U.S. Religious Freedom Commission Once Again Champions the Rights of Atheists

In December, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) posted on its website an encouraging call for the decriminalization of atheism in countries where nonbelievers suffer persecution, and I blogged about it here. Happily, the commission has one-upped itself.

This past Sunday, the Richmond Times ran an op-ed by USCIRF’s Katrina Lantos Swett and M. Zuhdi Jasser explicitly holding up the protection of atheists’ rights as a cause equal with the protection of other human rights. Citing the persecution and convictions of Alexander Aan in Indonesia and Alber Saber in Egypt, they write (emphasis mine):

Both of these cases underscore how states that persecute atheists violate not only freedom of religion or belief, but other precious freedoms, including freedom of expression. They remind us that, in the end, freedom is indivisible. There is no bright line that can be readily drawn in the sand to separate them.

The implication is clear. Those who stand unequivocally for other freedoms, including freedoms of speech and press, association and assembly, also must support religious freedom, just as those who stand for the right of believers to follow their conscience must do the same for nonbelievers.

Considering the lack of acknowledgement of atheists in President Obama‘s inaugural address (as opposed to his first), seeing this piece this morning is a breath of fresh air.

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