UDPATE: U.S. Senate joins House in passing resolution calling for end to blasphemy and apostasy laws
UPDATE: The U.S. Senate joined the U.S. House in supporting international religious freedom by passing its companion resolution, S.Res. 458, on Saturday, December 19, 2020. The Senate effort calling to #endblasphemylaws was spearheaded by Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware. Congress has spoken: Blasphemy and apostasy laws harm religious freedom. Blasphemy laws still exist in more than 80 countries, so the work continues as we stand with our global neighbors seeking faith freedom for all.
This week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Resolution 512, which calls for the repeal of blasphemy and apostasy laws in countries around the world. Dozens of organizations, including BJC, worked to educate lawmakers on the dangers of such laws, which punish those who insult or demean religion, and those who change religions. While the First Amendment prevents enforcement of blasphemy or apostasy laws in the United States, 84 countries criminalize blasphemy. The House action sends a strong message of support for religious freedom for all people.
In a Medium essay on the House passage, BJC Associate General Counsel Jennifer Hawks explains what is at stake:
While most Americans may give little thought to blasphemy and apostasy laws, our global neighbors and Americans who travel or work abroad are not so fortunate. Fear of government reprisals or vigilante violence exists in many countries for expressing (or being accused of expressing) a religious opinion that differs from the ruling class.
No government should have the ability to dictate the nature of religious belief. Blasphemy and apostasy laws stifle religious expression, silence religious minorities and political opponents, and generally foster religious intolerance, discrimination and violence within society. Members of the dominant religious group are often victimized by these laws as well.
On the floor of the House, bill sponsor Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, whose leadership was essential to passing this resolution, made impassioned remarks that are worth watching in support of the measure.
If the Senate follows suit, Congress would be sending a united message on this critical religious liberty issue. Senate Resolution 458 is the companion bill. Call your Senators and let them know how important this issue is to you.
For more on this issue, see BJC’s fact sheet on repealing blasphemy laws, read BJC’s submitted congressional testimony, and watch video or read witness testimony from the congressional joint subcommittee hearing.
Want to get more involved in supporting religious liberty issues on Capitol Hill? Join the BJC Advocacy Team. Sign up when you sign up for our email list. You will be notified about actions you can take when it is most needed. The latest notice to the team is a call to action on Senate Resolution 458, urging the Senate to pass that companion bill. The alert includes a sample script you can use when calling your senator and social media tags and tips you can use to spread the word among your family and friends. Sign up and become a faith freedom for all advocate!