July 12, 2006
Contact: Roy Speckhardt, (202) 238-9088
Dear Dr. Lily L. Zhang:
Thank you for your invitation to speak out against human rights violations perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party against the Falun Gong. The American Humanist Association strongly opposes government sponsored human rights abuses inflicted on any people, including Falun Gong practitioners. Human rights abuses by anyone against anyone are irreconcilable with, and antithetical to, our Humanist values of freedom, compassion, and egalitarianism.
We are aware of how Chinese government persecution against religious and political groups is widely documented. Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghurs, and other Chinese citizens are denied the basic freedoms and protections that the modern world holds self-evident. Freedom of speech, assembly, and religion are not respected. Citizens may be imprisoned without trial, and courts don’t have the power of judicial review. None of these conditions should be condoned.
We regret, however, that we must decline to accept your invitation. As we’ve participated in a past event, this open letter is being sent to explain our position.
Given our strong human rights position, we cannot share the Falun Gong platform without concern that it will be viewed as an endorsement of the intolerant positions held by this religion. Though the Falun Gong in the United States claim “tolerance” as a primary principle, the Chinese word for this principle (Ren) is more appropriately translated as “forbearance;” in this case, forbearance as a form of resignation, a survival skill for getting through suffering. Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi has explicitly condemned interracial relationships and homosexuality, and has even gone as far as to say that gay people would be “eliminated” by “the gods,” as was reported by the San Jose Mercury News. These intolerant views are confirmed on reading a translated version of the second volume of the Falun Gong’s primary religious text, Zhuan Falun.
Beyond the issue of tolerance, we Humanists don’t support several irrational and unfounded Falun Gong claims—such as Li’s belief that aliens are attempting to overtake human souls, or that Falun Gong unleashes supernatural powers that reverse the effects of aging. While Humanists often work closely with groups and individuals of differing views, any tacit support of these ideas would be incompatible with our dedication to reason and science.
Of course, Falun Gong’s sincerely held beliefs are no justification for Chinese government infringement on their basic human rights. But for the reasons detailed above, the American Humanist Association cannot act in any way that may be construed as an endorsement of the religion and the views its adherents hold. As Humanism is a lifestance that values egalitarianism, compassion, and a scientific approach, we cannot support a religious body that doesn’t meet these basic standards.
We continue to hope that the Chinese government will one day embrace democracy and compassion, and allow the freedom of religion and from religion for all groups, including the Falun Gong.
American Humanist Association
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Founded in 1941, the American Humanist Association is the oldest and largest Humanist organization in the nation with over 100 local affiliates. The AHA is dedicated to ensuring a voice for those with a positive nontheistic outlook, based on reason and experience, which embraces all of humanity.