For the first time in more than a decade, the U.N. General Assembly on Monday condemned religious intolerance without urging states to outlaw “defamation of religions,” an appeal critics said opened the door to abusive “blasphemy” laws. The call on countries to prohibit “defamation” had been included in a non-binding resolution on combating religious intolerance passed annually by the 193-nation assembly.
The resolution approved on Monday declares that “discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights.” It also expressed concern about the incitement to religious hatred and the failure of some states “to combat this burgeoning trend.”
The General Assembly adopted the resolution by consensus without a vote. The versions passed in previous years had enjoyed increasingly less support in assembly votes due to Western and Latin American opposition to the “defamation” idea. The resolution barely received a majority of yes votes in 2010.
The New York-based rights group Human Rights First welcomed the resolution prior to its adoption, describing the new version as “a decisive break from the polarizing focus in the past on defamation of religions.”