Point of Inquiry is taking a week off and filling in with a classic episode from March 27, 2009. After Saudi Arabia recently tried to silence the Center For Inquiry’s UN representative, Josephine Macintosh, as she delivered a statement critical of their repeated assaults on freedom of religion, belief and expression, we felt that our Austin Dacey episode was fitting to fill in during our week off.
Austin Dacey serves as a representative to the United Nations for CFI, and is also on the editorial staff of Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry magazines. His writings have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times and USA Today. His new book is The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life.
In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Austin Dacey details his trip to Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of the Center for Inquiry’s UN mission. He describes the UN lobbying efforts of the Center and its response to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s resolution “Combatting the Defamation of Religions.” He explains that despite legitimate concerns about stereotyping Muslims or racial profiling, this resolution equates any criticism or satire of religious beliefs with bigotry. He contrasts Europe’s position on free speech with the United States’ and how it is used by Islamic countries to justify their blasphemy laws, which often carry mandatory sentences of death or life in prison. He talks about how the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the United Nations aims to build into international human rights such legal standards that actually outlaw offensive speech against religions. And he argues that what should be protected under international human rights laws are individuals, and not ideas — that persons should be protected from harm and discrimination, as opposed to ideologies being protected from being criticized or satirized.