An Atheist civil rights group today expressed concern that a proposed U.N. Resolution banning "defamation" of religion threatens civil liberties and gives religious groups "special rights" at the expense of free speech and intellectual inquiry.
The proposed measure is backed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and encourages member states of the UN to enforce measures prohibiting "any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence."
Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists described the proposal as "overly broad and a clear threat to anyone who questions religion or is critical of religion."
"Publications and books that raise doubts concerning God and religion could easily be censored, along with movies, art and theater if a believer is 'offended' by the content," said Buckner. He cited the publication of Salman Rush die's novel "The Satanic Verses" and the more recent cartoons in the Danish press that contained unflattering depictions of Islam and its prophet Mohammed.
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"What happens if a Christian is 'offended' by a copy of the Koran, or a Muslim objects to a book by Atheist Richard Dawkins," Buckner continued. "This resolution would result in widespread government surveillance and censorship wherever opinions about religion are expressed."
Edwin Kagin, National Legal Director for American Atheists, said that the proposed measure "could result in a collision between the UN and the Bill of Rights."
"This proposal creates 'special rights' for organized religion at the expense of the First Amendment," Kagin added. "It immunizes religion from any criticism or questioning. That is something our country was established to prevent."
The measure is expected to reach the floor of the UN General Assembly later this month. The U.S. Department of State has already spoken out against the proposal, as have a number of European governments.