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Human rights law asserts that governments have an ethical and legal duty to ensure the necessary social conditions for human dignity. In international law, these rights are affirmed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in implementing treaties. Historically, religious traditions have taught duties, not rights. Now, however, many religious leaders support human rights law, and major religious organizations include human rights in their ethical teachings.

International Law

In the West, the commandments in Scripture and duties defined by social status ordered traditional societies, but these were challenged in the 18th century by those demanding civil rights. In 1775, the signatories to the American Declaration of Independence affirmed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are ...

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