Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law, Courts

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Neither the morality of human rights nor its relation to the law of human rights is well understood. In this book, Michael Perry addresses three large issues: o There is undeniably a religious ground - indeed, more than one religious ground - for the morality of human rights. But is there a nonreligious (secular) ground for the morality of human rights? o What is the relation between the morality of human rights and the law of human rights? Perry here addresses the controversial issues of capital punishment, abortion, and same-sex unions. o What is the proper role of courts, in a liberal democracy, in protecting-and therefore in interpreting-constitutionally entrenched human rights? In considering this question, special attention is paid to the Supreme Court and how it should rule on hot button issues such as capital punishment and abortion. Toward a Theory of Human Rights makes a significant contribution both to human rights studies and to constitutional theory.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Michael Perry's superb new book is an eloquent and compelling contribution to the development of a comprehensive theory of human rights. It not only substantially advances the conversation but will guide it as an illuminating and challenging point of departure. A model of clarity and precision, Toward a Theory of Human Rights identifies all the critical issues and serious questions across its impressively broad scope —- from what grounds the morality of human rights, to their appropriate legal content and degree of judicial protection —- and addresses them with Perry's characteristic and rare combination of passionate humanity and exemplary scholarly rigor. Stephen Gardbaum, Professor of Law, UCLA

Michael Perry's book is provocative in the strict and best sense: it will provoke critical pushback and in so doing initiate a much-needed conversation about human rights, religion and liberalism. His religious affirmation of the claim that every human being has inherent dignity is both distinctive and powerful; his skepticism with respect to comparable secular arguments is incisive. He places firmly on the contemporary agenda a disquieting and important question: does the morality of human rights make sense absent the kind of religious grounding that has, as a matter of historical fact, pervasively shaped our moral understanding? A timely intervention by one of our most illustrious commentators on religion in politics whose creativity and erudition is on full display throughout the text. Christopher Eberle, Professor of Philosophy, United States Naval Academy

Does religious belief undermine or support commitment to a moral and legal regime of human rights? No question is more urgent in our world today. Michael Perry tackles it head on, with his customary insight and broad erudition. His thesis--that the regime of human rights--ultimately needs a religious ground—is indisputably controversial. But his argument cannot be ignored by any scholar working at the intersection of faith, law and morality. Quite simply, Perry has changed the terms of the discussion. M. Cathleen Kaveny, John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law & Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

"Perry succeeds admirably . . . by presenting a model of stimulating intellectual conversation. He engages both philosophers suspicious of a religious foundation for the idea of human rights (which Perry affirms) and religious authorities who publicly teach on contested moral issues. He presents his conversation partners' arguments with nuanced fairness, while subjecting those arguments to the rigorous critical analysis that intellectual respect demands." --Gregory Kalscheur, Theological Studies

"Perry, who writes with an effective combination of passion and directness, succeeds in clearly framing the issues, giving tentative yet thoughtful answers, and inviting the reader to continue the conversation." - Kevin R. den Dulk, Grand Valley State University, The Law and Politics Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521684224
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/18/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael J. Perry currently holds a Robert W. Woodruff Chair at Emory University, where he teaches in the law school. Perry is the author of over sixty articles and essays. He is also the author of nine books, including Love and Power: The Role of Religion and Morality in American Politics (1991), The Idea of Human Rights (1998), We the People: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Supreme Court (1999), and Under God? Religious Faith and Liberal Democracy (2003).
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     xi
The Morality of Human Rights
The Morality of Human Rights     3
The Morality of Human Rights: A Religious Ground     7
The Morality of Human Rights: A Non-Religious Ground?     14
From Morality to Law
From Morality to Law     33
Capital Punishment     37
Abortion     52
Same-Sex Unions     65
From Law to Courts
Protecting Human Rights in a Democracy: What Role for the Courts?     87
How Should the Supreme Court Rule? Capital Punishment, Abortion, and Same-Sex Unions     118
Summation     141
Notes     143
Index     239
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