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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.
This book defends the fundamental place of the marital family in modern liberal societies. While applauding modern sexual freedoms, John Witte, Jr also defends the traditional Western teaching that the marital family is an essential cradle of conscience, chrysalis of care, and cornerstone of ordered liberty. He thus urges churches, states, and other social institutions to protect and promote the marital family. He encourages reticent churches to embrace the rights of women and children, as Christians have long taught, and encourages modern states to promote responsible sexual freedom and family relations, as liberals have long said. He counsels modern churches and states to share in family law governance, and to resist recent efforts to privatize, abolish, or radically expand the marital family sphere. Witte also invites fellow citizens to end their bitter battles over same-sex marriage and tend to the vast family field that urgently needs concerted attention and action.