Litigating Religions: An Essay on Human Rights, Courts, and Beliefs

Litigating Religions: An Essay on Human Rights, Courts, and Beliefs
Christopher McCrudden
Oxford University Press Academic 2018

Religions are a problem for human rights, and human rights are a problem for religions. And both are problems for courts. This book presents an interpretation of how religion and human rights interrelate in the legal context, and how this relationship might be reconceived to make this relationship somewhat less fraught.

Litigating Religions, an essay adapted by Christopher McCrudden from the Alberico Gentili Lectures given at the University of Macerata, Italy, examines how the resurgent role of religion in public life gives rise to tensions with key aspects of human rights, in particular freedom of religion and anti-discrimination law, and how these tensions cannot be considered as simply transitional. 

The context for the discussion is the increasingly troubled area of human rights litigation involving religious arguments, such as wearing religious dress at work, conscientious objections by marriage registrars, admission of children to religious schools, prohibitions on same-sex marriage, and access to abortion. Christopher McCrudden argues that, if we wish to establish a better dialogue between the contending views, we must address a set of recurring problems identifiable in such litigation. To address these problems requires changes both in human rights theory and in religious understandings.

  • Explores the contested relationship between human rights, religion, and litigation
  • Demonstrates how the renewed geo-political significance of religion and recent developments in human rights legislation have meant that conflicts are increasingly subject to judicial interpretation
  • Draws on Christopher McCrudden’s own experiences in court as a human rights practitioner as well myriad examples of how the right to religion has been mediated in the courts
  • An accessible discussion, for a non-specialist audience, of key themes and problems that arise in the courts when religions and religious beliefs enter the frame