Connecting People Across Cultures and Traditions
Edited by Helle Porsdam
Chapter 2: Human Rights: A Possible Civil Religion?
Helle Porsdam ‘What makes the difference between Good and Bad Government?’, asks Tom Bingham in his book The Rule of Law from 2010. Not surprisingly perhaps, considering the title of his book, Bingham’s answer is: the rule of law. This concept, he goes on to say, is not a ﬁxed one. It will change; indeed, some countries do not subscribe to it fully, and some subscribe only in name, if that. Even those who do subscribe to it ﬁnd it difﬁcult to apply all its precepts quite all the time. But in a world divided by differences of nationality, race, colour, religion and wealth it is one of the greatest unifying factors, perhaps the greatest, the nearest we are likely to approach to a universal secular religion. It remains an ideal, but an ideal worth striving for, in the interests of good government and peace, at home and in the world at large.1 From the Magna Carta in 1215 to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, various historical milestones have contributed to our understanding of what is meant by the rule of law. Among the principles that jointly deﬁne it in western democracies today may be mentioned notions such as equality before the law, procedures that safeguard fair trials, laws that are accessible, intelligible and predictable, and respect for human rights. As Bingham sees it, the rule of law is not some remote legal concept, but instead the very foundation of a fair society...
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