For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Gerard, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-238-9088 ext. 105
(Washington, DC, January 28, 2020) — On Tuesday, American Humanist Association Policy Manager Rachel Deitch read congressional testimony on behalf of the AHA from Rafida Bonya Ahmed. The congressional hearing, on ending global religious persecution, was held jointly by the United States House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations and Oversights and Reform Committee and the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. It highlighted blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws and how those laws hinder religious freedom around the world.
Blasphemy laws exist in more than a third of the world’s countries and ban criticism of religious beliefs, symbols, and figures. In several countries, the penalty of violating a blasphemy law is death. Not only do the laws harm nontheists, but also any dissident or minority faith population across all religious sects.
Ahmed is a Bangladeshi-American author and blogger. Ahmed and her husband, Avijit Roy, were attacked by Islamic extremists at a book fair in Bangladesh in 2015, where she was gravely injured and Avijit was killed. Ahmed’s testimony explained: “Blasphemy laws produce the opposite effect of protecting religious freedom: they entangle policymakers, courts, and law enforcement with narrow views of religion that often prop up already powerful religious groups. And the impact on minority religions and on nonreligious groups is far reaching.”
This hearing occurs as the House Foreign Affairs Committee considers House Resolution 512, which calls on the President and the Secretary of State make repeal of blasphemy, heresy, or apostasy laws a priority around countries the US works with in bilateral relationships. Additionally, the resolution encourages the President and Secretary of State to oppose efforts to create a model for blasphemy laws at the UN, and encourages the UN to combat religious intolerance and discrimination across the world.
AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt noted: “We are honored to have Bonya’s powerful testimony to illustrate the injustices many minority faith groups, including outspoken nonreligious individuals, face across the world. We applaud the Committee’s consideration and call on the Committee to advance House Resolution 512.”
The resolution also calls for countries with such laws to amend their laws and release prisoners of conscious who are imprisoned or being persecuted on charges of blasphemy, heresy, or apostasy.
“Humanists rely on reason- and evidence-based decision-making.” Ahmed concluded. “We believe in the inherent moral worth of each individual person and in each person’s right to free expression, and we believe that human-made problems require human-devised solutions.”
The American Humanist Association brought together a broad coalition of more than sixty national and international faith-based, nontheist, and religious freedom advocacy organizations in supporting House Resolution 512 and its companion resolution in the Senate, Senate Resolution 458.
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The American Humanist Association (americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington D.C., its work is extended through more than 240 local chapters and affiliates across the United States. Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms a responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.