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US leaders collect to debate rights of nonreligious folks the world over

(RNS) — Spiritual freedom leaders — together with a United States ambassador, commissioner and elected consultant — gathered in Washington, D.C., on Thursday (Dec. 8) to make clear the rights of nonreligious folks in nations throughout the globe.

The convening was a part of the launch of the “Freedom of Thought Report” by Humanists Worldwide, an annual have a look at how non-religious people — comprising atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers — are handled due to their lack of faith or absence of perception in a god.

It was hosted by American Atheists, a civil rights group that works to realize spiritual equality for all People. Amongst these in attendance have been U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, a congressman for a lot of California’s Bay Space; U.S. Ambassador-at-Massive Rashad Hussain with the Workplace of Worldwide Spiritual Freedom; and Frederick Davie with america Fee on Worldwide Spiritual Freedom.

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To Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, it was significant that the Biden-Harris Administration, together with different U.S. leaders and the worldwide human rights neighborhood “are recognizing our rights are simply as worthy of safety as every other spiritual or perception teams.”

Emma Wadsworth-Jones, a coordinator for Humanists Worldwide who introduced the report, underscored that nonreligious persons are a definite class inside freedom of faith or perception “who’ve common human rights,” which embody the proper to freedom of faith and perception and to freedom of thought and expression.

“Discrimination in opposition to this neighborhood is pervasive,” she stated.

Wadsworth-Jones underscored that “true secularism is inclusive of all,” including that “the place secularism is upheld … rights are typically higher revered for all.”

Emma Wadsworth-Jones presents Humanists Worldwide’s “Freedom of Thought Report,” Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. Picture courtesy of American Atheists

The report — which is in its eleventh yr — charges all nations and highlights “Key Nations,” the place the group up to date the rankings in 2022, and a “Watch Checklist,” which incorporates nations that Humanists Worldwide continues to observe regardless of their ranking holding regular.

Humanists Worldwide creates rankings by specializing in international human rights agreements “that the majority have an effect on nonreligious folks,” corresponding to the proper to freedom of thought, conscience, faith or perception and the proper to freedom of expression.

Scores consider apostasy legal guidelines that make it unlawful to transform to a faith or declare oneself as nonreligious, in addition to blasphemy legal guidelines that outlaw criticism of protected religions and non secular figures and establishments, in line with the report.

The group additionally considers household legal guidelines that exclude atheists from getting married in addition to different legal guidelines requiring residents to establish their faith on state ID playing cards, forbidding residents from figuring out as atheist or nonreligious. 

“Discrimination in opposition to the non-religious is usually brought on, not by a want to harm atheists, however by the need to assist a number of religions,” in line with the report.

The report discovered that solely 4% of the worldwide inhabitants “dwell in societies which are really secular, the place there’s a clear separation of spiritual and political authorities, that don’t discriminate in opposition to any faith or perception neighborhood.”

Nations like Afghanistan and Iran, that are on the group’s “Watch Checklist,” have been discovered to have grave violations and poor rankings because of state laws being largely or completely derived from spiritual regulation or by spiritual authorities. 

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In Iran, the nation’s morality police have triggered months of protests after the loss of life of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. The report famous that Iran’s authorities periodically jails and executes dozens of people on prices of “enmity in opposition to God” (moharebeh).

“Though this crime is framed as a spiritual offense and could also be used in opposition to humanists and different spiritual dissenters, it’s most frequently used as a punishment for political acts that problem the regime (on the idea that to oppose the theocratic regime is to oppose Allah),” the report reads.

Simply as Humanists Worldwide launched the report, the Heart for Human Rights announced on Thursday that 23-year-old Mohsen Shekari was hung beneath the cost of “moharebeh,” after he was accused of wounding a paramilitary officer throughout a protest.

In Pakistan, the nation’s authorized setting is “notably repressive,” Wadsworth-Jones stated, with “oppressive blasphemy legal guidelines, impunity for violence on spiritual grounds and systematic spiritual discrimination.” 

When taking a look at Barbados, whereas its structure declares the state to be secular, “symbolic trappings of state faith stay,” Wadsworth-Jones stated. The preamble to its structure, for instance, states that the folks of Barbados “acknowledge the supremacy of God,” she stated.

In France, the place secularism is a basic precept of the state, Wadsworth-Jones famous that strict enforcement of such ideas has been criticized “for resulting in discrimination in opposition to faith or perception minorities by limiting their freedom of worship.” Discrimination in opposition to Muslims in France has elevated in recent times, significantly after the 2015 terrorist assaults and through COVID-19, she stated.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Rashad Hussein speaks at a meeting about the rights of nonreligious people, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. Photo courtesy of American Atheists

U.S. Ambassador-at-Massive Rashad Hussain speaks at a gathering concerning the rights of nonreligious folks, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, in Washington. Picture courtesy of American Atheists

The US acquired a comparatively good ranking because of “sturdy constitutional protections in favor of freedom of thought, faith or perception.”

It stays on the “Watch Checklist” as a result of, in line with the report, these freedoms combined with Christian conservatism and a rich Christian proper foyer, “signifies that secular, humanist and civil liberties teams discover themselves dealing with a battle to protect the inherent secularism of the structure.”

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This menace to secularism “gained a larger foothold” beneath the presidency and affect of Donald Trump, ensuing within the Supreme Courtroom determination to overturn Roe and the federal proper to an abortion, in line with the report.

“Extremism and faith proceed to pose a extreme menace to our democracy,” stated Huffman, who identifies as a humanist, including that white Christian nationalist teams “proceed to export their harmful, violent ideology and to search out extra traction within the mainstream.”

“My colleagues are feeling extra assured in calling out the specter of white Christian nationalism straight,” he stated.

Huffman, who helped set up the Congressional Freethought Caucus, highlighted a bipartisan decision handed by the Home of Representatives final yr that condemns “heresy, blasphemy and apostasy legal guidelines.”

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He additionally famous laws he launched that might require well being care sharing ministries to reveal a variety of knowledge to federal companies.

Hussain, with the Workplace of Worldwide Spiritual Freedom, spoke about Nigerian humanist and atheist Mubarak Bala, who was sentenced to greater than 20 years in jail “following accusations he had dedicated blasphemy in opposition to Islam and Muslims,” he stated.

Bala was arrested in 2020 and formally charged in 2021 “for inflicting a public disturbance by posting ‘blasphemous’ content material.”

Early this month, the USCIRF called out the U.S. Division of State after it failed to incorporate Nigeria or India in its newest designations of “Nations of Explicit Concern.”

“Governments don’t solely weaponize blasphemy legal guidelines in opposition to humanists and atheists, they use them in opposition to Christians, Muslims and lots of extra,” Hussain stated. 

The report highlighted that “any rights violations and discrimination are vital, even when solely small numbers of persons are affected,” including that “the non-religious will not be a small group.”

It cited findings from the 2012 WIN-Gallup Worldwide Affiliation exhibiting that atheism and the non-religious inhabitants have grown quickly, with faith dropping by 9 proportion factors and atheism rising by 3 proportion factors between 2005 and 2012.

This story has been up to date.

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