MEDIA ADVISORY: Congressional Briefings on Persecution of Secularists Around the World, June 9 & 10

For Immediate Release: June 4, 2015
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

After the murders of three secularist bloggers in Bangladesh by Islamic extremists linked to Al Qaeda, and with many more targeted and fearing for their lives, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and its allies will brief Members of Congress and their staffs next week on the persecution and peril faced by nonbelievers and religious minorities around the world.

Representing CFI at these congressional briefings will be Michael De Dora, CFI’s Director of Public Policy and its Representative to the UN. De Dora is also the current President of the UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. He will be joined by allies at the Hindu American Foundation for a briefing on Bangladesh, and by the American Humanist Association and the Secular Coalition for America for briefings on international religious freedom more broadly.

Since February of this year, three secularist bloggers in Bangladesh have been attacked and killed by Islamic militants, each specifically targeted for their criticism of Islam. CFI this week announced that it had launched a Freethought Emergency Fund to assist with the rescue of secularist activists and writers who are living under direct threat by violent extremists. World-renowned human rights champion Taslima Nasrin was one such targeted activist, and was brought to safety from India to the U.S. by the Center for Inquiry on May 27. More information about the Freethought Emergency Fund is available at 

CFI has been engaged in intensive diplomatic and grassroots efforts to spur meaningful action to protect religious dissenters and those exercising their right to free expression, and to urge state authorities to work to rein in Islamic extremists who are now murdering with impunity. 

Briefing Details:

The State of International Religious Freedom

Tuesday, June 9

Hosted by the Center for Inquiry, American Humanist Association, and Secular Coalition for America

Russell Senate Office Building Room 485
Lunch provided


Longworth House Office Building Room 1310
Lunch provided

Join a panel of experts for an informative briefing on the struggles faced by religious minorities and nonbelievers who are discriminated against and persecuted for their religious beliefs and criticisms of religion.


  • Elizabeth K. Cassidy, Deputy Director for Policy and Research, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
  • Tina Ramirez, Founder and Executive Director, Hardwired, former International and Government Relations Director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
  • Mahmood Ahmad, Assistant Director of Public Affairs, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA
  • Michael De Dora, Director of Public Policy and UN Representative, Center for Inquiry; President, United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief

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Bengal Burning: The Murder of Avijit Roy and the Escalating Crisis in Bangladesh

Wednesday, June 10

Hosted by the Hindu American Foundation

Rayburn House Office Building Room 2103
Light refreshments will be served

The murder of Avijit Roy, a humanist and outspoken critic of Islamic extremism, symbolizes a growing trend of religious fundamentalism in this pivotal South Asian Nation. This briefing seeks to bring together human rights and policy experts in order to explore the ongoing threats to secular democracy, freedom of thought, and pluralism in Bangladesh, and examine the impact of mounting political unrest on the nation’s stability and American geopolitical interests in the region. 


  • Jay Kansara, Director of Government Relations, Hindu American Foundation
  • Michael De Dora, Director of Public Policy and UN Representative, Center for Inquiry; President, United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief
  • Samir Kalra, Esq., Senior Director and Human Rights Fellow, Hindu American Foundation


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at