Humanists approve historic resolution on the worldwide abolition of laws against blasphemy

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 20 August 2021

On 15 August, at Humanists International’s 2021 General Assembly, humanists from around the world unanimously voted to approve a new policy resolution on the worldwide abolition of laws against blasphemy.

The resolution reaffirms the humanist commitment to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and belief for all, and the conviction that societies prosper best in conditions where free and rational debate, critical thinking, artistic creativity, and scientific freedom are allowed to flourish.

The resolution follows on from years of humanist-led campaigns around the world to work towards the complete abolition of laws against blasphemy. This includes the work of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition, formed in 2015, and Humanists International’s sustained advocacy work, at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other global institutions, to bring attention to the issue.

Since 2015, “dead letter” anti-blasphemy laws (meaning historic laws that are not actively enforced) have been successfully repealed in countries including Canada, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, Norway and Scotland.

The resolution recognized that more work needs to be done to protect humanists, human rights defenders, dissidents and other minorities from persecution legitimized by laws against blasphemy, including through the extrajudicial enforcement of such laws.

It calls on governments, humanist organizations and civil society to work towards:

  • The worldwide repeal of laws against blasphemy, in those jurisdictions where laws against blasphemy are actively enforced, in those where they are infrequently or never enforced but remain on statute, and in those where there is a moratorium against their use;
  • An end to impunity for acts of mob violence perpetrated against those that ‘blaspheme’ by questioning or criticizing religious beliefs and practices, symbols, institutions and authorities;
  • In place of laws against blasphemy, in accordance with Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Rabat Plan of Action, the implementation of effective anti-hate crime laws that prevent incitement to hate, including on the basis of an individual’s religion or belief, and comprehensive policies that tackle the causes of inequality and discrimination in all its forms
  • The creation of literacy programmes on freedom of religion or belief and on human rights, so as to prevent the right to freedom of religion or belief from being intentionally misconstrued or instrumentalized.
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