Subcommittees Examined the Use of Blasphemy, Heresy, and Apostasy Laws Around the World

Jan 29, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 29, 2020)—This week, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, held 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, to examine religious persecution around the world and the use of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws by governments to criminalize, imprison, and harass religious minorities and secularists. 

TAKEAWAYS

  • Over 70 countries around the world have blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws that criminalize freedom of expression, assembly, and, most fundamentally, freedom of religion.  These laws are used to persecute religious minorities of all denominations, and have particularly devastating effects on women and LGBT people.
  • Uighur activist Rushan Abbas testified that when she was in the U.S. and spoke out against Chinese oppression of the Uighur people, her sister in China was sent to an internment camp as retaliation.  She has not heard anything from her sister, who was ill before being taken, in 17 months.  Ms. Abbas noted that “being Uighur and being Muslim became illegal for our people,” that Uighur girls are forced into marriages with no-Uighur men and if they refuse, they are labeled Islamic extremists.
  • Congress should adopt Chairman Raskin and Rep. Mark Meadows’ House Resolution 512, which calls for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws.  The United States, the world’s first constitutional democracy, must stand against state-sponsored religious oppression around the world, regardless of the perpetrators. 

WITNESSES

Rachel Deitch on behalf of Rafida Bonya Ahmed
Policy Manager
The American Humanist Association

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 

VIDEOS

Click here to watch Subcommittee Chair Raskin’s opening statement.

Click here to watch Rep. Norton’s question line. 

Click here to watch Rep. Haaland’s question line. 

116th Congress