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Responding to the US Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and the US ‘Potomac Declaration’ and Plan of Action

  • Date / 2018
  • Location / United States
  • Location Ratified / Auckland, New Zealand
  • Ratifying Body / General Assembly
  • Status / Current

This General Assembly recalls:

IHEU’s consistent commitment since its foundation in 1952 to the human right of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief, as given expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights seventy years ago;

The 1983 IHEU policy statement on Humanism and Secularism that ‘freedom of conscience constitutes the key to other freedoms’ and that beliefs ‘should neither be obligatory nor prohibited’;

The 2014 Oxford Declaration on Freedom of Thought and Expression;

The 2017 London Declaration on Secularism;

IHEU’s long-standing opposition to blasphemy laws, including its leadership of the global End Blasphemy Laws campaign;

The fact that humanists and other non-religious people in recent years and today are victims of the most vicious violations of freedom of religion or belief across the world, including persecution up to death, in the past two years alone in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh;

IHEU’s long-standing work to address these instances of persecution including through the annual publication of the Freedom of Thought Report since 2012.

This General Assembly therefore:

Welcomes active support by all and any states of the human right to freedom of religion or belief, which includes the right to leave and change a religion or belief;

Welcomes, in light of this, the fact that increasing numbers of states are making a priority of freedom of religion or belief, including the holding by the US government of a ministerial in Washington DC on this topic between 24-26 July;

Welcomes the call to “repeal oppressive blasphemy laws” in that ministerial and for respect of the right of people to leave a religion;

Notes nonetheless with serious concern much of the language used by states participating in the ministerial and in the US Government’s ‘Potomac Declaration’, which:

Notes with concern the misuse of “religious freedom” as a justification for limiting the rights and freedoms of others;

Also notes with concern the exclusion from the summit of humanist and other non-religious victims and survivors of persecution and near total exclusion of humanists at all (with an invitation to IHEU made at the last minute on the morning of the Ministerial itself.)

This General Assembly resolves:

To write, expressing the views of the global humanist movement as outlined above to:

and offer to them the support of IHEU in addressing violations of freedom of religion or belief and in promoting freedom of religion or belief, and encouraging them to be fully inclusive of humanist and other non-religious victims and survivors of violations of the freedom.

Suggested academic reference

'Responding to the US Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and the US ‘Potomac Declaration’ and Plan of Action', Humanists International, General Assembly, Auckland, New Zealand, 2018

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