On Wednesday, April 21st, 2021, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2021 Annual Report, which includes recommendations for how the US Government can better promote religious freedom abroad. The report, among other things, includes important findings relevant to the international humanist community.
Blasphemy laws, and how they are enforced in the 70+ countries that still have them, are highlighted throughout the report. Mubarak Bala, the President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, who was arrested and continues to be illegally detained for what will be one year on April 28th, 2021 is named and highlighted in the report’s section on Nigeria. USCIRF’s decision to highlight Mubarak Bala’s case, amid other relevant cases in Nigeria, is especially noteworthy as this appears to be the first time a humanist case has been uplifted in this way.
The report includes a section on implemented USCIRF recommendations made in 2020, which is new to the annual report. The section congratulates Congress for adopting resolutions calling for the repeal of blasphemy laws. The resolution from 2020, introduced and championed by Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-8), solidified the US Government’s commitment to advance the freedom of religion and belief internationally. The American Humanist Association (AHA) led a diverse coalition of nearly 70 organizations in support of the resolutions in both chambers.
Throughout the report, humanists and atheists are mentioned explicitly, and even designated in the Freedom of Religion or Belief (FORB) Victims List on pg. 99. This is the first time that USCIRF has disaggregated their data to spotlight atheists and humanists. Overall, the recognition of humanists and nontheists is greatly improved compared to past USCIRF annual reports and demonstrates that this is another minority religious viewpoint that is unfairly targeted and persecuted internationally.
Over the past few years, the AHA staff built stronger relationships with USCIRF, working toward greater representation. That’s why AHA leaders are pleased to see the heightened recognition of the international humanist community in 2021’s USCIRF Annual Report and look forward to continuing that work and fighting for the freedom of humanists globally.