08/22/2019 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On July 23, 2019, Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) introduced House Resolution 512 to the United States House of Representatives. The resolution calls for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws. Over 70 countries around the world still have these laws as a part of their national legal structure including countries like Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Some European countries, like Greece, also have these in their legal code. The punishment for committing blasphemy range from simple fines, to imprisonment and to even as severe as death. Many of the countries do not enforce the laws, but some (like Pakistan) enforce them on a regular basis, most recently with the famous case of Asia Bibi.
The spirit and content of all blasphemy laws stand in direct violation to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which not only guarantees free speech and expression, but also one’s freedom to propagate, change, practice and choose their religion and faith as determined by the convictions of the individual. Governments that enforce these laws directly violate the human rights and freedoms of their citizens. In fact, in all cases when blasphemy laws are enforced, they are used to oppress Christians and other religious minorities of the country.
International Christian Concern continues to monitor dozens of cases in Pakistan and around the world where Christians and other religious minorities have been charged with blasphemy with trumped up charges. In many cases the accused are attacked by lynch mobs incited by local religious leaders who want to take the opportunity to persecute Christians rather than wait for the official process unfold. The leaders incite hatred and violence through explosive rhetoric in their communities and encourage attacks against Christians. These attacks are usually completely ignored by local police and only encouraged through the near perfect impunity enjoyed by the attackers.
The House Resolution 512 must be passed and supported by all of Congress (a Senate resolution should be introduced as well) to ensure that United States sends a clear message to the world that it stands by human rights, religious freedom and all those oppressed by these archaic, barbaric and primitive laws that do not serve the interests of the any society as a whole. They are systematically used to discriminate Christians and others religious minorities by the majority religion. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reported that approximately 40 people are on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan alone. More will join them unless significant progress is made to repeal these laws.
The United States must lead the way in ensuring that these laws are made null and void. All representatives should support House Resolution 512. And, all Americans should contact their state Representatives and Senators encouraging them to support the resolution.
Matias Perttula currently serves as the Advocacy Director for International Christian Concern where he leads the government relations efforts to mobilize the US government to address issues of persecution in countries where religious minorities are oppressed and the freedom of religion is in decline