Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Speech?

PRINCETON – Last month, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution condemning “defamation of religion” as a human rights violation. According to the text of the resolution, “Defamation of religion is a serious affront to human dignity” that leads to “a restriction on the freedom of [religions’] adherents.”

The resolution was originally proposed by the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and was put to the Human Rights Council by Pakistan. It supports that it was aimed at such things as the derogatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammad published in a Danish newspaper three years ago.

Germany opposed the resolution. Speaking on behalf of the European Union, a German spokesperson rejected the concept of “defamation of religion” as not valid in a human rights context, because human rights belonged to individuals, not to institutions or religions.

Many non-government organizations, both secular and religious, also opposed the resolution. Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said that that body saw the resolution as weakening “the rights of individuals to express their views.”