Book Review: Michael J. Perry, Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law, Courts (2007)
Journal of Religion, Vol. 88, No. 2, p. 257, April 2008
Mississippi College School of Law Research Paper No. 2008-10
4 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2008
Date Written: July, 16 2008
This book review analyzes Michael J. Perry's most recent book Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law, Courts. Perry's book brings together two previously separate aspects of his thoughtful and pioneering scholarship dealing with the proper relation of morality (especially religious morality) to law and human rights and the role of courts in protecting human rights. Perry's argument concentrates on three related issues: whether the morality of human rights has a religious or secular ground or both, the relation between the morality of human rights and the law of human rights, and the proper role of courts in protecting constitutionally embedded human rights in a liberal democracy. He argues that the morality of human rights depends on a religious ground and concludes that those accepting the morality of human rights should advocate abolishing capital punishment, banning some abortions, and legally protecting same-sex unions. In addition, I note that Perry's arguments for a religious ground for human rights resonate with an increasing focus on ontology in political and legal theory. Along with Perry's religious ground for the morality of human rights, the weak ontology in political theory and the ontological gap in legal theory suggest a possible religious or ontological turn in human rights theory. Perry's prior work makes him ideally suited for moving the debate about the foundation of human rights more explicitly in this direction.
Keywords: Religion, Law, Human Rights, Courts
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