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The Blessings of Liberty
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Book description

Leading legal scholar John Witte, Jr. explores the role religion played in the development of rights in the Western legal tradition and traces the complex interplay between human rights and religious freedom norms in modern domestic and international law. He examines how US courts are moving towards greater religious freedom, while recent decisions of the pan-European courts in Strasbourg and Luxembourg have harmed new religious minorities and threatened old religious traditions in Europe. Witte argues that the robust promotion and protection of religious freedom is the best way to protect many other fundamental rights today, even though religious freedom and other fundamental rights sometimes clash and need judicious balancing. He also responds to various modern critics who see human rights as a betrayal of Christianity and religious freedom as a betrayal of human rights.


'The product of a lifetime’s scholarship, unequaled in excellence, in the vital field of religion and human rights, Professor Witte's juggernaut of a volume is freighted with comprehensive narrative, authoritative commentary and original insights. It traces the definitive history of religious liberty in the common law world, and analyses its significance today deploying encyclopaedic knowledge with dextrous aplomb. Thirty years in gestation, Witte’s magnum opus towers over other literature and will be an enduring landmark for a generation.'

Mark Hill QC - Cardiff University

'Here, the leading scholar of Christianity’s impact on Western law applies formidable erudition to the topic of rights, especially the ‘cornerstone’ right of religious freedom. Focusing on the Protestant contribution and the Anglo-American legal tradition, Witte deftly deflects theological criticism of rights and liberal criticism of religion, to affirm the continuing importance of Christian freedom to shape law-making.'

Nigel Biggar - University of Oxford

'In these eloquent essays, John Witte explores the history of the right to religious liberty and highlights the crucial role this ‘first freedom’ plays in securing and safeguarding human rights generally. Looking both back in time and around the world, Witte tells the story and identifies the foundations of human rights and defends their centrality in our contemporary context. In his lucid and lively way, he defends a robust pluralism, a respectful politics, and the right of religious conscience for all.'

Richard W. Garnett - Notre Dame Law School

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