Christianity, Human Rights, and Dignity: Squaring the Triangle

Brett G. Scharffs
Brett G. Scharffs

Brett G. Scharffs is Rex E. Lee Chair, Professor of Law, and Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies, J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University

Andrea Pin is Associate Professor of Comparative Public Law, University of Padua, and Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law & Religion Emory University

Andrea Pin

Dmytro Vovk is Director of the Centre for the Rule of Law and Religion Studies, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University (Ukraine) and co-editor of Talk About: Law and Religion

This blogpost is modified from Scharffs, Pin, and Vovk’s Introduction to “Human Dignity and Human Rights—Christian Perspectives and Practices: A Focus on Constitutional and International Law,” in a special issue of the BYU Law Review.

Dmytro Vovk


The relationship between Christianity and human rights is a matter of deep controversy, drawing the attention of theologians, historians, lawyers, and philosophers alike. The historical connections between various denominations of Christianity and human rights and the dialectics between Christianity and human rights are matters of endless academic debates. How much contemporary narratives of rights are owed to Christianity, what Christianity has borrowed from nonreligious modern and post-modern thinkers, the extent to which the contemporary language of rights clash with Christian values, and the theoretical foundations of such clashes keep scholars busy.

The topic, however, is all but confined to theoreticians. How Christianity understands or ought to understand rights is often discussed within legal and political circles. The public role of Christianity and Christians in contemporary societies surfaces whenever a policy that touches upon Christian values is discussed. Parliaments and courts, especially in countries born out of Christianity, are often busy trying to reconcile religious freedom claims put forward by Christians with rights that contradict Christian morality.


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The Moscow Patriarchate’s Constitution: How the Russian Orthodox Church Champions the Kremlin’s Battle Against “Falsification”

Robert C. Blitt is the Toms Foundation Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law

Russia’s 2020 constitutional amendments provide fresh succor for the Kremlin’s longstanding foreign policy priorities. These priorities include fortifying a muscular vision of sovereignty, non-interference, and a multipolar international order; disseminating traditional values;” defending rights of compatriots living abroad; and cracking down on the so-called “falsification” of Russia’s WWII history that tarnishes the country’s reputation. Given the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate’s (ROC) consistent support for these priorities, its role as a vital Kremlin soft power lever is poised to deepen in the coming years.


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Religious Freedom and Ecclesial Illiberalism

Mikhail Antonov is a Professor of Law associated with the Law Faculty of the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg

Similar changes in the world today urge different religious denominations to respond similarly. In recent years it was not uncommon for the Catholic Church and the biggest Orthodox Church—the Russian Orthodox Church (the ROC), all their theological differences notwithstanding, to come to close conservative conclusions in the matters of church-state relations, human rights, religious freedom, and some other key problems of political and legal philosophy.

As their credos presuppose the Absolute—the source of absolute truths and values—it comes as no surprise that both churches demonstrate their distrust with ideas and conceptions based on religious pluralism and ethical relativism which are often associated with liberal democracy.


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