For Immediate Release: March 4, 2020
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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A bipartisan resolution calling for the worldwide repeal of blasphemy laws unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee today, which the Center for Inquiry heralded as a powerful statement in support of free expression and true religious freedom.
H.Res. 512 calls upon the Department of State to work toward the global repeal of criminal laws against blasphemy, apostasy, and heresy. The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously voted today to refer the resolution for further consideration on the House floor. H.Res. 512 was introduced on July 23, 2019 by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a co-founder of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, along with Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC).
“The freedom to question beliefs and challenge dogmas is a fundamental human right, yet even in the year 2020 there are laws against blasphemy on the books, leading to the persecution of the nonreligious as well as religious minorities,” said Jason Lemieux, CFI’s Director of Government Affairs. “Every individual should have the right to openly criticize or question religion, and the Committee’s decision today to advance H.Res. 512 is an important step toward that goal.”
The right to challenge and criticize religious dogma has long been at the core of CFI’s mission. The organization redoubled its efforts to end to these harmful laws after the brazen daylight murder in Bangladesh of CFI ally Dr. Avijit Roy, an outspoken proponent of secularism, by religious extremists in 2015.
Eighty-three countries across the world maintain these laws in their criminal code, according to a forthcoming report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Often these laws use vague language such as a prohibition against “hurting religious feelings,” leaving people, and especially nonbelievers, vulnerable to prosecution for almost any real or imagined slight on that country’s majority-held religion. Even where states themselves do not prosecute these “offenses,” vigilante mobs step in to threaten, intimidate, and assault those who speak on behalf of secularism, often with deadly results.
Nonbelievers are not the only group targeted by such laws: religious minorities, women, and other human rights activists are also disproportionately targeted.