For Immediate Release
Roy Speckhardt, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-238-9088 x109
(Washington, DC, December 7, 2020) – In a momentous victory for the rights of humanists, nontheists, and religious minorities around the world, the American Humanist Association (AHA) applauds the U.S. House of Representatives for passing House Resolution 512, which calls for a global end to blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws.
This bipartisan resolution, introduced and championed by Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-8), calls upon the president and the U.S. State Department to prioritize the repeal of blasphemy laws in their relationships with countries that have such laws and to release prisoners who have been accused or convicted of blasphemy offenses.
“I’m gratified to see our bipartisan Resolution pass the House,” said Rep. Raskin. “As authoritarian governments around the globe step up the use of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws to persecute religious minorities and dissenters, America must speak with one voice against these brutal human rights violations. No one on earth should spend a single day in prison for his or her religious beliefs but hundreds of innocent people have been sentenced to months or years behind bars for these imaginary religious offenses. Our Resolution is a small but important step in prioritizing religious freedom and liberty of conscience worldwide and I thank AHA for uplifting it.”
AHA leads a diverse coalition of nearly 70 national organizations in support of the House resolution and its companion resolution in the Senate. Rachel Deitch, AHA Director of Policy and Social Justice, testified at a congressional hearing earlier this year in the Oversight Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Raskin, and in the Foreign Affairs Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Subcommittee.
“H. Res. 512’s passage is an important milestone for unfettered religious expression around the world,” AHA Executive Director Roy Speckhardt celebrated. “Individuals of a minority faith—or no faith at all—should have the latitude to question religion and religious practices without fear of repercussions.”
Blasphemy laws exist in more than 80 countries and are the most explicit laws banning the expression of doubts or criticism regarding religion. In several countries, the penalty for being found guilty of violating these laws is death. Blasphemy laws are used to restrict the rights of not just the nonreligious, but minorities of all faiths and philosophies, women, LGBTQ people, and political dissidents.
Mubarak Bala, a human rights activist and the president of the Nigerian Humanist Association, was arrested and has been in custody since April of this year in Nigeria for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad on social media. Nigeria is one of the 84 countries that bans criticism of religion.
Speckhardt concluded: “We applaud the House’s leadership on this resolution, but our work is far from over. We must not only continue to dismantle blasphemy laws around the world, but also call for immediate releases of those, like Mubarak Bala, who are unjustly detained.”
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.