very different from a comparison of both documents as a whole. I will look specifically to the Articles presented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not the Preamble to compare and contrast with the Bill of Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights uses much more ambiguous but universally acceptable terminology, because it is speaking for the rights of millions of people worldwide of many races and ethnic and religious backgrounds. This cannot be attained without using words and laws that can be accepted by the persons of all the member countries. Article ten is a perfect example of this because it combines the ideas of two of the Bill of Rights Amendments, numbers six and seven, and forms a much more universally acceptable law. Article ten pertains to rights of a speedy trial as well as a trial by jury. It is also important to understand that while some things need to be said more open-ended for the world to understand it, it is just as important for some of the articles to be much more specific than those seen in the Bill of Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights instructs that all individual governments need to assure that each person in their sovereign state has the “right to marry and to found a family”. This would be far too explicit for the initial laws of the United States to state in their most important Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights Amendment number one is by far the most important of the first ten, but it also covers the most ground with its words. Freedom to Assemble, freedom of speech, freedom to choose a religion, and freedom of the press are all included in the first amendment. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights these topics are separated into three separate but equally important Articles, numbers eighteen through twenty. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also discusses topics of economic and financial interest, while the Bill of Rights only mentions something scarcely mentioning finances once. Amendment 8 in the Bill of Rights briefly touches on how a criminal cannot be given an excessive amount of bail for a criminal trial. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has many separate Articles and subsets of them that outline issues pertaining to the economy and/or finances such as social security, unemployment, the standard of living, vacation time, unions, among others.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights second article talks about ensuring that no individual is discriminated against for a variety of factors including race, gender, religion, ethnic background. Although the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights does discuss freedom to choose your religion, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets a high bar for non-discrimination because the Bill of Rights does not mention either race or gender as factors for possible discrimination. Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights even specifies that slavery was, in fact, illegal and could not be done by an individual under the rule of the United Nations. As seen in the Bill of Rights, slavery wasn’t abolished until the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865, and the Women’s Suffrage Amendment, number 19, was not passed until 1920.

These documents both help to preserve peace and ensure domestic or international tranquility among the individuals. The primary similarities between the documents are seen from the creators of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights use of the United States Constitution as a reference in their document. The main differences are largely based on differences in interpretation of laws that need be established and not in one having different and/or supplementary laws. Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the General Assembly (1948) over 150 years after the US Constitution was written, the integration of the words and phrasing, and more importantly the intention, of the Bill of Rights can be seen in the postures set forth by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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