Magna Carta was an English legal document enacted by King John I in 1215. It outlined the right of the king and those of his subject. Magna Carta is considered as one of the most essential historical document since it stipulates the assertion that no individual should be above the law. The signing of Magna Carta was a way of curbing the powers of the king. The main reason behind the establishment of the Magna Carta was to address the injustices that King John expressed to his subjects. King John forced people to pay heavy taxes, seduces people’s wives and daughters, and executed or jailed any person who would speak against him. However, the Barons who rebelled against the king called for a negotiation that resulted in the signing of the Magna Carta (Smith, 2015). As a result, in the contemporary world, the Magna Carta has been the main influence on different laws that have a significant impact on the policies made such as policies regarding War on Terror, religious autonomous, and international trade.
Magna Carta affects policies made to fight against terrorism. One of the reasons barons advocated for the signing of Magna Carta was to protect the England people against unlawful imprisonment. The aim was to put a restriction on the power that the government should exercise against its subjects. Many countries around the world have tried to emulate the rights provided by the Magna Carta. However, with an increase in terror attacks, some rights such as the right to quick trials should be relaxed to allow terrorist suspects to be fully investigated. McClintock (2016) reveals that in a response to the 9/11 terror attack, the US government passed laws allow intelligence officers to use extensive power to investigate terrorist activities even if it means a violation of civil liberties. Unfortunately, such a policy cannot be fully implemented because some people may cite Magna Carta to argue that the terrorist suspects are unlawfully imprisoned and request the court to protect the suspects against torture.
Magna Carta has been used to influence the formulation of policies that protect human rights. By regulating the powers of the king and granting the king’s subjects some rights, Magna Carta served as a historical document used to seek social justice and equality. Today, the document act as an inspiration for people struggling to achieve freedom and justice. In the United States, Magna Carta was used in the formulation of the American Bill of Rights. Some of the rights derived from Magna Carta include the right of protection from loss of life, right to a jury trial, freedom from unlawful search among others (Kelly, 2012). Magna Carta also continues to play a significant role in advocating for human rights and shaping policies aimed to reduce social injustices. As argued by McClintock (2016), Magna Carta influenced the Philippians to pass an Act that aimed at ending all forms of women discrimination in the Philippines. It is in this manner that Magna Carta has continued to influence policies in the sector of human rights.
In the contemporary world where the war against terrorism has prevailed at a high rate, the Magna Carta protections that have been incorporated in the Bill of Rights has resulted in controversies. For instance, as indicated above, of the Bill of Rights’ articles borrowed from Magna Carta protections is unreasonable of unlawful seizures and searches (Shahidullah, 2014). In contemporary criminal justice, seizure and search play a critical role in helping to collect evidence. Before the Magna Carta, searches and seizures were carried out by queens, kings, and barons against the civilians but failed to consider the protection of their privacy. As a result, the Magna Carta established a provision to protect individuals’ privacy and protect them from unlawful seizures and searches. Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, this concept was embraced to not only protect an individual’s privacy but also diminish police power (Shahidullah, 2014).
Although unlawful seizures and searches have limited the efforts of the American government to fight against terrorism, it is an important provision that protects individuals’ rights. For instance, as illustrated above, after the 9/11 attacks, the government deemed it fit to use excessive power and government surveillance to eradicate terrorism. For instance, the War on Terror has necessitated excessive aerial surveillance, tapping internet and telephone connections, application of “stop and frisk,” and even police shootings (Boghosian & Lapham, 2013). However, as per the Fourth Amendment, which was influenced by Magna Carta, such activities are controversial because they violate the right to privacy. Therefore, while Magna Carta could not help founding fathers predict the impact of internets and drones, it helps them to understand how law enforcement works and why police power needed to be limited. Consequently, while some people may believe that such a provision adversely affects War on Terror, it is a necessary measure to ensure that police do not use excessive power and do not violate the right of privacy for the people.
In the United States, Magna Carta provides a great interpretation and influence on the American laws particularly the issues concerning religious autonomy. This “Great Charter” is used in the American judiciary to justify why churches should be free from government control. According to Green (2015), King John and barons came into a consensus that the England church should be autonomous, it should not be deprived of its rights and its liberties should be unimpaired. This provision has been extended the meaning of the church autonomy to imply that even the church officials are covered by the “freedom of elections,” and hence the government should not interfere with church elections (Green, 2015). Although Magna Carta was specifically outlining the rights and freedom of England church, it was spread to British colonies in which the British colonists embraced it and passed it on to America’s founding fathers (Green, 2015). Therefore, church freedom is a fertile ground for separation of the state and church and consequently illustrating the boundary between criminal law and religion. Protecting the freedom of religion has become an issue of concern especially when countering terrorism and hence showing how Magna Carta has helped to address this.
Magna Carta has a huge impact on the policies that govern international trade. Some of the rights enshrined in the Magna Carta document revolve around the theme of respecting economic rights. Therefore, it can be argued that according to Magana Carta, individuals or nations should have the freedom to conduct free trade. But in the past, protection of monopolistic trade has been witnessed among the Commonwealth nations. McClintock (2016) explains that companies such as Hudson’s Bay and East India Company were assured of operating as monopolies by their royal decree. This made other British trades to be angry as it was hard for them to do business. As a result, McClintock (2016) asserts that the merchants advocated for the right to free trade as guaranteed by Magna Carta. The influence of Magna Carta in free trade policy formulation can still be felt even today.
As explained above, Magna Carta has been the main influence on different laws that have a significant impact on the policies made such as policies regarding the War on Terror, religious autonomous, and international trade. For instance, in the United States, the constitutional amendment depended on Magna Carta significantly and is now helping to mitigate issues related to excessive use of power by law enforcement and violation of individuals’ rights. While some people can view Magna Carta as the source of limitations of War on Terror, it has played an important role to influence the laws that protect individuals’ privacy, religious freedom, and limiting police power. Besides, Magna Carta has positively affected trade policies as it leads to policies that only protect human rights but also those that facilitate free trade.
Boghosian, H., & Lapham, L. (2013). Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.
Green, S. K. (2017). The Mixed Legacy of Magna Carta for American Religious Freedom. Journal of Law and Religion, 32(2), 207-226. doi:10.1017/jlr.2017.32
Kelly, M. H. (2012, November 30). Why is the Magna Carta seen as a key document in US history? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-magna-carta-key-document-usa-104638
McClintock, A. (2016, October 10). 8 ways Magna Carta still affects life in 2015. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-15/magna-carta-800-years/6538364
Shahidullah, S. M. (2014). Comparative Criminal Justice Systems. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Smith, L. E. (2015, February 2). 7 questions you’re too embarrassed to ask about the Magna Carta. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/magna-carta-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-still-important-today-10017258.html