American Humanist Association Cheers Senate Resolution Opposing Blasphemy Laws
For Immediate Release
Sarah Henry, (202) 238-9088, firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Bulger, (202) 238-9088, email@example.com
(Washington, D.C, September 20, 2018) – The American Humanist Association was proud to work with Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) to introduce a Senate Resolution earlier this week which encourages the President and the Department of State to protect religious freedom for all by encouraging the repeal of blasphemy laws around the globe.
As AHA Legislative Director Matthew Bulger explained, “Blasphemy laws are meant to terrorize and endanger religious and secular minorities in their home countries, threatening free expression with long jail sentences or execution.” Bulger emphasized, “The new resolution urges countries that maintain these laws to act to protect religious and nonreligious minorities from torture or imprisonment by repealing them immediately.”
Sen. Coons stated upon introduction of the resolution that “Freedom of expression and religion are fundamental human rights that are the bedrock of any open society. As a person of faith, I am proud to introduce this resolution which aims to protect religious and secular minorities by calling for the repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws around the world. These laws stifle free and open discourse, and are often used to imprison activists, journalists, and other peaceful political dissidents. No one should be persecuted based on what they believe or don’t believe, and this resolution is positive step toward defending individual liberties.”
The bipartisan resolution formally calls on the President and the State Department to promote the repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws wherever they are found. The language also encourages United States officials to oppose any attempts by the United Nations to support blasphemy laws, in keeping with the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
“The US government can and should use our leverage as a world leader to help protect religious minorities in nations with whom we have or form international agreements and relationships,” said Sen. Lankford. “I am grateful to stand with Senator Coons to introduce this Resolution and encourage our government to help put an end to anti-blasphemy and anti-heresy laws in other countries by highlighting religious liberty abuses and working with their governments to promote religious freedom within their borders. There are 69 countries around the world, including nations like Pakistan, with anti-blasphemy and related laws in place.”
Lankford continued, “I represent a state and nation where many faiths are freely practiced. Our freedom of religion protects the rights of each person to live his or her faith, just as it protects my right to live my faith. Our freedom has created greater trust and unity in our nation, instead of greater division. We can and should speak up for the oppressed in other nations who do not have the option to live free. I believe all individuals deserve to be treated with dignity, be free to live their faith or have no faith at all, and have a voice in their government. Free speech is not just an idea isolated to American soil; it should be the aspiration of people around the world. Faith is a personal, not government choice. The US cannot control the way other nations govern their citizens, but we can stand in solidarity with oppressed religious minorities around the world and ensure they know the US does not tolerate persecution based on religion.”
This resolution is reflective of a similar resolution introduced in the House of Representatives in May 2017. The American Humanist Association then worked with Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Alex Mooney (R-WV), David Cicilline (D-RI), and John Culberson (R-TX) to introduce H.Res. 349.
Secular and religious minorities of many stripes, including Christians, Hindus, atheists, Muslims, and Baha’i, among others, are currently subject to harsh blasphemy laws in more than 40 countries. These persecutory laws are used to target religious and nonreligious minorities, with accusations often motivated by political endeavors. In 2015 alone, attackers in Bangladesh killed five allegedly anti-Islamic or nontheist writers and publishers in the name of eliminating blasphemous conduct.
The American Humanist Association is proud to continue our work to protect the rights of people of minority faiths and no faith across the world today.
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 worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.