Senators Lankford, Coons Call for Repeal of International Blasphemy Laws

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) today introduced a resolution to call for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws. A number of countries still have criminal blasphemy laws and punish individuals who engage in expression deemed by the government to be blasphemous, heretical, apostate, defamatory of religion or insulting religion. These laws affect Christians, Muslims, 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. 

“America has a right and a duty to share our core values with the international community, including the freedom to live out your faith, change your faith, or have no faith at all,” said Lankford. “Today, Senator Coons and I joined together to support religious freedom as a fundamental human right of all people and condemn blasphemy laws worldwide as being antithetical to that right.”

“Freedom of expression and religion are fundamental human rights that are the bedrock of any open society.  As a person of faith, I am proud to re-introduce this bipartisan resolution which aims to protect religious and secular minorities by calling for the repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws around the world.  These laws stifle free and open discourse and are often used to imprison activists, journalists, and other peaceful political dissidents. No one should be persecuted for practicing their specific faith or not practicing at all, and this resolution is a positive step toward defending individual liberties,” said Coons.

United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (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  70 countries had blasphemy laws as of 2018. Today’s resolution follows the announcement by the State Department to designate Countries of Particular Concern based on religious freedom violations.