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Freedom of Thought 2015 Report Reveals Global Increase in Persecution of Humanists

For Immediate Release


Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2015)—The American Humanist Association, a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), is pleased to share the release of the IHEU’s Freedom of Thought 2015 Report in the United States. The report examines international discrimination against humanists, atheists and nonreligious communities on a country-by-country basis, including in the United States.

“This important report had its origins in work done by the American Humanist Association, and I am delighted that they are leading the way by launching the report in the U.S. and using it to lobby policy makers and draw attention to these issues of increasing global significance,” said Andrew Copson, president of IHEU.

Major findings of the report include the increased persecution of the nonreligious and harsher sentences for those convicted of blasphemy and apostasy. The study pays particular attention to Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for promoting secularism and liberalism. The report also focuses on the violence experienced by humanist bloggers, writers and publishers in Bangladesh, four of whom have been brutally murdered by religious extremists in the past year: Avijit Roy, Washqiur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niladri Chatterjee, and most recently the publisher Faysal Arefin Dipon. Atheists and humanists in the United States face significant social stigma and discrimination, the report also notes, highlighting attempts to erode the U.S.’s secular government such as through religious monuments on public land and prayer in public schools.

“True religious freedom is the freedom to believe and not believe,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The sobering findings of this report should move our elected leaders to stand up for religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.”

The American Humanist Association has worked closely with U.S. legislators to raise awareness of the persecution faced by atheists and humanists abroad as well as in the United States. In June, the American Humanist Association hosted a congressional briefing on international religious freedom to raise awareness about threats to the human rights of atheists and religious minorities. The American Humanist Association also supports U.S. House Resolution 290, introduced by U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts (PA-16), which calls for the U.S. to support the repeal of blasphemy laws.

In its continual lobbying for religious freedom for atheists and humanists, the American Humanist Association will share the Freedom of Thought Report 2015 and its conclusions with the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom and members of Congress.

The full report can be viewed here.


Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.