Recent Posts

July 1st, 2015

Roots and routes of rights

posted by John Witte, Jr.

Over the past four decades, a cottage industry of important new scholarship has emerged. This work is dedicated to the history of rights discourse in the Western tradition prior to the Enlightenment: we now know a great deal more about classical Roman understandings of rights (iura), liberties (libertates), capacities (facultates), powers (potestates), and related concepts, and their elaboration by medieval and early modern canonists, civilians, and common lawyers. We can now pore over an intricate latticework of arguments about individual and group rights and liberties developed by medieval Catholic canonists and moralists, and the ample expansion of this medieval handiwork by neo-scholastic writers in early modern Spain. We also have a deeper understanding of classical republican theories of liberty developed in Greece and Rome, and of their transformative influence on early modern common lawyers, humanist jurists, and political revolutionaries on both sides of the Atlantic. We now know, in brief, that the West knew ample “liberty before liberalism” and had many human rights laws in place before there were modern democratic revolutions fought in their name.

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June 29th, 2015

Catholics, anti-Semitism, and the human rights swerve

posted by Giuliana Chamedes

June 26th, 2015

Is secularism still Christian?

posted by Camille Robcis

June 24th, 2015

The long shadow of Christian politics

posted by Udi Greenberg

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May 29th, 2015

Christian human rights—An introduction

posted by Samuel Moyn

The very first of the five peace points that Pius XII offered that day ran as follows: “1. Dignity of the Human Person. He who would have the Star of Peace shine out and stand over society should cooperate, for his part, in giving back to the human person the dignity given to it by God from the very beginning…He should uphold respect for and the practical realization of…fundamental personal rights…The cure of this situation becomes feasible when we awaken again the consciousness of a juridical order resting on the supreme dominion of God, and safeguarded from all human whims; a consciousness of an order which stretches forth its arm, in protection or punishment, over the unforgettable rights of man and protects them against the attacks of every human power” (emphases added).

We now take in such language, and especially the notion that human dignity provides the foundation for universal human rights, with mother’s milk. Yet it was all rather new at the time. The Catholic Church had previously rejected the hitherto secular and liberal language of human rights, and it was around the same time that the ecumenical formations of transatlantic Protestant elites proclaimed human rights the key to future world order. The communion between human rights and Christianity was therefore a novel and fateful departure in the history of political discourse.

Read Christian human rights—An introduction


May 22nd, 2015

5 questions (and answers) about religious exemptions for vaccines

posted by Wei Zhu

The measles outbreak originating in Disneyland in California—which was finally declared over last month after 169 cases in the United States—thrust the issue of non-medical vaccination exemptions into the political spotlight again, and fueled the growing public controversy over their place in mandatory immunization policies. Personal exemptions for moral or philosophical reasons exist in some states, but religious exemptions, which are allowed in forty-eight states, are far more prevalent. Determined to cut down on the number of unvaccinated people, lawmakers across the U.S. have proposed restrictions and bans on religious exemptions, triggering heated (and ongoing) debates in California, Maine, and Vermont. The current backlash raises a series of important legal, political, and religious questions about these exemptions, beginning with the most basic one.

Read 5 questions (and answers) about religious exemptions for vaccines

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Saving Sex

Amy DeRogatis’ new book documents how American evangelicals talk about sex and sexuality, and how sexual practice is used as a marker of distinction from “secular” American culture.

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