Oversight and Foreign Affairs Subcommittees to Examine Global Religious Persecution

Jan 27, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 27, 2020)—On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will hold a joint hearing with Rep. Karen Bass, Chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, examining rising levels of global religious persecution, with particular focus on the use of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws by governments to criminalize, imprison, and harass religious minorities and secularists.

WHERE: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building 

WHEN: Tuesday, January 28, 2020

TIME: 2:00 p.m. EST

The hearing will be broadcast here


Despite international consensus that the persecution of religious minorities and nontheists should not only be condemned, but outlawed, many governments around the world persist in violating the basic freedoms and human rights of millions of people.

In addition to the internment of Uighurs in China and the systematic murder of Rohingya in Burma, many governments around the world have blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws on the books and have imprisoned or executed people for practicing a different religion or no religion at all.


  • State-sponsored religious persecution threatens religious freedom, free speech, and freedom of expression around the world.  Christians, Muslims and others have been targeted.
  • According to a November 2018 report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “[r]oughly one-third of the world’s countries maintain blasphemy laws today.”  In 2018 there were 71 countries with blasphemy laws.  Many do not enforce them, but among those that do, punishments are severe.  Of states with a blasphemy law, 86% impose a prison penalty, and some include lashings, forced labor, and death among the permissible punishments. 
  • The President has delegated to the State Department the power to identify countries that violate principles of religious freedom and levy sanctions for those violations, but the State Department does not sufficiently exercise this authority. 
  • Congress should adopt the bipartisan, bicameral resolution, House Resolution 512, “calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws.”  The resolution was introduced by Rep. Raskin and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition of more than 20 Members, including members of both Subcommittees: original cosponsor Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11), and Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Deb Haaland (NM-1), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), James Sensenbrenner (WI-5), and Ron Wright (TX-6). 


Rafida Bonya Ahmed
Humanist Activist and Author 

Francisco Bencosme
Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager
Amnesty International 

Rushan Abbas     
Executive Director
Campaign for Uyghurs 

Jeremy Barker
Senior Program Officer and Director for Middle East Action Team
Religious Freedom Institute 


116th Congress