Religious freedom scholar Nina Shea reports that the United Nations Human Rights Council recently ended consideration of a resolution requiring states to ban “defamation of religion.” The Organization of the Islamic Conference decided not to push for a vote on the resolution, which had passed in each of the several years, when it became clear they didn’t have the votes to win this year.
This is a notable (and sadly rare) victory for freedom of speech and religion at the UN. In previous posts, Senior Conspirator Eugene Volokh and I have pointed out the threat that this resolution poses to individual freedom (see here, here, and here). The resolution is also a prime example of how repressive authoritarian regimes use international human rights law to try impose their despotic norms on the international community. For reasons John McGinnis and I explained in this article, the problem goes far beyond this particular resolution.
Unfortunately, this defeat may not be the end of the “defamation of religion” resolution. The OIC and its allies could try again in future years. The UN General Assembly adopted a similar resolution in November.
There is no easy solution to the challenge posed by this sort of international “human rights” initiative that seeks to undermine freedom rather than protect it. But the beginning of wisdom is to recognize the nature of the problem. We should also act to prevent the use of international human rights law influenced by dictatorships to override the domestic law of liberal democracies.