Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama administration strongly against 'defamation of religions' legislation

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke forcefully against international efforts to adopt policies outlawing the defamation of religions while presenting the Obama administration's first report on global religious freedom.

The State Department issued its annual assessment of the conditions for religious expression in 198 countries, the first such report since President Obama took office in January. The report, issued Oct. 26, demonstrates there have been both positive and negative trends in the last year, a State Department official told reporters.

Clinton, in introducing the report, took the opportunity to express her disapproval of the defamation of religions movement. Led by the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the effort promotes the condemnation of messages that defame religions and can lead to violence.

"[S]ome 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," Clinton said.

"The United States will always seek to counter negative stereotypes of individuals based on their religion and will stand against discrimination and persecution. But an individual's ability to practice his or her religion has no bearing on others' freedom of speech," Clinton told reporters. "The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions. These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse."

The American experience shows "the best antidote to intolerance is not the defamation of religions approach of banning and punishing offensive speech but, rather, a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to minority religious groups and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression," Clinton said.

The OIC may introduce a defamation of religions resolution at the United Nations any day, according to an Oct. 28 report by the American Center for Law and Justice. Such a resolution "stifles the religious freedoms of millions of Christians around the world," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said. It could encourage U.N. members to enact laws barring defamation of religions, empowering Islamic states that seek to ban the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus, he said.

The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted in March a defamation of religions resolution with a plurality, not a majority, of its 47 members in support. The non-binding resolution, which cited only Islam as a specific target, urges countries to protect "against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general." MORE HERE

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