This is a media advisory from Representative Joseph Pitts’ office.
Washington—Today, the American Humanist Association will honor Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (PA-16) with an award for his efforts to protect religious minorities from anti-blasphemy laws around the world. The award will be presented at 6:30 PM in Room HVC-200 of the Capitol Visitors Center.
“By calling for the global repeal of blasphemy laws, Representative Pitts has shown his commitment to international religious freedom,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “It is an honor for the American Humanist Association to work with Representative Pitts to ensure that the rights of minority religions and the nonreligious are upheld worldwide.”
“People of every faith and people of no faith at all can and should come together to protect human rights,” Rep. Pitts said. “We all share in these rights because we share our humanity. The moral imperative of these issues should unite us all—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. I am grateful for the support of the American Humanist Association for my resolution calling for the repeal of anti-blasphemy laws. I am also grateful for their support for my efforts to secure religious liberty and rights of conscience for every human being around the world.”
Congressman Pitts serves as Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which advises Congress on human rights issues around the world. Rep. Pitts has served as a member of the commission since its establishment.
The American Humanist Association strongly supports Rep. Pitts’ resolution (H.Res. 290) supporting the repeal of all blasphemy laws around the world. Rep. Pitts has advocated for years on behalf of prisoners of conscience around the world, including Christians like Asia Bibi in Pakistan who are in jail for their faith.
Nearly a quarter of the world has anti-blasphemy laws, and 11% have anti-apostasy laws. Atheists can be executed in 7 countries—Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, and the Maldives.
As Co-Chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Rep. Pitts has conducted hearings on human rights in Egypt, on the use of slave labor by North Korea, on the use of foreign fighters by the Islamic State, and will soon chair a hearing on the Islamic State’s explicit attempts to commit genocide.
Rep. Pitts serves as a Commissioner on the Helsinki Commission, or the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent oversight panel overseeing the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) implementation of the Helsinki Final Act. As a Commissioner, Rep. Pitts has advocated for prioritization of vulnerable minority groups in the refugee resettlement process.
Rep. Pitts has advocated for 20 years for religious minority groups like the Amish in Lancaster County, which he represents, the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, Christians in the Middle East, Mennonites, and other conscientious objectors.
Formerly, Rep. Pitts served as Vice-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Human Rights Subcommittee, and was a leading and early Congressional leader to advocate to the Bush Administration on behalf of genocide victims in Darfur.
For two decades, Pitts has advocated for the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara, a Muslim ethnic, tribal minority. Rep. Pitts chairs the Congressional Western Sahara Caucus, and worked with Sen. Ted Kennedy in support of self-determination for the Sahrawi.
Rep. Pitts in November wrote to Congressional appropriators to maintain human rights conditions on foreign aid to Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
A Leading Advocate for Conscientious Objectors
On March 1, 2012, the House unanimously adopted a resolution authored by Rep. Pitts to advocate for the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iranian prison. Nadarkhani was released in January of 2013.
Since 2011, Rep. Pitts advocated for Filep Karma, a prisoner of conscience in Indonesia who was punished for publicly expressing support for Papuan independence by raising a flag. In 2015, Karma was finally released from prison.
Under the Lantos Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project, in conjunction with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and Amnesty International, Rep. Pitts is a sponsor of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman imprisoned for drinking water from the same well as Muslim neighbors. Bibi is mentioned in Rep. Pitts’ resolution calling for the global repeal of anti-blasphemy laws. Bibi remains in prisons.
Interested members of the media should contact Steven Stafford with Rep. Pitts’ office, email@example.com.