(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) released the following statement recognizing Religious Freedom Day on Tuesday, January 16, 2018:

“On Religious Freedom Day, let’s pause to appreciate the essential liberties of religion, speech and conscience promised to all Americans. The First Amendment protects our rights to worship freely, to take whatever position we want on matters of faith and to speak openly without fear of punishment, discrimination and violence. As the world’s first constitutional democracy, we must not only zealously guard these freedoms at home but work to protect them abroad. That is part of our historical assignment as Americans.”

“Despotic, theocratic and authoritarian governments across the world have laws that squelch religious freedom and liberty of conscience: laws criminalizing ‘blasphemy,’ ‘heresy,’ ‘apostasy,’ ‘witchcraft,’ ‘sorcery,’ and all kinds of other imaginary religious offenses which were wiped from the books of American law centuries ago. There are people rotting in prison today because they have been framed and convicted for blasphemy or apostasy in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and dozens of other countries which use the law to oppress and harass people because of their religious faith and their religious worship.”

“In 2017, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released its annual report designating sixteen nations as “countries of particular concern” due to their severe suppression of religious freedom. The examples of religious persecution are chilling:

  • In Burma, a predominantly Buddhist nation, the Rohingya Muslim people have been subject to what the U.N. high commissioner for human rights has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
  • In Iran, the Baha’i community is treated by the government as a band of heretics and, as of February 2017, at least 90 Baha’i were held in prison solely for their religious identity and beliefs.
  • In Russia, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned by the government as an extremist group and their properties have been seized and ordered liquidated by the government.
  • In India, anti-cow slaughter laws and official discrimination have led to vigilante mob violence against law-abiding Muslim dairy farmers, including Pehlu Khan, who was savagely beaten to death by a mob of 200 people on April 1, 2017. The police failed to investigate the attack and the government has remained silent.

“I denounce a new reign of religious terror across the world. The freedoms to choose your religion or no religion at all and to worship and think freely are fundamental and non-negotiable. There can be no real ‘religious freedom’ for people if they are too afraid to go to church, to synagogue or to the mosque.”

“This is why I introduced a bipartisan resolution (H.Res. 349), calling for the release of all people imprisoned for their religious beliefs and also for the global repeal of all blasphemy, apostasy, heresy and sorcery laws on Earth. I urge my colleagues in Congress to join me in calling for the end to religious persecution across the globe by cosponsoring this resolution. Thomas Paine said America was a nation conceived as a haven of refuge for people fleeing from religious and political persecution from all over the world. Let us remember that is the promise of America. And let us work to spread the practice of religious freedom and tolerance everywhere.”

Congressman Jamie Raskin represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Montgomery, Frederick, and Carroll counties. He is the Vice Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, a Senior Democratic Whip, and Freshman Representative to the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee. He also serves on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the Committee on House Administration.