January 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Dec. 7 calling for an end to laws around the world that criminalize blasphemy and apostasy.

House Resolution 512, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), 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.”

It also expressed support for “efforts by the United Nations to combat intolerance, discrimination, or violence against persons based on religion or belief without restricting expression.”

“I’m gratified to see our bipartisan Resolution pass the House,” Raskin said. “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.”

The resolution, which passed 386-3, was backed by the American Humanist Association (AHA) and a diverse coalition of nearly 70 national organizations. The groups also backed a companion resolution in the Senate.

Around the globe, several people are in prison for committing offenses against religion. Mubarak Bala, a human rights activist and the president of the Nigerian Humanist Association, was arrested and has been in custody since April of 2020 in Nigeria for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad on social media. Nigeria is one of the 84 countries that bans criticism of religion.

For more on this issue, see “Banishing Blasphemy” in the February 2019 issue of Church & State.

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