There seems this folk conception of “rights” as have little to nothing to do with law or politics anywhere. For example, when people say “you have no right to say that” when the statement doesn’t literally violate a free speech code, such as the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian constitution, they’re referring to some kind of cultural right. I hear this sort of thing all the time. Mostly when I hear this nobody mentions where these rights, in an apolitical sense, come from. Nobody in the public sphere mentions a culture or religion non-political rights stem from. It seems like people are intuiting “right” and “wrong” morally and saying a “right” are expressions of thought or actions which are morally permissible. So if you say something I think immoral, and I say “you have no right” to say that, I mean you have no moral right to say that, while saying what you said could all the while be perfectly legal.
Of course the relationship between law and politics over time is such that what should be and always should have been recognized as a right is indeed recognized, and some rights which are recognized should never have been recognized at all, and are revoked. One can have different interpretations of history, but that’s the long and short of it. An example of rights being granted, earned or recognized is the extension of the franchise to all adult citizens over the 20th century. An example of a right being revoked is the end of slavery, and the right to own another human being as property. So there is always a sense of political and moral rights contained in the single word, “rights”, and a tension between them.
But in contemporary times when people say others have no moral right to do something, I’m struck by so many people acting as though legal rights are so irrelevant to matters at hand they may as well not exist. When the first rights people go after one another for having are the rights to freedom of speech, expression, thought and belief, I’ve the sense people have no understanding of the modern conception of rights, or the relationship between some rights and others. That the first civil, legal and human rights in developed, democratic countries people are going after are the most fundamental ones means people lack the awareness eroding these rights will lead to the erosion of all the others, legal or moral. This scares me.