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UN expert hails US move placing atheists on equal footing with faith groups


This news story was published on December 31, 2016.
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Religious leaders. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

NEW YORK – A United Nations human rights expert on freedom of religion or belief has welcomed the United States’ legislative amendments aimed at protecting non-believers and atheists.

“This is an important development, as believers, atheists and non-believers must all be equally protected,” said the newly appointed Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, in a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

“Many humanists and non-believers are still widely stigmatized and persecuted around the world.”

US President Barack Obama signed the amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act on Friday.

According to the news release, the promotion of atheist thought in any form is considered an act of terrorism in some countries. In others, any expression of non-belief or atheism is condemned as blasphemy or apostasy and receives harsh punishment, including the death sentence or attacks by vigilante groups.

“People often do not fully understand the scope of the international human right to religious freedom. It is not just about religions or beliefs, but it also covers the right to freedom of thought and conscience as provided by the Universal Declaration for Human Rights,” noted the Special Rapporteur.

The expert said the terms “religion” and “belief” should be understood in a broad sense to include theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.

“All of them have important roles to play in building pluralistic and inclusive societies for the 21st century that are peaceful and prosperous,” Mr. Shaheed stressed.

“In the face of increasing diversity, the freedom of religion or belief can be upheld only with the acceptance and full inclusion of atheists and non-believers,” he concluded.

Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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13 Responses to UN expert hails US move placing atheists on equal footing with faith groups

  1. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    mossad knows where the problem lies and lies and lies.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2016 at 5:57 pm

      An examination of the “alliance” between the US and Israel makes clear that the resulting benefits are all to one side. Israel receives from the United States billions of dollars in free military aid every year.
      In exchange for this economic and diplomatic largesse, which is totally unconditional and has been for decades, the US gets … nothing at all.

      • Avatar

        Anonymous Reply Report comment

        December 31, 2016 at 9:29 pm

        A large portion of the world’s technology originates in Israel.

        • Avatar

          Anonymous Reply Report comment

          January 1, 2017 at 10:15 am

          “Israel ranks thirteenth in the world in scientific activity and technology.”

          That your idea of a large portion?

      • Avatar

        Anonymous Reply Report comment

        January 1, 2017 at 9:50 am

        You say free and I say I have seen where the “BUY” the military hardware as well as letting us base our military there. We GAVE military equipment to the terrorist under Bummer/Clinton.

        • Avatar

          Anonymous Reply Report comment

          January 1, 2017 at 10:13 am

          September 2016
          “The United States agreed Wednesday to provide Israel a record $38 billion in new military aid”.

          Ya right, that really sounds like Israel is “buying”.
          Whatever you “seen” is incorrect.

  2. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Democrats are anti American filth !

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2016 at 9:20 am

      Not all Democrats are bad. I know several who are good, honest, hard working people who I respect. They are somewhat misguided from being lied to for years, but, as smart people are they are starting to figure that out.

  3. Allen

    Allen Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I don’t think that I have ever read about any discriminatory problems concerning believers, atheists, non-believers in the U.S. So now I guess our government has passed another amendment protecting people in other countries, that don’t like us, and which we can’t do anything about, except start another war.

    • Avatar

      Anonymous Reply Report comment

      December 31, 2016 at 10:09 am

      I don’t like in your face atheist more than the next honest God fearing American but they have the same first amendment right as the rest of us. This is also not only an act of symbolism. As the import of migrants with bigoted belief system continues, and as their missionary efforts in American inner cities and prisons continues to bear fruit, the demands for anti blasmephy laws are going to become louder, like they’ve already had in other Western countries that are ahead of us on the progressive path were on. The sooner and firmer we set down the foot on this one, the better.

      • Allen

        Allen Reply Report comment

        December 31, 2016 at 5:25 pm

        Good point, but I don’t think that it will ever work, it’s kind of like racism. How many years have we been fighting that. Can you give an example of how you think it might work.

  4. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2016 at 7:27 am

    Here is another one the Donald can get rid of.

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    December 31, 2016 at 7:10 am

    A step forward? From the U.N.? WOW.