Southern Religion

Can Obama stop UN endorsement of blasphemy law?

Barack Obama led the U.S. to secure a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), formed in 2006 over U.S. objections, and is using that platform to push back against the Organization of the Islamic Council (OIC) efforts to put legal teeth in its religious blasphemy ideas.

Implemented in treaty, the ideas will provide international cover to suppress minority religious groups.

On behalf of the OIC, Pakistan proposes “legal prohibition of publication of material that negatively stereotypes, insults or uses offensive language” on matters regarded by religious followers as “sacred or inherent to their dignity as human beings.”

The result in practice is a favoring of specific religions over the speech of individuals. One need not be a liberal of any sort to see the danger. As Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler wrote in his April 17 blog on that issue:

This United Nations Human Rights Council resolution offends Peter Singer, and it offends me as well. The United Nations has no right protect adherents of any religious belief system from being offended. It should expend its energies defending the religious liberty of all persons everywhere. That policy would put the offense where it belongs.

In that, he apparently agrees with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said this week at the unveiling the State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom:

Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion. . . . I strongly disagree. The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions. . . . [and she went on to argue for] the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression.

An expert in International law, Noah Bialostozky argues that the US, “long-regarded as the leader of the human rights movement, which remains in the best position to engage its diplomatic and moral authority to encourage collective promotion of international human rights.”

It is time to see how well that can be made to work. As the Christian Science Monitor argued editorially today, the Obama administration “should proceed with the vigor that Ms. Clinton talked about.”


October 27, 2009 - Posted by | Cultural, Politics, Religion |

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