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  • John Witte (a1) and Justin J. Latterell (a2)

This article analyzes the historical sources and forms of human rights in Western legal and Christian traditions, and it identifies key questions about the intersections of Christianity and human rights in modern contexts. The authors identify nine distinctions between different conceptions of rights correlating with at least four types of jural relationships, and they argue that leading historical accounts of human rights attribute “subjective” rights too narrowly to Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment legal thought. Earlier forms of classical Roman law and medieval canon law, and legal norms developed by Protestant reformers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shaped Western human rights regimes in historically important ways, anticipating most of the rights formulation of modern liberals. In response to contemporary scholars who criticize human rights paradigms as inadequate or incompatible with Christian faith and practice, the authors argue that rights should remain a part of Christian moral, legal, and political discourse, and that Christians should remain a part of pluralistic public debates about the appropriate scope and substance of human rights protections.

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John Witte Jr., “A New Magna Carta for the Early Modern Common Law: An 800th Anniversary Essay,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue)

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., “Natural Law,” Harvard Law Review 32, no. 1 (1918): 4044, at 42

Samuel Moyn , “Substance, Scale, and Salience: The Recent Historiography of Human Rights,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 8 (2012): 123–40

Oliver O'Donovan , “The Language of Rights and Conceptual History,” Journal of Religious Ethics 37, no. 2 (2009): 193207, at 197

David Little , “Rethinking Human Rights: A Review Essay on Religion, Relativism, and Other Matters,” Journal of Religious Ethics 27, no. 1 (1999): 151–77

John Witte Jr., “Facts and Fictions about the History of Separation of Church and State,” Journal of Church and State 48, no. 1 (2006): 1546

Udo Wolter , “Amt und Officium in mittelalterlichen Quellen vom 13. bis 15. Jahrhundert: Ein begriffsgeschichtliche Untersuchung,” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte; Kanonistische Abteilung 74 (1988): 246–80

John Witte Jr., “‘A Most Mild and Equitable Establishment of Religion’: John Adams and the Massachusetts Experiment,” Journal of Church and State 41, no. 2 (1999): 213–52

John Rawls , “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” University of Chicago Law Review 64, no. 3 (1997): 765807

Richard Rorty , “Religion in the Public Square: A Reconsideration,” Journal of Religious Ethics 31, no. 1 (2003): 141–49

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Journal of Law and Religion
  • ISSN: 0748-0814
  • EISSN: 2163-3088
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-law-and-religion
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