Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


International civil religion grounds moral claims that permeate and transcend traditional religious paradigms. Given the inevitability of international interactions - interactions that cross geographic, religious, and cultural boundaries - our global society is in need of a universally endorsable framework that undergirds the United Nations international human rights regime. International civil religion provides that framework.

Numerous scholars and moral theorists have incrementally discerned the parameters of civil religion including, inter alia, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alexis de Tocqueville, Robert Bellah, Martin Marty, and Harold Berman. The tenets of international civil religion infuse the diplomatically drafted United Nations covenants and conventions on human rights, including, inter alia, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This Paper stands for the proposition that one best comprehends civil religion by combining certain attributes of political liberalism, the capabilities approach, and cosmopolitanism, to form a lens through which to view the United Nations human rights documents. Such a view maximizes individual religious freedom, limiting it only when individual religious exercise would harm others or prevent their individual religious exercise.

In a progressively pluralistic and increasingly interconnected global society, moral ground rules must not only govern our actions, but also justify that governing. International civil religion provides a valuable and workable worldview for understanding those ground rules. International civil religion bolsters the power of the human rights regime, bestowing a rationale for that regime that surpasses mere social expediency.