Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lofty words conceal intent to restrict religious freedom

Donald H. Argue and Leonard A. Leo, members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, have written an editorial in today's Christian Science Monitor on the highly touted UN General Assembly special session to advance interfaith dialogue going on this week.  The authors contend that the real aim of the 'dialogue' (initiated by Saudi King Abdullah) is to promote a global blasphemy law and not to promote mutual respect between religious communities or end abuses of religious freedom.  As the authors point out, King Abdullah "is quietly enlisting the leaders' support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties."

According to the editorial, published today:

"If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.

The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of "respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols ... therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred."

The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.

Such prohibitions have already been used in some countries to restrict discussion of individuals' freedom vis-à-vis the state, to prevent criticism of political figures or parties, to curb dissent from prevailing views and beliefs, and even to incite and to justify violence.

They undermine the standards codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the keystone of the United Nations, by granting greater rights to religions than to individuals, including those who choose to hold no faith – or who would seek to convert."

To read the rest of this editorial, click here.  Pray that world leaders will see past the lofty words and see this initiative for what it really is; a justification for restriction of religious freedom. 

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