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U.S. activists lobby against U.N. defamation resolution

Associated Press Modified: November 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm •  Published: November 15, 2010

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious freedom advocates are urging members of the United Nations to vote against the latest proposal from Islamic countries to combat "defamation of religions."

For the last decade, the Organization of Islamic Conference has successfully sponsored similar resolutions as a way to address religious persecution. But U.S. religious liberty activists increasingly say the resolutions actually do more harm than good.

"The OIC-sponsored U.N. resolutions on this issue instead provide justification for governments to restrict religious freedom and free expression," the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a policy statement.

The draft OIC resolution calls defamation of religions "a serious affront to human dignity, leading to the illicit restriction of the freedom of religion of their adherents and incitement to religious hatred and violence."

The resolutions express the sentiments of the U.N. General Assembly but do not require specific action by member states. A committee vote is expected this month, followed by consideration and action by the General Assembly in December.

USCIRF, an independent and bipartisan commission, said support for the proposal is on the decline; last March, it squeaked past the U.N. Human Rights Council by just four votes.

"I am pleased to say that our efforts are paying off and more countries are voting against the 'defamations of religions' resolution each year," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., in a recent statement. He sent a letter signed by dozens of members of Congress to more than 150 heads of state urging them to oppose the latest resolution.

Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, said the intent of the resolution is cause for concern.

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