UN Defamation Resolution Threatens Freedom of Religion

Over the past decade several actors on the UN scene have been passing resolutions against “Defamation of Religion.” These resolutions condemn anything which offends “religious sensibilities” as racism and hate-speech. Unfortunately the resolutions provide support for blasphemy and similar laws, like the ones which have been used to brutally suppress dissent and religious minorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and elsewhere.

Not content with passing non-binding resolutions, the Defamation bloc is attempting to redefine international treaties to make this legal concept binding across the world. The treaty provisions in focus are Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which calls for governments to protect against “incitement.” This would set up a conflict between the freedoms of speech and religion, and a concept of ‘human rights’ that includes being free from ‘defamation of religion’. Religious ideas would be protected instead of people.  One religion would be protected from the expression of contrary views instead of victims of aggression and violence. If this pseudo-legal concept becomes enshrined in international law it could have devastating effects on the freedom of religion and the spread of the gospel all over the world.

Jubilee Campaign remains strongly committed to religious freedom and to the minorities who are always the first to suffer when religious freedom is curtailed. Because of that we are glad to join with Alliance Defense Fund and several other Christian NGOs in asking the UN to protect helpless religious minorities not the entrenched interests who will be the only beneficiaries of a global blasphemy law.

The ADF news release is below with links to the consultation paper which Jubilee Campaign contributed to. We hope that you will be praying and that you stay informed on this critical issue for religious freedom the world over.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ADF joins other groups to urge United Nations to protect religious expression in civil rights covenant
Christian groups submit paper expressing concern over any reinterpretations that could silence religious speech
Tuesday, October 05, 2010

UNITED NATIONS – The Alliance Defense Fund together with several other Christian groups submitted a consultation paper Thursday to a United Nations human rights body urging it not to reinterpret language in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in a way that could turn Christian speech into “hate speech.”  Christian Legal Fellowship, Jubilee Campaign, World Evangelical Alliance, and Advocates International joined the ADF paper.

“Christians should not be punished for expressing their beliefs. A novel reinterpretation of language in the convention–by those charged with safeguarding it–would endanger that type of free religious speech,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Piero Tozzi. “What’s at stake here is the ability of Christians to be able to share freely their belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation without fear of reprisal by any government that has signed on to this covenant.”

Every year at the United Nations, a so-called “defamation of religion” resolution is introduced at the General Assembly that critics regard as an attempt to muzzle evangelization. They see review of the language of the ICCPR as a related attempt to advance that agenda.

The paper, submitted by ADF attorneys at the invitation of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, expresses concern that language used to describe the goals of the review process differs from actual language in the ICCPR and sets up a potential clash between “hate speech” and freedom of speech.

“[Our] fear is that this change…would ‘stack the deck’ in favor of a conclusion in favor of vague ‘hate speech’ codes–or its kin, ‘defamation of religion’-type persecutions–that will result in restrictions upon legitimate freedom of expression and upon the ability of minority groups to challenge reigning religious and political orthodoxies,” the paper states. “In other words, if the issue to be examined is defined as ‘the prohibition of incitement to national, racial or religious hatred’ in the abstract and without reference to the incitement of violence, then one sets up an unwarranted and counter-productive clash between ‘hate speech’ codes and ‘freedom of expression.'”

The paper concludes by urging the human rights body to protect religious expression, interpret “incitement” in a manner that protects religious minorities from “actual, imminent harm,” and reject the call for vague “hate speech” codes that penalize speech that merely makes the listener uncomfortable.

In July, the United Nations granted ADF special consultative status, which allows ADF attorneys to attend and intervene at treaty and convention drafting meetings and help craft language that affirms religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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