U.S. sides with death penalty for blasphemy


The United States recently disgraced itself at the United Nations.

Inconceivably, the United States on Sept. 29 voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that denounced the imposition of the death penalty for freethought and consenting adult sexual relations.

The resolution, entitled “The question of the death penalty,” was strong in “condemning the imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations.” It also faulted a number of other aspects of the death penalty, including its use against the mentally disabled and against children. 

What makes the vote so unfathomable is that in the United States, of course, the First Amendment protects “apostasy” and “blasphemy” (and adultery etc. are not crimes). Whatever your views on capital punishment, we can agree that imposing it for crimes that are not actually crimes — for people leaving or criticizing religion or for following their heart when it tells them to love another consenting adult — is not justice, but judicial murder.

In its U.N. vote, the United States stood against free speech, the free exercise of religion and basic human rights and decency. Rather than defending the Enlightenment values enshrined in our Constitution, the Trump administration chose to stand with Iraq, China, Saudi Arabia and nine other countries to vote against freedom, progress and humanity. 

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert attempted to explain the rationale for the barbaric vote:

We voted against that resolution because of broader concerns with the resolution’s approach in condemning the death penalty in all circumstances, and it called for the abolition of the death penalty altogether. We had hoped for a balanced and inclusive resolution that would better reflect the positions of states that continue to apply the death penalty lawfully, as the United States does. The United States unequivocally condemns the application of the death penalty for conduct such as homosexuality, blasphemy, adultery and apostasy. We do not consider such conduct appropriate for criminalization.

The United States is the only Western nation with a death penalty, whose roots in the West to a large extent lie in the bible. And more than 130 nations have abolished capital punishment worldwide. Yet the U.N. resolution is more than deferential to the outlier position of the United States. It mentions abolition as a goal but does not force abolition on any state and even makes recommendations for states that choose to keep the death penalty, including: “urge[ing] states that have not yet abolished the death penalty to ensure that it is not imposed as a sanction for specific forms of conduct such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations.”

Nauert’s words are in keeping with American values and the separation of state and church that FFRF fights for, but the actions of the United States in its vote weren’t. Blasphemy, apostasy and simply being gay are enough to get victims murdered in many countries.

As FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor points out, “Blasphemy is a victimless crime, but blasphemy laws create many innocent victims.”

The United States stood with the theocrats, the zealots and the mob in its U.N. vote. The Trump administration has embarrassed our country.

Photo by Bluefish via Shutterstock

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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