Nineteen is the Number to Watch as UN Committee Prepares to Vote on Religious ‘Defamation’

By Patrick Goodenough|CNSNews

“Some people propose that to protect religious freedom, we must ban speech that is critical or offensive,” she said while releasing the State Department’s annual report on international religions freedom. “We do not agree. The United States joins in all nations coming together to condemn hateful speech. But we do not support the banning of that speech.”

As a U.N. General Assembly committee prepares to vote on a controversial religious “defamation” resolution – possibly as early as Friday – critics will be keen to see how successful their lobbying against the Islamic-led initiative has been.

Nineteen will be the number to better. That was the margin of difference between countries voting for and against the resolution in 2009. The result then was 80-61 in favor of the resolution, with 42 abstentions.

Any margin smaller than 19 this year will be welcome by opponents, although an outright defeat of the measure is the ultimate goal.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)-sponsored text has passed at the General Assembly every year since 2005 (and at the U.N.’s human rights body in Geneva every year since 1999.)

The past three years have seen waning support, however: The 2006 and 2007 resolutions passed by a margin of 57 votes, but that dropped to 33 in 2008 and then to 19 last year. Anything below that number this year will indicate that the opposition – from a wide range of interests including Western governments, religious freedom and free speech advocacy groups – is continuing to make an impact.

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