U.N. Anti-Blasphemy Proposal Meets Firm Resistance

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Open Doors are just some of the people and groups that have publicly denounced the proposed U.N. anti-blasphemy resolution that is expected to be voted on next week.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which sponsored the draft resolution, recently changed the term from "defamation of religions" to "vilification of religions." But USCIRF chair Leonard Leo said the change is minor and "a distinction without a difference."

"Having lost support on this issue over the past few years, the OIC is now trying to fool delegations into believing that the resolution has improved when it has not," said Leo in a statement Thursday. "It … still erroneously conflates blasphemy or criticism of religious ideas with incitement to acts of discrimination or violence against individuals."

Critics of the resolution compare it to a global anti-blasphemy law. They point to countries like Pakistan, where a Christian woman was recently given the death sentence for alleged blasphemy against the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, as example of how such laws are regularly grossly abused to target religious minorities.

Since 1999, the Organization of the Islamic Conference has annually sponsored the resolution and the U.N. has adopted a non-binding anti-defamation of religion resolution every year since 2005.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly opposed the resolution during a press conference to announce the release of the annual State Department report on religious freedom around the world. She said the United States does not agree that protecting religious freedom means banning speech critical or offensive about religion.

"The United States joins in all nations coming together to condemn hateful speech, but we do not support the banning of that speech," said Clinton. "Indeed, freedom of speech and freedom of religion emanate from the same fundamental belief that communities and individuals are enriched and strengthened by diversity of ideas, and attempts to stifle them or drive them underground, even when it is in the name and with the intention of protecting society, have the opposite effect."

Open Doors, a ministry advocating on behalf of persecuted Christians worldwide, has been actively lobbying U.N. delegates to vote against the resolution. More than 200,000 Open Doors supporters worldwide have voiced opposition to the Defamation of Religions Resolution.

"It is incredibly sad and ironic that Pakistan has sentenced a Christian woman to death by hanging just days before a vote on the resolution at the United Nations that many countries are backing to purportedly protect religious freedom," remarked Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller. "This sentencing should alert countries and individuals to the serious consequences of passing this resolution."

The U.N. General Assembly's Third Committee is expected to carry out a preliminary vote on Nov. 22 or 23. A final vote of the full General Assembly is expected in December.

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