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Human rights, Morality, Freedom of conscience, Freedom of religion


In another essay being published contemporaneously with this one, I have explained that as the concept "human right" is understood both in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in all the various international human rights treaties that have followed in the Universal Declaration's wake, a right is a human right if the rationale for establishing and protecting the right-for example, as a treaty-based right-is, in part, that conduct that violates the right violates the imperative, articulated in Article i of the Universal Declaration, to "act towards all human beings in a spirit of brotherhood." Each of the human rights articulated in the Universal Declaration and/or in one or more international human rights treaties-for example, the right, articulated in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration and elsewhere, not to be subjected to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment"-is a specification of what, in conjunction with other considerations, the imperative-which functions in the morality of human rights as the normative ground of human rights-is thought to forbid (or to require). A particular specification is controversial if and to the extent the supporting claim-a claim to the effect that the "act towards all human beings in a spirit of brotherhood" imperative forbids (or requires) X-is controversial. My aim in this essay is to elaborate and defend a particular specification: the right, internationally recognized as a human right, to freedom of conscience-to freedom, that is, to live one's life in accord with the deliverances of one's conscience.

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Journal of Law and Religion