For Immediate Release
Sarah Henry, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 238-9088 ext. 105
(Washington, D.C., July 24, 2019) — Leaders at the American Humanist Association (AHA) celebrated the re-introduction of H.Res. 512, developed to combat international religious discrimination. The AHA’s legislative advocacy team was proud to work with Representatives Raskin (D-MD) and Meadows (R-NC) to introduce the resolution, which encourages the President and the State Department to protect international religious freedom by advocating for the repeal of blasphemy laws around the world.
“Blasphemy laws are meant to terrorize religious and secular minorities in their home countries,” explained American Humanist Association Executive Director, Roy Speckhardt. “This resolution asks our government to help protect religious and nonreligious minorities around the globe from pain and suffering inflicted at the hands of the state, purely for sectarian purposes.”
The bipartisan resolution urges the President and the Secretary of State to “designate countries that enforce blasphemy, heresy, or apostasy laws as ‘countries of particular concern for religious freedom.’” It also calls on United States officials to oppose any attempts by the United Nations to support blasphemy laws, citing the freedoms laid out in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, freedoms of thought, conscious, and religion.
“Despotic, theocratic and authoritarian governments across the world have laws that squelch religious freedom and liberty of conscience: laws criminalizing ‘blasphemy,’ ‘heresy,’ ‘apostasy,’ ‘witchcraft,’ ‘sorcery,’ and all kinds of other imaginary religious offenses which were wiped from the books of American law centuries ago,” said Rep. Raskin. “There are people rotting in prison today in China, Russia, Iran, and dozens of other countries which use the law to oppress and harass people because of their religious faith and their religious worship.”
At least 70 countries have these persecutory laws on the books, as of 2018. Blasphemy laws are often used to target secular and religious minorities of many faith backgrounds, including Christians, Hindus, atheists, and Muslims, among others. The type of legislation this resolution opposes was used in Russia to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organization, and in China to arbitrarily detain an estimated 800,000 to 2 million Uighur Muslims in internment camps because they followed Islamic rituals and practices.
Rep. Meadows said, “As a Christian, I fundamentally believe that all people are created in the image of God. We must protect all people—religious and non-religious alike—and their freedom of conscience. This resolution is an important step to tell oppressive regimes across the globe that their use of arbitrary apostasy laws to imprison, torture, and kill religious minorities is unacceptable and must come to an end. I thank my colleague, Representative Raskin, for his bipartisan work on this issue.”
The American Humanist Association will continue our work to protect the rights of people of minority faiths and no religious faith wherever those people are found.
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.