Humanists UK questioned the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, about what action the United Nations would take to ensure that states do not use blasphemy laws as a way to express hostility towards people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) at the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today.
Humanists UK’s representative Tallulah Gordon told the UN, ‘In Poland, which is set to hold the next Ministerial on Religious Freedom this July, arrests and prosecutions for blasphemy are actively made. This includes the arrest in 2019 of activist Elzbieta Podlesna for displaying a poster of the Virgin Mary with a halo in the rainbow colours of the Pride flag. It is unclear how Poland can form part of an alliance that seeks to promote freedom of religion or belief while simultaneously suppressing this right through its own blasphemy laws. More generally, the Polish Government frequently discriminates against LGBT people, women, and other minorities, and this is often done in the name of religion.’
She continued, ‘We are also concerned by the [International Religious Freedom] Alliance’s repeated use of language that excludes the non-religious. This includes its use of the term “religious freedom”, rather than freedom of religion or belief. Any international partnership that seeks to promote freedom of religion or belief must acknowledge that this right applies equally to both the religious and non-religious.’
In her closing remarks, Ms Gordon asked the Special Rapporteur how he will ensure that the new Alliance’s work supports the UN’s aims to abolish blasphemy laws, including in its own member states, and if the Alliance will be fully inclusive of the non-religious. Mr Shaheed responded citing that his report strongly called for states to recognise the rights of LGBT people and the removal of religious justifications for discrimination.
Humanists UK is a founding member of the End Blasphemy Laws coalition and works to remove blasphemy laws worldwide.
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At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.