[JURIST] The US Department of State (DOS) [official website] on Monday released its annual International Religious Freedom Report [materials] documenting threats to religious freedom throughout the world. The report documents current international threats to religious freedom—particularly laws that punish religious traditions and blasphemy laws that are often used to punish religious tolerance. The DOS also expressed concern about impunity for religious violence and growing antisemitic sentiments. The report identified China, North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia as “chronic violators of religious freedom.” In a statement [text] about the report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official website] said she hoped the report would encourage greater religious freedoms. She said religious freedom is a key human rights issue:
People can believe that they and only those like them possess the one and only truth. That’s their right. Though they do not have the right to harm those they think harbor incorrect views. But their societies pay a cost when they choose to look at others with hate or disgust. Human rights become real not only in interactions between citizens and their governments, but also in those millions of ordinary moments among neighbors and classmates, coworkers, even strangers on the street. Every time people choose tolerance and respect over fear and animosity, they strengthen human rights for themselves as well as everyone else, because they affirm their shared humanity.
The DOS also expressed concern about countries facing political reorganization such as Egypt, calling on their developing governments to ensure religious freedom.
Governments continue to balance religious freedom with other national concerns. Last month, a German court ruled [JURIST report] that circumcising young boys based on religious traditions is prohibited even if the parents consent to the procedure. In March, a UN expert urged states to refrain from using official state religions [JURIST report] as a means to enhance their national identity politics, “as this may have detrimental effects for the situation of individuals from minority communities.” Last August Hungarian churches challenged a law [JURIST report] that officially recognized only 14 of the 358 religious groups in the country.