By James Standish
The International Religious Liberty Association’s “Statement of Concern about Proposals Regarding Defamation of Religions” was distributed today at that the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards, in Geneva. The Ad Hoc Committee has wide, if somewhat ambiguous, authority to “prepare complementary international standards to strengthen and update international instruments against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in all their aspects.” Among the items it is considering, are provisions designed to create a global ban on speech that offends religious sensibilities.
Attorney Barry Bussey, executive director of NARLA and a member of the panel that drafted the IRLA’s statement of concern, notes that “while we find much that is said about religion to be offensive, we cannot accept efforts to ban speech about religion. Such a ban will silent minority opinions and prevent honest and open discussions about the pros and cons of religious beliefs.”
“The push by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to create a global ban on free speech on matters of religion is dangerous,” states James Standish, Deputy Secretary General of the IRLA who is in Geneva this week representing the IRLA position. “We have seen the devastating impact of national equivalents of the provision, particularly in Pakistan where blasphemy laws are used to settle personal vendettas and relied upon as a pretext marginalize the Christian community. Exporting this failed national model to the rest of the world would be very problematic. The IRLA is dedicated to prevent this.”
Blasphemy laws have a long history of abuse in a variety of cultures. Citizens have suffered injustice under these laws, prophets have been persecuted for violating them, and Jesus Christ – the Messiah to Christians, a prophet to Muslims – was executed in retaliation for making statements that offended the sensibilities of religious leaders of His day.
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Live from the United Nations General Assembly
By James Standish
Sitting in the United Nations General Assembly this morning, the words from a meeting yesterday with a leader in one of the world’s largest development organizations echoed in my ears:
“Adventists need to be involved at the U.N.—not because of what you’re going to get, but because of what you have to give!”
He went on to talk about the unique insights and capability of Adventists in healthcare, education and, yes, religious freedom.
Listening to President Obama speak about the new U.S. emphasis on addressing global issues in this unique global institution, it’s clear that we not only have something to offer. It’s up to us to use our voice as a rejuvenated United Nations tackles issues.
If there was any doubt that the side of good has a lot of work to do, consider this: Immediately following President Obama at the microphone was Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. And Gaddafi is not alone in his desire to use the United Nations to legitimize his blood-drenched regime.
We have a huge amount of work to do to stand up for good. Revitalizing our influence at the United Nations is a step. And we are dedicated to work tirelessly to ensure that those who attack religious freedom are met at every venue.
James Standish recently rejoined the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists as our representative to the United Nations. He wrote this post from New York, where he attended today’s United Nations General Assembly session.