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Fighting Discrimination, Improving Respect For Religious Freedom

Tibetan monks pray during a candlelight protest march.

“Together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression."

Commenting on the adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council of Resolution 16/18, “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization Of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence, and Violence Against Persons Based on Religion or Belief,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “Together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression, and we are pursuing a new approach based on concrete steps to fight intolerance wherever it occurs.”

U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Suzan Johnson Cook noted that the document “secured an international consensus around an action-oriented approach to combat religious intolerance in line with respect for universal human rights, including religious freedom and freedom of expression:

“The resolution calls on states to take specific measures to combat religious intolerance. The focus of this implementation meeting is identifying best practices on prohibiting discrimination against individuals based on religion or belief, training government officials to avoid discrimination in their official duties, putting enforcement mechanisms in place and engaging with members of religious communities.”

There are those who would “distort various religious doctrines to justify intolerance, foment violence, or create strife that serves their narrow political purposes,” said Ambassador Cook. But faith must never be a crime and religion must never be used as an excuse to stifle freedom of expression.

“This resolution, representing the consensus of the international community, unites us in a common purpose. This purpose is to advance religious freedom, promote religious tolerance, and combat discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, consistent with universal human rights principles. This means a commitment to protect religious minorities and protect freedom of expression,” said Ambassador Cook.

“Each of us is born free to practice any religion, to change our religion, or to have none at all,” said Secretary of State Clinton. “No state may grant these freedoms as a privilege or take them away as a punishment if you believe, as I do and as our country does, that they are not rights bestowed by any government. They are rights endowed by our Creator within each of us. And therefore, we have a special obligation to protect these God-given rights.”