CFI, IHEU Collaborate to Oppose Blasphemy Laws at UN

March 16, 2011

This week the Center for Inquiry joined the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in opposing blasphemy laws at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

CFI holds special consultative status as a non-governmental organization, or NGO, under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Both CFI and the IHEU have been active in recent years opposing so-called blasphemy laws, which aim to suppress criticism and free speech about religious beliefs.  Such laws have been used to persecute nonbelievers, religious minorities and religious dissidents.  In some countries, including Pakistan, the "crime" of blasphemy carries the penalty of death.

After a procedural technicality prevented the IHEU from delivering its statement before the Human Rights Council, CFI agreed to deliver a joint statement on behalf of both CFI and the IHEU condemning blasphemy laws and violence in the name of religion. The statement was jointly crafted by UN representatives from both organizations. Unfortunately, Georgina Hutchinson, CFI's main representative in Geneva, was unable to deliver the speech when the Human Rights Council session ended early on Friday 11 March. Instead, the speech was delivered later by Jack Jeffery of IHEU.

The speech in full reads as follows:

UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL: Monday 14 March 2011
Agenda Item 3, Promotion and Protection of all human rights
Speaker: Jack Jeffery for CFI Main Representative, Georgina Hutchinson

Blasphemy, and violence in the name of religion

Mr President,

We welcome the report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief [A/HRC/16/53] and note that violence in the name of religion is apparently growing in many counties. For example, the recent murders in Pakistan of Governor Salman Taseer and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti have shocked us all.

In this context, we note the excellent statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, released on 2 March [1] in which she condemned the assassinations and went on to call on the Pakistan Government to declare a moratorium on the application of the blasphemy laws.

We recognise the problems faced by governments around the world, including Pakistan, in confronting extremism, but the extremists must be confronted, Mr President.

The Pakistani assassins reportedly gave their victim's opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws as the reason for their murders, so it is incorrect to argue that the murders cannot be linked to the blasphemy laws - as the distinguished representative of Pakistan did here last Thursday.

For many years the OIC has argued for the criminalisation of defamation of religion, thereby providing legitimacy for their infamous blasphemy laws - infamous, because it is only in Pakistan and certain other States that blasphemy carries the death penalty.

All blasphemy laws must be reviewed, Mr President, and all States have an obligation to bring their legislation into line with international law. Religious dissidents, religious minorities and nonbelievers must not face persecution or death under blasphemy laws.

If I were a Christian and were to say "Jesus was not merely a prophet, he was divine," why should I be subject to the death penalty anywhere?

Thank you.



CFI welcomed the opportunity to work collaboratively with IHEU on this project, as the two organizations share many common goals. 


#1 Gilbert Lopez (Guest) on Monday March 21, 2011 at 11:59am

Freedom of speech is one of the greatest freedoms we have in the world. While we owe each other respect for our various beliefs, this does not extend to the right to prohibit others from speaking ill of our chosen religion. We should not kill each other for any reason, there must be the rule of law and the law must respect live before any form of superstition or act against another’s rights.

#2 Tom Mackan (Guest) on Monday March 21, 2011 at 12:08pm

How can I post a CFI article to my Facebook page? Anyone?


#3 Mark Barnes on Monday March 21, 2011 at 12:49pm

Copy the complete web address in your browser which is:  Go to facebook status click on “link” and paste the copied web address then it gives you a chance to make your own comment if you wish the click “share.”

#4 Mark Barnes on Monday March 21, 2011 at 12:55pm

I forgot after you paste this in link you have to click on “attach” button on the right.  Also you can do this in your news feed in the box at the top where it says what’s on your mind - right above that is the “link” to click on.

#5 Tom Mackan (Guest) on Monday March 21, 2011 at 1:04pm

Thanks to Mark Barnes for help with the FB thing. It works!


#6 jean nutson (Guest) on Monday March 21, 2011 at 1:10pm

Yes i will like to add my comments to this debate on religious freedom or freedom to think debate. I strongly recommend that those who impose their religious beliefs on others or very commonly interacts with others based on their religious ideologies but not on the simple and the internationally accepted or on the other UN accepted or drafted principle of human rights and freedom of religion must be severely punished even when death is the most appropriate it should be quickly implemented to uphold the UN charters in all the various states including the vatican as well i intend to be very specific and more detailed about this particular point with all the facts and figures when necessary at other time on this same forum.

#7 Eli Vieira (Guest) on Sunday March 27, 2011 at 6:23pm

Excellent initiative.

I am the president of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil. We hope we can soon join IHEU, adding a much needed support from Latin America.

Tips and help are always welcome, so I leave our email: lihsbrasil[AT]gmail[DOT]com.

Kind regards.

#8 jean nutson (Guest) on Monday March 28, 2011 at 12:36pm

Thanks vieira, you are always welcomed to join us ,we are very much serious about this issue of eliminating bigotry,superstition and general ignorance from our society and live in a society of secularism where science and reason will be our code of conduct.keep your very good work up.

#9 Gilbert Lopez (Guest) on Monday March 28, 2011 at 2:53pm

Why are we able to stop the local coffee shop from selling tainted meat sandwiches, but we allow Monsanto to GMO US without regard to its effect on the nation? Why do we allow people to build nuclear plants on earthquake faults? Why are we good at seeing the effects of local evil doing but can’t “get it” when Wall St. monetizes our mortgages into worthlessness (nobody in jail except Madoff?). I happen to think that much of this is our religious training not to question authority and our belief that we get to screw this planet up and then “go to eternal bliss”. Well, maybe it’s time to wake up while it is still “not too late” and try to clean some of this mess up. Also if you are religious, why do the rich get a free pass? Are the rest of US “children of a lessor god”???

#10 jean nutson (Guest) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 at 1:02pm

Oh yes i totally agree with you that this is just the time to do some cleaning in our society,for the first time on this forum somebody like you is getting more transparent and opened ,i mean you talking about the need to apply brutal justice,that’s better we have to come out boldly and make our intentions known at least among ourselves .

#11 Gilbert Lopez (Guest) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 at 1:11pm

Well, “guest” I ask you to partake as well, please join US and please let’s explore in more detail your “need to apply brutal justice”. I see us talking here about the place of religion in our lives. We know the constitution promises freedom of religion, but what about the “separation of church and state” part? Are we not “free to pursue happiness” as we may see it? As we are all monkey descendants (like it or lump it, it’s a fact! have our cultures and our “gods” (I like Zeus! ;0) but let’s follow the constitution and keep any particular “god” out of our government! (except for “Sharia law”

#12 jean nutson (Guest) on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 12:27pm

Ha ha ha, your comment is very interesting and seems to summarize everything church and state must be very separate except for justice without any consideration of religion or state affair.

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