WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jamie Raskin’s (MD-08) bipartisan House Resolution 512, calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws, passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 386-3. The Resolution also calls for the immediate release of religious prisoners of conscience worldwide. As more than 80 countries use blasphemy laws to persecute and imprison religious minorities and dissenters, the House asserted the essential importance of freedom of religion and liberty of conscience globally. Click here to watch Rep. Raskin's floor remarks ahead of the Resolution's passage.
“I’m gratified to see our bipartisan Resolution pass in the House,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin. “Authoritarian regimes use arbitrary blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws to imprison, torture, and kill religious minorities. Today the House called for an end to these egregious human rights violations worldwide. I’m gratified by this crucial victory, but our work continues to ensure that no one is imprisoned for his or her religious beliefs across the globe. I look forward to continuing this critical work with my House and Senate colleagues and defending freedom of religion, liberty of conscience and tolerance everywhere.”
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), more than one-third of countries maintain the use of blasphemy laws, with penalties including fines, imprisonment, forced labor and the death penalty.
Congressman Raskin introduced H. Res. 512 in July 2019, and it passed the House with 42 cosponsors. Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced Senate Resolution 458, the Senate version of Congressman Raskin’s Resolution.
As an Executive Committee Member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and partner of the Defending Freedoms Project, Congressman Raskin advocates for the release, reduced sentencing, and improved treatment of prisoners of conscience. He advocated on behalf of Abdul Shakoor, an 82-year-old Pakistani who was released on March 18, 2019 after being imprisoned for more than three years for his belief in the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith. Congressman Raskin is currently advocating for the release of Selahattin Demirtas, a Kurdish politician from Turkey who was unjustly imprisoned on November 4, 2016 during President Erdogan’s crackdown on political opposition.