How the Freedom of Thought Report helps protect humanists at risk

  • blog Type / Campaigns blog
  • Date / 9 December 2022
  • By / Emma Wadsworth-Jones

As we launch the 11th edition of the Freedom of Thought Report, Humanists International’s Casework & Campaigns Manager, Emma Wadsworth-Jones reflects on how it helps us protect humanists at risk.

The Freedom of Thought Report – now in its 11th edition – documents each State’s record of upholding the rights of humanists, atheists and the non-religious. The Report looks at how non-religious people—whether they call themselves atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, or are otherwise just simply not religious—are treated because of their lack of religion or absence of belief in a god. We also consider wider social and ethical issues indicative of the marginalization of humanist values.

Each year, it makes for sobering reading, as we realize that there are few countries in the world that we would categorize as truly free and equal – only seven to be precise. Elsewhere in the world, members of our community are forced to hide their identity and beliefs for fear of stigmatization, ostracism, reprisals by state or non-state actors.

The Report presents an opportunity to

  1. Spark conversations on the issues that our community face.Each year, we launch our Key Countries edition with the support of our Members and Associates, where we invite panels of experts to share their experience and knowledge. Last year’s launch was hosted by the American Humanist Association together with the Freethought Caucus.

    The launch is widely covered internationally, opening a door to conversations in the media that would rarely happen otherwise.

  2. Lobby for change 

    The Report serves as a tool for local and international activists alike to lobby governments for change – providing the evidence-base needed to make reliable and authoritative claims.Each entry – together with all the data – is free to access under a Creative Commons license, which means advocates for human rights can download the entries and take them to meetings with relevant stakeholders.

  3. Influence the international expert debate and opinionIn 2017 the Freedom of Thought Report was cited by the new UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in his inaugural report. Our report was the only civil society publication to be cited in this way: a measure of its uniqueness and importance. The Report is increasingly cited in discussion of non-religious rights under ‘freedom of religion or belief’, for example in this academic volume due out in 2018 on human rights and “freedom from religion”.

How does this affect humanists at risk?

Thanks to the Report, Humanists International and our Members and Associates are better able to support non-religious people at risk in their own country.

It might be by using information in a country entry to inform a letter of support for an asylum claim. It might be using the report to challenge a State’s long-standing discriminatory policies – often existing because of a lack of understanding about the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the experience of the non-religious.

It allows us to advocate for change at international institutions, such as the United Nations.

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