Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Religious Freedom, Democracy, and International Human Rights"

John Witte, Jr. & M. Christian Green, Religious Freedom, Democracy, and International Human Rights, 23 Emory Int'l L. Rev. 583 (2009)

This interesting and provocative article argues that, despite the rise of constitutionalism and concomitant religious freedom guarantees all over the world, "this very same global human rights revolution has coincided with intensifying religious and ethnic conflict, oppression, and belligerence" (p. 586) in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and much of the former Soviet Union. The article accurately notes that "charges of blasphemy, seemingly as premodern as charges of heresy or apostasy, are making their way back into the headlines" (p. 599), as are punishments for religious conversion or evangelization. "Indeed, in many areas of the world, a new 'war for souls' has broken out--a battle to reclaim the traditional, cultural, and moral fabric of these new societies and a struggle to regain adherence and adherents to indigenous faiths. . . . These tensions exist under the surface of shiny constitutional veneers of international human rights instruments[.]" (p. 587) The fact that religious freedom is under attack in many countries across the globe is not news, of course, but the fact that constitutionalism--domestic or international--has largely failed to solve the problem should be a good wake up call for any legal theorists who spend too much time thinking about rights in the abstract and too little about concrete measures of enforcement.

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