Law is an organized system of laws designed and enforced by governmental or social institutions to socially regulate behavior, with the exact definition still a matter of ongoing debate. For most of history, the law has been differentially defined as the art and science of civil society. The object of the law is to define and prescribe the rights and duties of individuals, organizations, and other associations. In some societies, such as the United States, the scope of law is limited to a national level, while in other societies, including those in the modern world, the limits of law extend to private citizens, corporate professionals, government agencies, international organizations, and even some family members and extended families.
Law is not a body of knowledge but rather a structured system that establishes standards for conduct by individuals and groups in society, including governments, religions, non-governmental organizations, and schools. Law is the method by which individuals and groups establish criteria and identify duties and responsibilities, and the mechanisms by which they discharge those duties and responsibilities. Law, therefore, is the means by which individuals and groups make known their rules of conduct. It establishes standards of behavior and ensures compliance by individuals by enforcing certain consequences, providing punishment when violation of the law is found, and providing protection and guarantee to individuals from the conduct of others.
Each government in a nation has a constitution that establishes the foundation of law. The constitution of a country serves as the highest and most authoritative source of law. A constitution may be a written document or an unwritten social contract established by the elected representatives of the people at a constitutional convention. Historically, the constitution of a nation has been considered as an historical document that reflects the social compact of the nation and describes the basic principles on which government is based. A constitution can be regarded as a source of law that is inclusive of public policy, the workings of the political administration, and the formulation of government decision making processes. A constitution has therefore become an important source of law for all levels of government and is recognized as a crucial document for ensuring the continuity of a nation’s political institutions.
The constitution and other legislation enacted by the elected representatives of the people set up the machinery of government and give it authority to rule over the affairs of a nation. The courts then interpret and guarantee these legislations through judicial review of actions taken by the legislature. The role of the courts is primarily to interpret the laws passed by the legislature in order to apply them to particular circumstances. The courts are also responsible for declaring wrongdoers to be guilty and holding them accountable for their actions through the process of civil litigation.
In United States, the United States Congress enacts the law codes and they are then enforced by the federal courts. A case can be brought before any of the circuits or federal courts that are designated by the constitution of the United States. Civil litigations are common in civil law courts as they attempt to determine issues between private parties. A private party can either file a lawsuit against another private party or seek a judgment in a court of law in order to have legal rights established.
The legal systems of the European Union and other countries follow international legal traditions and may develop different perspectives on issues of religious law. The European Union has set up its own institutions of internal regulation of its law system including its court system. The Strasbourg court of the EU, as well as the highest court in the EU, the ECJ, may hear cases concerning religious disagreements. There are no special procedures to adopt in cases involving questions of faith. The Strasbourg court, and all other courts of law in the EU, follow the same rules of procedure applicable in all matters of law whether such cases involve religion or non-religion.