“The Religious Freedom Resolution helps to give a voice to religious minorities by stating that the United States will be vigilant in working toward repealing existing blasphemy laws internationally,” Inhofe was quoted as saying in the statement issued on Thursday.
The release highlighted two cases of Christians sentenced to death on the basis of their religious belief. A Sudanese woman was hung for “allegedly committing apostasy from Islam,” and a Pakistani couple “locked in a brick kiln to burn to death while a crowd of 12,000 watched,” the statement said.
“Today in the Middle East, we are witnessing the systematic purging of Christians, and this resolution is a call for action to stand shoulder to shoulder with them,” Portman said.
The resolution itself describes several cases, in addition to the ones in Pakistan and Sudan, of Muslim regimes or groups persecuting religious minorities in Iran, Iraq, Indonesia and Nigeria. It also provides case studies in non-Muslim countries such as China, India and North Korea.
Despite urging the US government “in the strongest terms,” to lead the international effort to rescind such laws, Resolution 69 does not contain any language about how exactly the United States would go about heading this initiative.
According to a 2014 US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) study, Pakistan’s blasphemy law is used at a level incomparable to any other country, with 14 individuals on death row and 19 serving life sentences. Pakistan’s Federal Shariat Court recently ruled that the death penalty should be the only penalty for blasphemy, the USCIRF said.
The USCIRF report listed Bangladesh, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkey as countries with strict blasphemy laws that are strongly enforced. In recent years, an increasing number of countries have been, with more regularity and severity, enforcing blasphemy decrees which violate international human rights laws, according to the USCIRF.