flagsWritten by Don Byrd

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein called for an end to blasphemy laws worldwide in a blog post published earlier today. Following on the heels of the annual State Department report on international religious freedom, which identified blasphemy and apostasy laws around the world as a central threat to religious freedom, Saperstein made the case that ending them would “bring about a more free and prosperous world.”

Here is an excerpt from the blog post:

[T]hese laws have a cascading effect that go beyond simply infringing on an individual’s freedom of conscience and expression. Laws can contribute to shaping societal norms, and the enforcement of blasphemy laws has a pernicious effect on the rule of law in many countries. In numerous instances, mere accusations of blasphemy have sparked vigilante mob violence and killings. The existence of blasphemy laws create the kind of environment that led to the death of a young Afghan woman named Farkhunda at the hands of an angry mob, a Pakistani Christian couple being burned alive in a brick kiln, and dozens of targeted killings of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan in recent years.

The right to speak one’s conscience about issues of faith, like the right to publicly change one’s religious faith, is fundamental to true religious liberty. Soul freedom, that most precious expression of our God-given liberty of conscience cannot co-exist with laws and traditions that would punish converts and those critical of religion (or worse yet, those merely accused of such).

Kudos to Rabbi Saperstein for continuing the effort to seek repeal of these damaging laws against steep resistance in many parts of the world.