The formation of this new international agency comes after the US Government hosted two international ministerial conferences on the issue of ‘religious freedom’. Humanists International has previously welcomed the US’s strong commitment to lead on issues such as campaigning against ‘blasphemy’ laws. However we have also been critical of the exclusivist language of ‘religious freedom’ and a lack of acknowledgement about the intersectionality of other rights, such as sexual orientation and gender identity.
It is not clear yet which Governments are members of this new Alliance. The new ‘Declaration of Principles of the International Religious Freedom Alliance’ says that its members [states] are “…committed to upholding their state obligations under international law in general and the ICCPR specifically relating to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, including the right to hold any faith or belief, or none at all, and the freedom to change faith.”
This move will also be seen by many as another example of the US Government undermining the United Nations and the multilateral system. It comes less than two years after the United States withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council.
Commenting on the news, Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, commented:
“We are pleased to see that the new US-led alliance has clearly identified the need to repeal blasphemy laws around the world, and to ensure that all states respect the right to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change or leave a religion.
“However, it is not difficult to be sceptical of this news, coming as it does from an administration which has previously spoken of the right to ‘religious freedom’ as “god-given”, and pandered to the Christian right-wing in America.
“We will continue to urge the US, and other partners, to respect international law and norms, and ensure that the United Nations and other international bodies are not further undermined.”