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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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1 78 Stat. 241; 79 Stat. 437.

2 See Franklin Robert M., “Rehabilitating Democracy: Restoring Civil Rights and Leading the Next Human Rights Revolution,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue).

3 See U.S. Constitution amendments XIII, XIV, XV.

4 U.S. Declaration of Independence paragraph 2 (U.S. 1776).

5 See Hittinger Russell, “An Issue of the First Importance: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue).

6 John XXIII, Pacem in Terris [Encyclical on establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity, and liberty] (April 11, 1963), § 9, reprinted in The Gospel of Peace and Justice: Catholic Social Teaching since Pope John, ed. Joseph Gremillion (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1976), 203.

7 Ibid., 203–18.

8 Ibid.

9 See notes 12 and 13 below.

10 The term ur-principle is from Louis Henkin et al., Human Rights (New York: Foundation, 1999), 80.

11 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, preamble, G.A. Res. 217A, U.N. GAOR, 3d Sess., 1st plen. mtg., U.N. Doc A/810 (Dec. 12, 1948), reprinted in Basic Documents on Human Rights, eds. Ian Brownlie and Guy S. Goodwin-Gill, 6th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 39–44. For an online version, see

12 International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, G.A. Res. 2200A, U.N. GAOR 3d Comm., 21st Sess., Supp. No. 16, at 48, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966) [hereinafter ICESCR], reprinted in Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill, Basic Documents on Human Rights, 370–79. For an online version, see

13 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted Dec. 19, 1966, S. Exec. Doc. E, 95-2 (1978), 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (entered into force Mar. 23, 1976) [hereinafter ICCPR], reprinted in Brownlie and Goodwin-Gill, Basic Documents on Human Rights, 388–404. For an online version, see

14 See Samuel Moyn, Christian Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

15 See, among many others, W. N. Hohfeld, Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning, and Other Legal Essays (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1919); Carl Wellman, An Approach to Rights (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997): Michael J. Perry, The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Joel Feinberg, Rights, Justice, and the Bounds of Liberty: Essays in Social Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980); Maurice Cranston, “Human Rights, Real and Supposed,” in The Philosophy of Human Rights, ed. Patrick Hayden (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2001), 163–73; Joel Feinberg, “The Nature and Value of Rights,” in ibid., 174–86; Thomas W. Pogge, “How Should Human Rights be Conceived?” in ibid., 187–211; Martha C. Nussbaum, “Capabilities and Human Rights,” in ibid., 212–40.

16 See entry for “right” in Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed.; Alfred Kiralfky, “Law and Right in English Legal History,” in La formazione storica de diritto moderno in Europa (Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1977), 3:1069–86.

17 See Witte John 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).

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

19 See especially Biggar Nigel, “Imprudent Jurisprudence? Human Rights and Moral Contingency,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue).

20 See Timothy Shah and Allen Hertzke, eds., Christianity and Freedom, vol. 1, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

21 See Alvaré Helen M., “Religious Freedom versus Sexual Expression: A Guide,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue).

22 See, e.g., Hauerwas Stanley, “How to Think Theologically about Rights,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue). For various constructive responses to such views, see Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: in Love (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2011); Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice Rights and Wrongs (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008); Timothy P. Jackson, Political Agape: Christian Love and Liberal Democracy (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2015).

23 See representative literature analyzed in Kahn Victoria, “Early Modern Rights Talk,” Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 13, no. 2 (2001): 391411; Lynn Hunt, Inventing Human Rights: A History (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007); Moyn Samuel, “Substance, Scale, and Salience: The Recent Historiography of Human Rights,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 8 (2012): 123–40.

24 See further Biggar, “Imprudent Jurisprudence?”

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

26 Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953), 7.

27 Ibid., 182. See further Strauss, The Political Philosophy of Hobbes: Its Basis and Its Genesis, trans. Elsa Sinclair (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952); Strauss, What is Political Philosophy? And Other Studies (Glencoe, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1959), esp. 197ff.

28 See especially Michael P. Zuckert, The Natural Rights Republic: Studies in the Foundation of the American Political Tradition (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996); Zuckert, Natural Rights and the New Republicanism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994); Zuckert, Launching Liberalism: On Lockean Political Philosophy (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002).

29 Leo Strauss, Jewish Philosophy and the Crisis of Modernity: Essays and Lectures in Modern Jewish Thought, ed. Kenneth H. Green (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997).

30 This is the position often associated with the great Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth. See detailed sources in the recent study by Stephen J. Grabill, Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006), 21–53. While Barth was certainly opposed to much natural theology, natural law, and natural rights talk, he was not so adverse to human rights as he is often made out to be. For example, as a pastor in Safenwil he worked hard to secure the rights of workers and unions, the right to secure better wages and working conditions, the right to secure a job that satisfied one's calling and that confirmed one's “human dignity.” As a Christian socialist, he was a fierce advocate for the rights of the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sojourner. As he put it, “God always stands on this and only on this side, always against the exalted and for the lowly, always against those who already have rights and for those from whom they are robbed and taken away.” And as principal author of the courageous 1934 Barmen Declaration against Nazism, Barth gave vivid new expression to the founding rights of the Calvinist tradition—the right to religious liberty and the right of religious leaders prophetically to condemn tyrants who abridge these first rights to religion. See sources quoted and analyzed in George Hunsinger, “Karl Barth,” in Modern Christian Teachings on Law, Politics, and Human Nature, ed. John Witte, Jr. and Frank S. Alexander (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 1:352–80, 2:280–306.

31 See, e.g., Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 69–70. Macintyre writes, “[T]he truth is plain: there are no such rights, and belief in them is one with belief in witches and in unicorns… . Natural or human rights … are fictions.” See also John Milbank's discussion of “dignity” and “rights” in political philosophy and Catholic moral theology in “Dignity Rather than Right” (working paper, Centre of Theology and Philosophy, University of Nottingham, January 31, 2013), Also see, from a nonreligious perspective, Richard Rorty, “Human Rights, Rationality, and Sentimentality,” in Philosophy of Human Rights, ed. Patrick Hayden (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2001), 241–57.

32 Jeremy Bentham, “Anarchical Fallacies; Being an Examination of the Declaration of Rights Issued during the French Revolution,” reprinted in Nonsense upon Stilts: Bentham, Burke and Marx on the Rights of Man, ed. Jeremy Waldron (New York: Methuen, 1987), 53. The passage from which this phrase is taken reads as follows:

That which has no existence cannot be destroyed—that which cannot be destroyed cannot require anything to preserve it from destruction. Natural rights is simple nonsense: natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense,—nonsense upon stilts. But this rhetorical nonsense ends in the old strain of mischievous nonsense: for immediately a list of these pretended natural rights is given, and those are so expressed as to present to view legal rights. And of these rights, whatever they are, there is not, it seems, any one of which any government can, upon any occasion whatever, abrogate the smallest particle.

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

34 See Mary Ann Glendon, Rights Talk: The Impoverishment of Political Discourse (New York: Free Press, 1991); Cartabia Marta, “Europe and Rights: Taking Dialogue Seriously,” European Constitutional Law Review 5, no. 1 (2009): 531.

35 See, e.g., Stanley Hauerwas, The Hauerwas Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 51–74, 577–622.

36 O'Donovan, “The Language of Rights and Conceptual History.”

37 See MacIntyre, After Virtue; also see Alasdair MacIntyre, “How to Identify Ethical Principles,” in The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects Research (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1979), available at

38 See John Witte, Jr. and Michael Bourdeaux, eds., Proselytism and Orthodoxy in Russia: The New War for Souls (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999), 19–20.

39 Karl Barth, Nein! Antwort an Emil Brunner (Munich: C. Kaiser, 1934). For an English translation, see Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, Natural Theology: Comprising “Nature and Grace” (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002).

40 Biggar, “Imprudent Jurisprudence?”

41 See recent overviews in Fabian Wittreck, Christentum und Menschenrechte (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2013); Michael Welker, ed., Quests for Freedom: Biblical—Historical—Contemporary (Göttingen: Neukirchen, 2015); John Witte, Jr. and Frank S. Alexander, eds., Christianity and Human Rights: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Johannes van der Ven, Human Rights or Religious Rules? (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

42 Various scholars, however, have drawn many rights and related doctrines on the strength of the Bible. See, e.g., Jonathan Burnside, God, Justice, and Society: Aspects of Law and Legality in the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Robert F. Cochran and David VanDrunen, eds., Law and Bible: Justice, Mercy and Legal Institutions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013); Brent A. Strawn, et al., eds., The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015); Richard H. Hiers, Women's Rights and the Bible: Implications for Christian Ethics and Social Policy (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012); David Novak, Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).

43 Genesis 1:26–28. All biblical citations are to the Revised Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.

44 Tutu Desmond M., “The First Word: To Be Human Is to Be Free,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue).

45 Ibid.

46 Genesis 1:28.

47 See biblical texts cited in Witte John Jr., “The Covenant of Marriage: Its Biblical Roots, Historical Influence, and Modern Uses,” INTAMS Review. Journal for the Study of Marriage and Spirituality 18, no. 2 (2012): 147–65.

48 Ephesians 5:32.

49 See John Witte, Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion and Law in the Western Tradition, 2nd ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012).

50 Genesis 2:15.

51 For related perspectives on the Bible, Christianity, and environmental issues, see Bron Taylor, ed., The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); John Chryssavgis and Bruce V. Foltz, eds., Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration: Orthodox Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013); Noah J. Toly and Daniel I. Block, eds., Keeping God's Earth: The Global Environment in Biblical Perspective (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010); Willis J. Jenkins, Ecologies of Grace: Environmental Ethics and Christian Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); John Copeland Nagle, “A Right to Clean Water,” in Witte and Alexander, Christianity and Human Rights, 335–50; Willis Jenkins, “Religion and Environmental Rights,” in ibid., 330–45.

52 David Novak, “The Judaic Foundations of Rights,” in Witte and Alexander, Christianity and Human Rights, 47–63.

53 See John Witte, Jr., The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

54 See, e.g., Daniel J. Elazar, Covenant and Polity in Biblical Israel: Biblical Foundations and Jewish Expressions (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1995); Novak, Covenantal Rights.

55 Genesis 9:1–17.

56 See David Novak, Natural Law in Judaism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); David VanDrunen, Divine Covenants and Moral Order: A Biblical Theology of Natural Law (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2014).

57 See Deuteronomy 29–31; Joshua 24; 2 Chronicles 29, 34; 2 Kings 22–23; Nehemiah 8.

58 Jonathan Sacks, “The Great Covenant of Liberties: Biblical Principles and Magna Carta,” in Magna Carta, Religion, and the Rule of Law, ed. Robin Griffith-Jones and Mark Hill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 307.

59 See, e.g., George M. Newlands and Allen P. Smith, Hospitable God: The Transformative Dream (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010); George M. Newlands, Christ and Human Rights: The Transformative Engagement (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006).

60 Romans 8:2, 21; John 8:32, 36; 1 Peter 2:16.

61 Galatians 3:26–28; see also Colossians 3:11; Ephesians 2:14–15.

62 I Peter 2:9; cf. Revelation 5:10, 20:6.

63 See, e.g., Luke 10:25–37; Matthew 9:10; Luke 7:36–50; Matthew 21:31; Mark 15:27; Matthew 8:3; Mark 2:1–12; Mark 8:22–25; John 8:1–15.

64 John 8:7.

65 Luke 23:43.

66 Matthew 25:40.

67 See Marcia Bunge, Children in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2008); Bunge, ed., The Child in Christian Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001); John Witte, Jr. and Don S. Browning, “Christianity's Mixed Contributions to Children's Rights: Traditional Teachings, Modern Doubts,” Emory Law Journal 61, special issue (2011–2012): 991–1014; Symposium, What's Wrong With Rights for Children?Emory International Law Review 20, no. 1 (2006): 1239.

68 See, e.g., Mark 10:13–16; Matthew 19:13–15; Mark 7:24–30; Mark 9:14–27; John 4:46–52; Luke 8:40–56; Matthew 18:5–9.

69 Matthew 5:43–48.

70 Matthew 25:31–46.

71 Matthew 5:38–40.

72 Matthew 5:25.

73 Matthew 5:21–26; Romans 12:9–21.

74 See Tutu, “The First Word.” In the vast literature, see, e.g., Brian Tierney, Medieval Poor Law: A Sketch of Canonical Theory and Its Application in England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959); Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997); Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986); United States Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1986; reprint, 1997),; Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum [On capital and labor] (1891); Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the modern world] (1965); Paul VI, Populorum Progressio [On the development of peoples] (1967). The papal encyclicals and Second Vatican Council documents cited above are available on the Vatican website,

75 Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25.

76 Luke 22:38.

77 2 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 12:2.

78 Hebrews 11:13; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 6:14–18; Colossians 3:1; Philippians 3:20. As one second-century Christian writer explained, for Christians “any foreign country is a motherland, and any motherland is a foreign country.” See “The Epistle to Diognetus,” in Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, trans. Maxwell Staniforth, ed. Betty Radice (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1968), 176.

79 1 Kings 3:1; Jeremiah 1:18–19, 15:19–21; Ezekiel 42:1; Nehemiah 3:1–32, 4:15–20, 12:27–43.

80 Ephesians 2:14.

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

82 For this section, see especially the sources and discussion in Charles A. Donahue, “Ius in the Subjective Sense in Roman Law: Reflections on Villey and Tierney,” in A Ennio Cortese, ed. Domenico Maffei (Rome: Il Cigno Edizioni, 2001), 1:506–35; Max Kaser, Ius Gentium (Cologne: Böhlau, 1993); Max Kaser, Ausgewählte Schriften (Naples: Jovene, 1976–1977); Tony Honoré, Ulpian: Pioneer of Human Rights, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); C. Wirszubski, Libertas as a Political Idea at Rome during the Late Republic and Early Principate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1950).

83 Charles Donahue, “Ius in the Subjective Sense in Roman Law.”

84 Justinian, Institutes, I.III. See English translation in Justinian's Institutes, eds. Peter Birks and Grand McLeod (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987).

85 Acts 22:22–29.

86 See Sidney Ehler and John Morrall, Church and State through the Centuries: A Collection of Historic Documents with Commentaries (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1954), 4–6. The original can be found in Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum [c. 315], 48.2–12, ed. and trans. J. L. Creed (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 71–73.

87 For this section, see Brian Tierney, The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law, and Church Law, 1150–1625 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001); see further Peter Landau, “Zum Ursprung des ‘Ius ad Rem’ in der Kanonistik,” in Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Medieval Canon Law (Vatican City: Biblioteca apostolica Vaticana, 1971): 81–102.

88 C. 16, q. 3, dictum post c. 15, as quoted in Tierney, Idea of Natural Rights, 57.

89 See R. H. Helmholz, The Privilege against Self-Incrimination: Its Origins and Development (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); James Q. Whitman, The Origins of Reasonable Doubt: Theological Roots of the Criminal Trial (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008).

90 Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983).

91 See generally, Tierney, Idea of Natural Rights; Tierney, Rights, Law, and Infallibility in Medieval Thought (Aldershot, UK: Variorum, 1997); Tierney, Religion, Law, and the Growth of Constitutional Thought, 1150–1650 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Wolter Udo, “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; Charles J. Reid, Jr., “Rights in Thirteenth Century Canon Law: An Historical Investigation” (PhD diss. Cornell University, 1994); Reid, Thirteenth Century Canon Law and Rights: The Word Ius and its Range of Subjective Meanings,” Studia Canonica 30 (1996): 295342; Reid, Roots of a Democratic Church Polity in the History of the Canon Law,” Canon Law Society of America Proceedings 60 (1998): 150–78; Reid, Power over the Body, Equality in the Family: Rights and Domestic Relations in Medieval Canon Law (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004); James Muldoon, “The Great Commission and the Canon Law,” in Sharing the Book: Religious Perspectives on the Rights and Wrongs of Proselytism, eds. John Witte, Jr. and Richard C. Martin (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999), 158–73.

92 Porter Jean, “Justice, Equality, and Natural Rights Claims: A Reconsideration of Aquinas's Conception of Right,” Journal of Law and Religion 30, no. 3 (2015) (this issue).

93 Annabel S. Brett, Liberty, Right, and Nature: Individual Rights in Later Scholastic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); R. W. Davis, ed., The Origins of Modern Freedom in the West (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995); Richard Tuck, Natural Rights Theories: Their Origins and Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Michel Villey, La formation de la pensée juridique moderne: Cours d'histoire de la philosophie du droit, 1961–1966 (Paris: Montchrestien, 1968); Villey, Le droit et les droits de l'homme (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1983).

94 Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis et de jure belli relectiones, ed. Ernst Nys, trans. John P. Bate, rev. Herbert F. Wright (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution, 1917).

95 See Bartolomé de las Casas, In Defense of the Indian: The Defense of the Most Reverend Lord, Don Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, of the Order of Preachers, Late Bishop of Chiapa, trans., Stafford Poole (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1992); Lewis Hanke, All Mankind Is One: A Study of the Disputation between Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepulveda in 1550 on the Intellectual and Religious Capacity of the American Indians (Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1974). See also Lantigua David, “The Image of God, Christian Rights Talk, and the School of Salamanca,” Journal of Law and Religion 31, no. 1 (forthcoming 2016). The Max Plank Institute for European Legal History is assembling a comprehensive virtual library of these Salamanca gems through its research project The School of Salamanca: A Digital Collection of Sources and a Dictionary of its Juridical-Political Language; progress is available online at

96 See Witte, Jr., “A New Magna Carta for the Early Modern Common Law.”

97 See John Witte, Jr., The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion, and Modern Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

98 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765; repr. Buffalo, NY: Hein, 1992), vol. 1, chapter 1.

99 See Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian,” in Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings, ed. Timothy Lull and William Russell, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012), 403–27.

100 John Witte, Jr., Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

101 Ibid., 121–68; Witte, The Reformation of Rights, 81–142, 209–76.

102 See Sidney Z. Ehler and John B. Morrall, Church and State through the Centuries: A Collection of Historic Documents with Commentaries (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1954), 164–73.

103 Ibid., 189–92.

104 Carl Stephenson and Frederick B. Markham, Sources of English Constitutional History, rev. ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), 303–21.

105 Ibid., 607–08. See also Joseph Lecler, Toleration and the Reformation, trans. T. L. Westow (New York: Association Press, 1960).

106 See Ehler and Morrall, Church and State through the Centuries, 254–71.

107 Walter Klaassen, ed., Anabaptism in Outline: Selected Primary Sources (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973); Robert M. Friedmann, The Theology of Anabaptism (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1973).

108 See detailed sources in Witte, The Reformation of Rights, 56–59.

109 Ibid., 169–81.

110 See Witte, “A New Magna Carta for the Early Modern Common Law.”

111 See John Witte, Jr., God's Joust, God's Justice: Law and Religion in Western Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006), 49–62.

112 See Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution II: Faith and Order: The Reconciliation of Law and Religion (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 83–139.

113 John Witte, Jr., Christianity and Democracy in Global Context (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993).

114 The text of the charter is available in Francis N. Thorpe, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the States, Territories and Colonies, Now or Heretofore Forming the United States of America, vol. 7, Virginia–Wyoming, Index (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1909), 3813.

115 See Witte John 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.

116 U.S. Constitution, preamble; Arts. 1.9, 1.10, IV; Amendments 1-8, 13-15, 19, 24, 26, reprinted with many prototypes and defenses in The Founders' Constitution, ed. Philip B. Kurland and Ralph S. Lerner (Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2000).

117 The text of the declaration is available in Léon Duguit, Les Constitutions et les Principales Lois Politiques de la France Depuis, 4th ed. (Paris: R. Pichon et Durand-Auzias, 1925), 1.

118 See Samuel Moyn, Christian Human Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

119 See Hauerwas, “How to Think Theologically about Rights.” Hauerwas has developed this argument elsewhere. See especially ibid., The Hauerwas Reader, chapters. 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 16, 21, 22, 26, 28, 31.

120 See Hauerwas, “How to Think Theologically About Rights,” 402, 405.

121 Ibid., 404.

122 Ibid., 403; see also Stanley Hauerwas, Suffering Presence: Theological Reflections on Medicine, the Mentally Handicapped, and the Church (Notre Dame, IL: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 130.

123 Hauerwas, “How to Think Theologically About Rights,” 410.

124 Ibid., 10–11.

125 Ibid.

126 Ibid., 412.

127 Ibid., 412–13.

128 Patrick Parkinson, “Christian Concerns about an Australian Charter of Rights,” in Freedom of Religion under Bills of Rights, ed. Paul Babie and Neville Rochow (Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press, 2012), 150.

129 Ibid., 137–39.

130 Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

131 Alvaré, “Religious Freedom v. Sexual Expression: A Guide,” 477.

132 Franklin, “Rehabilitating Democracy: Restoring Civil Rights and Leading the Next Human Rights Revolution.”

133 E. Ann Carson, Prisoners in 2013 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014), 16,

134 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2010), 9.

135 See, e.g., Forman James Jr., “Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow,” New York University Law Review 87 (2012): 2169.

136 Marc Mauer, Race to Incarcerate, rev. ed. (New York: New Press, 2006).

137 American Bar Association, ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Collateral Sanctions and Discretionary Disqualifications of Convicted Persons, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: American Bar Association, 2004), 7–8.

138 The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Global Restrictions on Religion (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, 2009), 1, 12–13,  Allen D. Hertzke, ed., The Future of Religious Freedom: Global Challenges (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Shah and Hertzke, Christianity and Freedom, vol. 1, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.

139 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Annual Report 2014: 15th Anniversary Retrospective: Renewing the Commitment (Washington, DC: U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 2014),

140 See Pew Research Center, Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, 2014), 21, By comparison, Muslims were harassed in 109 countries; Jews in 71; “others” (e.g. Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Baha'i, etc.) in 40 countries; “folk religionists” in 26 countries; Hindus in 16 countries; Buddhists in 13 countries. Ibid.

141 Ibid. See further W. Cole Durham, Jr., Matthew K. Richards, and Donlu D. Thayer, “The Status of and Threats to International Law on Freedom of Religion and Belief,” in Hertzke, The Future of Religious Freedom, 31–66.

142 1 Corinthians 12:4–5.

143 Luke 10:27.

144 Exodus 20:17.

145 Matthew 25:40.

146 1 Corinthians 3:16.

147 Ephesians 4:1.

148 Matthew 7:12.

149 See Psalm 82:6; John Calvin's commentary in Institutes (1536), I.33; 6.48–49; Institutes (1559), 4.20.

150 See Witte, God's Joust, God's Justice, 263–94.

151 Luke 6:29.

152 Matthew 6:12.

153 Matthew 5:44.

154 1 Corinthians 6.

155 Romans 12:20–21.

156 Pope John Paul II publicly forgave and requested that Mehmet Ali Ağca be pardoned for an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981.

157 Members of the Old Order Amish Community in Barth Township, Pennsylvania, publicly forgave the perpetrator of a mass shooting at the West Nickel Mines School after he murdered five young girls and wounded five more before committing suicide on October 2, 2006.

158 Luke 23:34.

159 Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, “Towards an Islamic Hermeneutics for Human Rights,” in Human Rights and Religious Values: An Uneasy Relationship? ed. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1995), 229–42; Robert P. George, “Response,” in A Preserving Grace: Protestants, Catholics, and Natural Law, ed. Michael Cromartie (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), 157–61; Michael J. Perry, Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law, Courts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

160 Jacques Maritain, introduction to Human Rights: Comments and Interpretations, by UNESCO (New York: Columbia University Press, 1949).

161 Georg Jellinek, Die Erklärung der Menschen- und Bürgerrechte: ein Beitrag zur modernen Verfassungsgeschichte (Liepzig: Duncker and Humblot, 1895), 42.

162 Brian J. Grim, “Restrictions on Religion in the World: Measures and Implications,” in Hertzke, The Future of Religious Freedom, 101; see generally, ibid., 86–104. See more fully on the social, political, and economic consequences of religious freedom restrictions in Brian J. Grim and Roger Finke, The Price of Religious Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

163 See, e.g., Rawls John, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” University of Chicago Law Review 64, no. 3 (1997): 765807; Jürgen Habermas, et al., An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-secular Age, trans. Ciaran Cronin (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010); Rorty Richard, “Religion in the Public Square: A Reconsideration,” Journal of Religious Ethics 31, no. 1 (2003): 141–49.

164 The following paragraphs are adapted from, Justin J. Latterell and John Witte, Jr., “Law, Religion, and Reason in a Constitutional Democracy: Goodman v. Rawls,” Journal of Political Theology (forthcoming).

165 Lenn E. Goodman, Religious Pluralism and Values in the Public Sphere (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 1. Also see ibid., 86–87 (“But religious voices may see harms that contractual models of human relations fail to register. . . . The humanism that invigorates many a religious tradition is protective of human bodies and spirits. It vigorously contests the notion that we human beings are social isolates with no obligations to self or other beyond what we contractually assume. . . . Religion, at its fairest reach, welcomes daylight unafraid of fair debate, even thoughtful probing of its deepest mysteries. But the public has little to fear in religious thoughts and proposals. What is strictly parochial will not win much purchase in an open society.”).

166 Ibid., 2–3.

167 Ibid., 107, 79.

168 Ibid., 101.

169 Romans 2:1.

170 Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Knock at Midnight,” in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986), 501.

171 For more on the constructive roles of religion in public life, see Martin E. Marty, Politics, Religion, and the Common Good: Advancing a Distinctly American Conversation about Religion's Role in Our Shared Life (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000), especially chapter 2; A. James Reichley, Religion in American Public Life (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1985); Steven M. Tipton, Public Pulpits: Methodists and Mainline Churches in the Moral Argument of Public Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

172 King, “A Knock at Midnight,” 501.

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Journal of Law and Religion
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