"The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions."
The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a non-binding resolution condemning what it calls "the defamation of religion."
The resolution was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which has spearheaded successful drives to adopt similar resolutions at the U.N. for the past 11 years.
The resolution expressed deep concern with "the negative projection of certain religions in the media," and stressed the need "to effectively combat defamation of all religions and incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular."
The resolution passed by the slimmest margin in the history of the resolution, with 20 members of the Human Rights Council voting for the measure, 17 opposing, and 8 abstaining. Six countries which abstained last year voted no this year. The United States opposed the resolution, despite its laudable stated goals, on the grounds that it undermines freedom of expression and endangers the rights of religious minorities and dissidents.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that any effort that could lead to the criminalization of the defamation of religion is "a false solution, that exchanges one wrong for another:"
"The United States will always seek to counter negative stereotypes of individuals based on their religion and will stand against discrimination and persecution. But an individual's ability to practice his or her religion has no bearing on others' freedom of speech. The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions. These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse."
"We are convinced," said Secretary Clinton, "that the best antidote to intolerance is not the defamation of religion's approach of banning and punishing offensive speech, but rather, a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to minority religious groups, and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression."