Blasphemy resolution passes U.N. committee

(RNS) A resolution combating the "vilification of religions" was
adopted Tuesday (Nov. 23) by a United Nations committee, but religious
freedom advocates who oppose the measure say support for it continues to

The resolution by Islamic countries is scheduled to be considered by
the U.N. General Assembly in December.

The vote -- 76 yes, 64 no, and 42 abstentions -- received fewer
affirmative votes than last year, said Freedom House, a human rights
group that has worked against the resolution.

"We are disappointed that this pernicious resolution has passed yet
again, despite strong evidence that legal measures to restrict speech
are both ineffective and a direct violation of freedom of expression,"
said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an
independent bipartisan panel, said the measure's diminished support
shows some countries think the resolution can do more harm than good.

"Religious intolerance is best fought through efforts to encourage
respect for every individual's human rights, not through national or
international anti-blasphemy laws," said USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo.

Days before its passage, the Organization of the Islamic Conference
relabeled the resolution as condemning "vilification of religions"
instead of "defamation of religions," but U.S. officials and advocates
continued to oppose it.

"We are disappointed to see that despite our efforts and discussions
on this resolution, the text once again seems to take us farther apart,
rather than helping to bridge the historical divides," said John F.
Sammis, an official of the U.S. Mission to the U.N., told the committee
considering the resolution. "Most importantly, the resolution still
seeks to curtail and penalize speech."

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks is a national reporter for Religion News Service.

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