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10/16/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives, calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws. The legislation is critical in sending a clear message to the world regarding the United States’ strong commitment to expanding international religious freedom in countries where Christians and other religious minorities continue to be oppressed. The legislation is gaining support on both sides of the aisle as the issue is largely non-partisan in nature. International Christian Concern (ICC) is excited to support the legislation and is calling passionate stakeholders to contact their congressional representatives and urging them to support the legislation.

According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), more than 71 countries have blasphemy laws (or similar) on the books. However, most countries do not enforce the laws. Pakistan and Indonesia have been prominent enforcers of these laws, but do so by favoring the majority religion in the country, Islam. Highly publicized cases in Pakistan and Indonesia include Asia Bibi and Governor Ahok, both of whom are Christians who were convicted and imprisoned. In the case of Asia Bibi, she has been in prison since 2009 and is currently waiting on the decision from the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding her death sentence. Governor Ahok of Indonesia was sentenced to two years in prison in 2017 and continues to serve his sentence.

Not only do these laws limit the religious freedom and human rights of citizens, they are poorly worded, allowing for very loose interpretation. USCIRF released a report, saying that “most blasphemy laws were vaguely worded as many failed to specify intent as a part of the violation. The vast majority carried unduly harsh penalties for violators.” In most cases, the laws are used to target religious minorities and disproportionately safeguard the majority religion of a country. The bottom line in all blasphemy laws is that the statutes significantly deviate from human rights principles.

In most cases, the laws do not respect the fundamental human right to express oneself freely. Almost any criticism of a religion can be interpreted as blasphemy under the law. Recently, in Indonesia, a woman was convicted of blasphemy for complaining about the loudspeakers of a local mosque calling Muslims to prayer. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

It is in the interest of the United States Congress to support H. Res. 349 that will deliver a clear declaration that the United States values the freedom of all people to worship according to their convictions. Christians are severely affected by these laws and continue to live in fear of religious persecution. The United States must press this issue by maintaining the pressure on governments that refuse to allow freedom of religion. H. Res. 349 is a great way to send a clear message.

For interviews with Matias Perttula, Advocacy Director, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]