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Religious Freedom, Democracy, and International Human Rights

John Witte Jr.

Emory University School of Law

M. Christian Green

affiliation not provided to SSRN


Emory International Law Review, Vol. 23, No. 2, p. 583, 2009

Recently, an Afghan journalism student was given the death sentence for blasphemy. This sentence was a violation of religious liberty and human rights. Religion has been a key beneficiary of the human rights revolution on a national and international scale from the end of the 20th century. However, this revolution has coincided with intensifying religious and ethnic conflict on a global scale. Thus, a war for souls has broken out.

Legal issues of how to protect religious minorities within a majoritarian religious culture, how to place limits on religious and anti-religious exercises and expressions that cause offense or harm to others have arose. These questions concerning religious freedom, democracy, and human rights are not new in international law. However, human rights norms are not a fundamental belief system; rather, human rights norms stem from religious and cultural traditions.

Several areas are particularly controversial. In particular, proselytism, conversion and apostasy, and blasphemy have generated a great deal of discussion. In the common law of human rights, the defamation of religious resolutions are on the wane, as the issue serves more to divide than unite. A truly democratic approach to religion is needed. This requires a normative distinction and practical disentanglement. Thus, the author offers the challenge to create a universal system of religious human rights that is more than a mere amalgamation of rights to speech, press, and association.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

Keywords: Religious freedom, religious liberty, human rights, religion

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Date posted: May 26, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Witte, John and Green, M. Christian, Religious Freedom, Democracy, and International Human Rights (2009). Emory International Law Review, Vol. 23, No. 2, p. 583, 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1851230

Contact Information

John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)
M. Christian Green
affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )
Feedback to SSRN

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