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PASSED: Lankford’s International Call for Repeal of Blasphemy Laws

WASHINGTON, DC– Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today issued a statement after a resolution he introduced passed the Senate unanimously. Lankford along with Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a resolution last year to call for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws. According to a recent report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), 84 countries still have criminal blasphemy laws, many of which punish individuals who engage in expression deemed by the government to be blasphemous, heretical, apostate, defamatory of religion or insulting religion. Last week, the House of Representatives passed a similar resolution condemning blasphemy laws 386-3.

“The right to live your faith is one of the most basic human rights,” said Lankford. “We should not turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of religious minorities across the globe when we have the responsibility to advance our core value to have a faith, live a faith, change your faith, or have no faith at all. We are standing for and with those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Blasphemy laws affect Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Bahá’í, secularists, and many other groups. The resolution Lankford and Coons introduced urges foreign countries to repeal such laws, release individuals who have been prosecuted or imprisoned on charges of blasphemy and ensure the safety of those individuals and their families. 

USCIRF research has found that blasphemy charges are often based on false accusations, are used for sectarian or political purposes, and foster religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence. They have found that at least 41 countries enforced blasphemy laws between 2014-2018. Today’s resolution follows the announcement by the State Department to designate Countries of Particular Concern based on religious freedom violations. Lankford provided opening remarks at the USCIRF virtual hearing entitled, “Blasphemy Laws and the Violation of International Religious Freedom,” about findings from USCIRF’s new report on the enforcement of global blasphemy laws and the ways they promote violence against minority religious communities.