U.N. panel adopts stance on religious freedom

March 25, 2011

U.S. officials praised a United Nations council for a new statement
on religious freedom that sidestepped a divisive debate sponsored by
Islamic countries over the "defamation of religions."

The UN Human
Rights Council on March 24 approved a resolution voicing concern about
"emerging obstacles" to religious freedom and growing "religious
intolerance, discrimination and violence."

The United States
supported the resolution, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
called a "significant step forward" in global efforts to combat
"intolerance, discrimination and violence . . . based upon religion or
belief."

Annual UN resolutions sponsored by the Organization of
the Islamic Conference against the "defamation of religions" have
steadily lost support in recent years. The issue received heightened
scrutiny after two government officials in Pakistan who opposed that
nation's blasphemy laws were assassinated by Muslim radicals.

The
independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which
has helped marshal opposition to the blasphemy resolutions in the UN,
said the recent vote should prompt Pakistan to rescind its blasphemy
law. "The resolution properly focuses on protecting individuals from
discrimination or violence, instead of protecting religions from
criticism," the commission said in a statement.  —RNS