U.S. House Introduces Resolution (Again) Calling for Global Repeal of Blasphemy Laws May 23, 2017

U.S. House Introduces Resolution (Again) Calling for Global Repeal of Blasphemy Laws

While the current Republican leadership in Congress is working to make rich people richer while taking away health care access and vital programs for the poor, Democrats can still try and pass resolutions that carry symbolic weight.

Rep. Jamie Raskin has just introduced H.Res. 349 which calls for the “global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws.”


Resolved, That the House of Representatives

(1) recognizes that blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws inappropriately position governments as arbiters of religious truth and empower officials to impose religious dogma on individuals or minorities through the through the power of the government or through violence sanctioned by the government;

(2) calls on the President and the Secretary of State to make the repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws a priority in the bilateral relationships of the United States with all countries that have such laws, through direct interventions in bilateral and multilateral fora;

(3) encourages the President and the Secretary of State to oppose

(A) any efforts, by the United Nations or by other international or multilateral fora, to create an international anti-blasphemy norm, such as the ‘‘defamation of religions’’ resolutions introduced in the United Nations between 1999 and 2010; and

(B) any attempts to expand the international norm on incitement to include blasphemy or defamation of religions;

(4) supports efforts by the United Nations to combat intolerance, discrimination, or violence against persons based on religion or belief without restricting expression, including United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 (2011) and the Istanbul Process meetings pursuant to such resolution, that are consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution;

(5) calls on 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’’ under section 402(b)(1)(A)(ii) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6442(b)(1)(A)(ii)) for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom, as a result of the abuses flowing from the enforcement of such laws and from unpunished vigilante violence often generated by blasphemy allegations;

(6) urges the governments of countries that enforce blasphemy, heresy, or apostasy laws to amend or repeal such laws, as they provide pretext and impunity for vigilante violence against religious minorities; and

(7) urges the governments of countries that have prosecuted, imprisoned, and persecuted people on charges of blasphemy, heresy, or apostasy to release such people unconditionally and, once released, to ensure their safety and that of their families.

There are a lot of good ideas in here, and our country would be wise to agree to all of this. But don’t assume it’ll go anywhere in this Congress. A similar resolution was introduced two years ago — with bipartisan sponsorship, no less — but it wasn’t enacted.

Still, this is an encouraging sign, says the American Humanist Association.

The American Humanist Association worked with Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Alex Mooney (R-WV), David Cicilline (D-RI), and John Culberson (R-TX) to reintroduce the legislation, which calls for a repeal of blasphemy laws worldwide. The legislation, which was introduced in the last session of Congress by Reps. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), encouraged the President and the State Department to make the worldwide repeal of these laws a priority, while also opposing any attempts at the United Nations to support blasphemy laws.

“This resolution is a step forward toward better protecting theists and nontheists alike,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. The freedom to believe or not believe is a fundamental human right that is being infringed upon around the world, and this resolution goes a long way to ensure that these individuals have their rights restored.”

“Blasphemy laws target marginalized religious minorities and leave them vulnerable to attacks and imprisonment,” said Matthew Bulger, legislative director of the American Humanist Association. “This resolution can help end the unnecessary threat to religious freedom and basic human dignity that blasphemy laws pose.”

You would think the “religious freedom” crowd that loves to complain about snowflakes who can’t handle criticism would be all for the repeal of blasphemy laws, and yet, I’m not optimistic that this simple resolution will pass.

But at least there are members of Congress who recognize what a serious issue this is and want our country to take the lead in getting rid of these laws everywhere. If only we had leadership that took it seriously, too.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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