The UUHA Joins a Coalition Urging Congress to Support Efforts to Repeal Blasphemy Laws Worldwide

The UU Humanist Association is proud to stand with the AHA and our other Secular Coalition for America partners as signers of this letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives encouraging them to support the resolution to oppose blasphemy laws.

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June 24, 2015 

Rep. Ralph Abraham 

417 Cannon House Office Building 

Washington, DC 20515-1805 

Dear Representative Abraham, 

The undersigned secularist, humanist, nontheist, atheist, and religious freedom advocacy organizations write in support of H. Res. 290, a bi-partisan international religious freedom resolution recently introduced by Reps. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). 

This resolution calls upon the President and the U.S. State Department to make the repeal of blasphemy laws a priority in their relationships with countries that have such laws. In addition, this resolution encourages the President and the State Department to oppose any efforts at the United Nations or other international forum to create an international anti-blasphemy norm, or attempts to expand the international norm on incitement to include blasphemy or defamation of religions. 

Blasphemy laws are the most explicit laws banning the expression of doubts or criticism regarding religion, and various countries employ them to ban criticism of religious beliefs, symbols, and figures. In several countries, the penalty for violating these laws is as severe as death. These laws harm not just the non-religious, but dissidents in all religious sects. 

Alexander Aan, a former Indonesian civil servant who in January 2012 posted messages to Facebook expressing his lack of belief in a god, was attacked at his workplace by an angry mob. When police arrived, they arrested Aan and charged him with blasphemy, promoting atheism, and disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility. On June 15, 2012, a district court found Aan guilty of the charges and sentenced him to 30 months in prison, and fined him an amount equivalent to $10,600. 

Raif Badawi, an advocate for freedom of religion, belief, and expression, was arrested and charged on June 17, 2012 with insulting Islam and blasphemy. On July 29, 2013, a criminal court sentenced Badawi to seven years in jail and 600 lashes. On May 7, 2014, a Saudi court issued a new sentence for Raif: 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a fine equivalent to $267,000. On January 9, 2015, Saudi authorities gave Badawi the first 50 of his 1,000 lashes, and in June 2015 Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison. 

These are just some of the many cases of individuals who have been affected by blasphemy laws. Thankfully, Congress has the unique ability to promote international religious freedom on the global stage and to encourage governments of countries where religious and non-religious rights are not respected to remedy the situation. As such, the undersigned groups urge you to co-sponsor this important resolution, and support its passage should it come to the House floor or a committee on which you serve. 

Sincerely, 

American Atheists 
American Humanist Association 
Atheist Alliance International 
Atheist Alliance of America 
Camp Quest 
Center for Freethought Equality 
Center for Inquiry 
Ex-Muslims of North America 
Freethought Society 
Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers 
Secular Coalition for America 
Secular Student Alliance 
Secular Woman 
Society for Humanistic Judaism 
Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association 
United Coalition of Reason 

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About Maria Greene

Maria Greene's picture

Maria Greene is the UU Humanist Association's part-time Executive Director. Maria is also a professional web developer who lives in Massachusetts with her husband, their three busy kids and assorted pets. Maria's home congregation is the First Parish Church of Stow & Acton, she helps coordinate the Concord Area Humanists, a UUHA local group and chapter of the American Humanist Association that meets in Concord, MA, she is a volunteer with the Secular Coalition for Massachusetts, and with the Boston Coalition of Reason.