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The Universal Declaration as Sacred Text

Michael John Perry

Michael John Perry

The ongoing emergence of international human rights in the period from the end of the Second World War to the present can and perhaps should be understood as the emergence of a religion--albeit a profoundly ecumenical religion: one that religious believers of different faith traditions, and also nonbelievers, can and do embrace. On this understanding, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) functions as a sacred text: the sacred foundational text of the religion of human rights.

Michael John Perry is the Robert W. Woodruff University Chair at Emory University, where he teaches in the law school. Before coming to Emory, Perry was the inaugural occupant of the Howard J.Trienens Chair in Law at Northwestern University (1990-97), where he taught for fifteen years (1982-97). He then held the University Distinguished Chair in Law at Wake Forest University (1997-2003). Perry began his teaching career at the Ohio State University College of Law (1975-82) and has taught as a visiting professor at several law schools. For three consecutive fall semesters (2009, 2010, 2011), Perry was the University Distinguished Visiting Professor in Law and Peace Studies at the University of San Diego, where he taught an introductory course on international human rights both to law students and to graduate students at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Perry did his undergraduate studies at Georgetown University, majoring in philosophy and minoring in theology (A.B., 1968), and studied law at Columbia University (J.D., 1973). In 1973-74, Perry served as law clerk to U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein; in 1974-75, he served as law clerk to U.S. Circuit Judge Shirley M. Hufstedler. In 1999, Perry was awarded an LL.D. (honoris causa) by St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Perry specializes in Human Rights and Constitutional Law. He is the author of twelve books and over seventy-five articles and essays. The titles of Perry’s books reflect his particular interests: The Constitution, the Courts, and Human Rights (Yale, 1982); Morality, Politics, and Law (Oxford, 1988); Love and Power: The Role of Religion and Morality in American Politics (Oxford, 1991); The Constitution in the Courts: Law or Politics? (Oxford, 1994); Religion in Politics: Constitutional and Moral Perspectives (Oxford, 1997); The Idea of Human Rights: Four Inquiries (Oxford, 1998); We the People: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Supreme Court (Oxford, 1999), Under God? Religious Faith and Liberal Democracy (Cambridge, 2003), Toward a Theory of Human Rights: Religion, Law, Courts (Cambridge, 2007); Constitutional Rights, Moral Controversy, and the Supreme Court (Cambridge, 2009); The Political Morality of Liberal Democracy (Cambridge, 2010); and the forthcoming Human Rights in the Constitutional Law of the United States (Cambridge, 2013). Perry is married to Sarah Anne O’Leary, a public health specialist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. They have two sons: Daniel and Gabriel.

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