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Abstract

Part I of this Article looks to the history of foundations of human rights from late pre-modern times to the late-eighteenth century Founding era in America. The focus of the discussion of this era will be on two dominant strands of rights talk in America, Protestant Christian and Enlightenment. From two views operating side-by-side in the last decades of the eighteenth century, Part II will examine the contemporary ambivalence of many Christians, particularly those identified as Evangelicals, about the contemporary human rights movement. Part III addresses a specifically Christian foundation for human rights that can dispel some of the concerns of Evangelicals about human rights. This Article will go on to contrast this foundation with a leading current non-theistic alternative. The proffered understanding of the divine delegation of the authority to implement civil justice is less well entrenched in Christian thought. Nonetheless, it provides an account for the legitimacy of state action from within the Christian tradition. This Article will conclude with some thoughts about the benefits of bringing this specifically religious perspective to bear on the topic of human rights.

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