The Lumen Christi Institute in Chicago will host a symposium on April 4, “Pacem in terris After 50 Years,” on the important Vatican II document:
On April 11, 1963, amid the global tensions of the Cold War, and shortly after the erection of the Berlin Wall, Pope John XXIII addressed his famous encyclical Pacem in terris to all people of good will. He invites them to consider the conditions for establishing universal peace on earth in truth, justice, charity, and liberty. On the 50th Anniversary of this event, this symposium will examine the affirmations of Pacem in terris as they bear on human rights, religious freedom, and the international political and economic order today.
Speakers include Mary Ann Glendon, Russ Hittinger, and Joseph Weiler. Details are here.
Next Month, Bloomsbury Publishing will publish Religion and the Inculturation of Human Rights in Ghana by Abamfo Ofori Atiemo (University of Ghana, Legon). The publisher’s description follows.
It has been maintained that the secular nature of modern human rights makes them incompatible with the religious orientation of African and non-Western societies. However, in view of the resilience of religion in the global and local public sphere, it is important to explore how religion can contribute to the promotion and enjoyment of human rights.
Based on fieldwork conducted in Ghana, Abamfo Ofori Atiemo here establishes a convergence between human rights and local religious and cultural values in African societies. He argues that human rights represent universal ‘dream values’. This allows for a cultural embedding of human rights in Ghana and other non-Western societies. He argues that ‘dream values’ are usually presented in religious language and proclaimed, for example, by prophets and seers or expressed in certain forms of taboo, proverbs or legal norms. He employs the concept of inculturation, adaptation of the way Church teachings are presented to non-Christian cultures, as a hermeneutical tool for developing a model to understand the encounter between universal human rights and local cultures.
Offering a new model for explaining the relation between religion and human rights, Religion and the Inculturation of Human Rights in Ghana offers a novel perspective on the links between global trends and local cultures underpinned by strong currents of religious ideas.
This month, the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion posted for advanced access Advancing Debate about Religion or Belief, Equality and Human Rights: Grounds for Optimism? By Alice Donald (Senior Research Fellow, Middlesex University School of Law). The abstract follows.
Legal judgments concerning equality or human rights and religion or belief have frequently provoked controversy in Britain. This article examines why this has occurred. It does not attempt a detailed analysis of the case law; rather, it discusses how the law has been understood and invoked in public discourse. It argues that debate about religion or belief and its place in society has been unduly dominated by particular—and sometimes partial—understandings of legal judgments. It proposes that the most productive level of engagement for those who wish to advance debate, practice and understanding in relation to religion or belief is with ‘front line’ decision-makers, such as public servants and workplace managers. It ventures that in the long term an approach based on human rights principles is likely to be more satisfactory than one which is based principally on equality.
Christopher McCrudden (Queen’s University School of Law & Michigan Law School) has posted Legal and Roman Catholic Conceptions of Human Rights: Convergence, Divergence, and Dialogue? The abstract follows.
This article explores the extent to which there is an overlapping consensus between the Roman Catholic and the legal traditions of human rights. In comparing both traditions, an understanding of what these two traditions mean by “human rights” is gleaned from some authoritative texts of these traditions. In the case of the Roman Catholic tradition, emphasis is given to the post-Vatican II encyclicals (without intending to be comprehensive), and in the case of the legal tradition, from domestic Bills of Rights, human rights treaties, and relevant judicial interpretations of those texts.
This January, Cambridge University Press published Diversity and European Human Rights: Rewriting Judgments of the ECHR edited by Eva Brems (Universiteit Ghent). The publisher’s description follows.
Through redrafting the judgments of the ECHR, Diversity and European Human Rights demonstrates how the court could improve the mainstreaming of diversity in its judgments. Eighteen judgments are considered and rewritten to reflect the concerns of women, children, LGB persons, ethnic and religious minorities and persons with disabilities in turn. Each redrafted judgment is accompanied by a paper outlining the theoretical concepts and frameworks that guided the approaches of the authors and explaining how each amendment to the original text is an improvement. Simultaneously, the authors demonstrate how difficult it can be to translate ideas into judgments, whilst also providing examples of what those ideas would look like in judicial language. By rewriting actual judicial decisions in a wide range of topics this book offers a broad overview of diversity issues in the jurisprudence of the ECHR and aims to bridge the gap between academic analysis and judicial practice.
Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice will host a panel, “Overcoming Genocide Denial,” on December 4. The panel will offer a comparative examination of the Holocaust and the Armenian, Rwandan, and Sudanese Genocides. Speakers include Taner Akçam (Clark University), Gregory Stanton (George Mason University) and Sheri Rosenberg (Cardozo Law School). Details are here.
In the last few years, a new word has crept into our vocabulary: Christianophobia. As far as I can tell, the word is being used to refer to two different, though related, phenomena. The first is the anxiety and antipathy that traditional Christianity creates in cultural and intellectual institutions in the West: academia, journalism, publishing, the entertainment industry. I believe this is the “Christianophobia” to which Pope Benedict refers, for example, when he decries the growing “hostility and prejudice” against Christianity in Europe.
I’m not sure that “Christianophobia” is the right word to use in this context. The hostility to Christianity one encounters in the West is mostly ideological. What we have is a struggle between competing worldviews, one of which seeks to win by excluding the other, which it sees as irrational, from public debate. This strategy is illiberal, ill-informed, and childish, but it is not really “phobic” in the way we normally use that term. It reflects not so much a visceral antipathy to Christians as people as a desire for Christians to keep quiet and stop retarding social progress.
Now, things may be changing. When critics denounce Christians as “bigots” — for maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage, for example — that does imply a personal judgment. Bigots are bad people; you wouldn’t want them living next door to you or building a gathering place in your neighborhood. You Continue reading
This March, Georgetown University Press will publish The Sacredness of the Person: A New Genealogy of Human Rights by Hans Joas (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows.
What are the origins of the idea of human rights and universal human dignity? How can we most fully understand—and realize—these rights going into the future? In The Sacredness of the Person, internationally renowned sociologist and social theorist Hans Joas tells a story that differs from conventional narratives by tracing the concept of human rights back to the Judeo-Christian tradition or, alternately, to the secular French Enlightenment. While drawing on sociologists such as Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Ernst Troeltsch, Joas sets out a new path, proposing an affirmative genealogy in which human rights are the result of a process of the “sacralization” of every human being.
According to Joas, every single human being has increasingly been viewed as sacred. He discusses the abolition of torture and slavery, once common practice in the pre-18th century west, as two milestones in modern human history. The author concludes by portraying the emergence of the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 as a successful process of value generalization. Joas demonstrates that the history of human rights cannot adequately be described as a history of ideas or as legal history, but a complex transformation in which diverse cultural traditions had to be articulated, legally codified, and assimilated into practices of everyday life. The sacralization of the person and universal human rights will only be secure in the future, warns Joas, through continued support by institutions and society, vigorous discourse in their defense, and their incarnation in everyday life and practice.
I’ve written before about how international human rights law increasingly reflects the norms of the so-called WEIRD countries – that’s Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic – and assumes that those norms must be honored across the globe. This assumption is going to lead to problems. Whether or not WEIRD values are good ones – and there are some very good WEIRD values, such as religious freedom – they are not universal, and the attempt to impose them wholesale, without taking into account local cultures and histories, will only backfire. Most of the world is not WEIRD, after all, and people naturally resent outsiders telling them they must remake their societies to conform to norms they find alien.
A good example of what I’m talking about is this month’s Joint Statement by the United Nations Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice. The statement calls on nations to decriminalize adultery. Now, there is a valid point here. In some countries, criminal laws against adultery are unfairly enforced: women are punished much more harshly than men. The Working Group could have done some good by providing details about this sort of discrimination and calling on nations to administer justice equally.
In fact, though, the Working Group goes much further. Under international law, it claims, nations may not make adultery a crime at all. “Almost two decades ago,” it informs readers, “international human rights jurisprudence established that criminalization of sexual relations between consenting adults is a violation of their right to privacy and infringement of article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” or ICCPR. The reference to Continue reading
Last Thursday, I attended a meeting of the UN General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Committee – the so-called “Third Committee” – for presentation of the annual report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Professor Heiner Beilefeldt. (Earlier in the day, CLR had co-hosted a briefing with Beilefeldt). It was an interesting experience.
Professor Beilefeldt is a serious, energetic, and well-motivated scholar, and his report, which focuses on protecting the right of conversion in international human rights law, is worth reading. In some respects, the Committee meeting was worthwhile, too. The Third Committee is a huge body, with delegates from all UN member states; it meets in an oversized room that feels like a repurposed Costco. There is a platform at the front, where the Chair and Special Rapporteur sit, and rows and rows of tables with delegates and staff. The Special Rapporteur presents a summary of his report, and delegates are then allowed to respond and ask questions, which they do in the studied, affectless monotone of diplomatic conferences.
About a dozen state delegations responded to Professor Beilefeldt’s report. Some interventions were revealing. For example, Germany and the Netherlands stressed the need for protecting atheism as a belief. The Canadian and Chinese delegates got into a dustup over whether Falun Gong is a religion or a cult; the Continue reading