American Religious Liberty in International Perspective

John Witte

in The Oxford Handbook of Church and State in the United States

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195326246
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

American Religious Liberty in International Perspective

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This article compares the modern American religious liberty law with the prevailing international perspective on religious law. This comparative analysis enlightens, from a fresh perspective, the validity and the utility of one's own legal norms and practices, and provides an idea on how to reform them. Such legal comparative analysis is particularly helpful in the time of transition of the First Amendment Law. Moreover, most of what appears in modern international human rights reflects the American constitutional learning on religious liberty. To compare the First Amendment Law with the international norms is to judge the American law by a standard of religious liberty that it has helped to shape. It is also to judge America by the same international standard that the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Office and Commission of International Religious Freedom now use each year to judge the policies and laws of all other nations. In addition, most of the international legal principles also help to confirm, refine, and integrate the prevailing First Amendment principles and cases. The principles of liberty of conscience, religious equality, and free exercise within the context of international human rights offer a sample for the integration of the American free exercise and establishment rules. What follows in the succeeding sections of this article are the main teachings of the international human rights documents on religious liberty and the divergence and convergence of the First Amendment and related American laws on religious liberty to these international parameters.

Keywords: religious liberty law; religious law; First Amendment Law; comparative analysis; international human rights; American law; religious liberty; liberty of conscience; religious equality; free exercise

Article.  8762 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Comparative Politics

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