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March 28, 2007

’The Truth is Not a Defense’

Un Angela Wu, a friend and the International Director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, testified today before the United Nations at the fourth regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Speaking out against the trend of defamation of religion laws, Ms. Wu said, "These laws are passed under the guise of protecting small religious communities, but in fact they only help the dominant religious majority."

The press release also mentions:

Ms. Wu and The Becket Fund recently helped reverse the conviction of two Australian pastors who were threatened with jail time for violating an anti-vilification law (The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act) after reading from the Qur’an and comparing Islam and Christianity. The case is to be retried, after the Supreme Court of Victoria threw out an earlier conviction of the pastors in December, 2006.

The pastors were told that unlike in traditional defamation of persons suits, the “truth is not a defense” against the anti-vilification law. Ms. Wu told the Human Rights Council that defamation of religion laws are a perversion of what defamation laws are supposed to do, and force the state to police ideas. Pakistan, on behalf of the OIC, is currently proposing a resolution that would combat defamation of religions.

It is a frightening time indeed, when "the truth is not a defense." It is likely that this resolution will come to a vote. The resolution has been positioned as "a way to promote tolerance and harmonious living." However, as Ms. Wu has pointed out, these laws have the real effect of silencing any opposition to religious majorities:

"These laws are called ways to promote religious tolerance, but in practice they are just selective censorship. The OIC's draft resolution, which only discusses protecting Islam, does a terrible job hiding this fact," says Wu. "Religious defamation laws do not protect the truth like normal defamation laws do; they prevent those who seek the truth from finding it."

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