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The Declaration On Freedom of Thought and Expression

The following items are the core items from the Declaration On Freedom of Thought and Expression approved by the World Humanist Congress at the beginning of this week.

Are these values universal? Should they be?

world humanist congress 2014The right to freedom of thought and belief is one and the same right for all. The human right articulated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and elaborated elsewhere is and should be a single right, indivisible, protecting the dignity and freedom of all people by protecting their right to their personal beliefs, whatever those beliefs, religious or non-religious. As Article 7 of the Declaration says, ‘All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.’

No one anywhere should ever be forced into or out of a belief. Freedom of thought implies the right to develop, hold, examine and manifest our beliefs without coercion, and to express opinions and a worldview whether religious or non-religious, without fear of coercion. It includes the right to change our views or to reject beliefs previously held, or previously ascribed. Pressure to conform to ideologies of the state or to doctrines of religion is a tyranny. Laws that prescribe or criminalise beliefs contravene human dignity and must be abolished. Every citizen of every state has the right to demand the repeal of such laws, and all states should support those, wherever they are, who demand that their social freedoms and personal liberty be upheld.

The right to freedom of expression is global in its scope. The human right articulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to ‘seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. No parochial nationalism or state insecurity should prevent the global human community from fulfilling the promise of our new technologies, our mass media, our social media, and our personal access to transnational networks. States should invest to allow their citizens’ participation in this global conversation.

There is no right not to be offended, or not to hear contrary opinions. Respect for people’s freedom of belief does not imply respect for those beliefs. The expression of opposition to any beliefs, including in the form of satire, ridicule or condemnation in all media and forms is vital to critical discourse and any restraint that is exercised in this expression must be self-restraint alone. The best response to the expression of a view we disagree with is to reply to it. Violence and censorship are never legitimate responses. All laws that criminalise language on grounds of ‘blasphemy’ or of offence to beliefs and values impede human freedom and should be abolished.

States must not restrict thought and expression merely to protect the government from criticism. States that criminalise criticism of government policies or officials as treasonous, or as threats to security, are not “strong governments” championing the best interests of the public, but censorious bullies exercising tyranny in their own interests. States should ensure in the law of the land, in their education systems, and in the conduct of their national life generally, that freedom of thought and expression are actively promoted and pursued to the real benefit of every member of society.

Freedom of belief is absolute but the freedom to act on a belief is not. As responsible members of a community we accept that our freedom to act must sometimes be restricted, if and only if our actions would destroy the rights and freedoms of others. Freedom of belief cannot legitimise overriding the principles of non-discrimination and equality before the law. These balances can be hard to strike but with a focus on freedom and human dignity, we believe legislators and judiciaries can strike them in a progressive manner.”

One thought on “The Declaration On Freedom of Thought and Expression”

  1. Tom says:

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/08/quit-democratic-party-yesterday.html

    Why I Quit the Democratic Party Yesterday
    Eric Zuesse

    I draw the line at racist fascism, otherwise known as ‘nazism’ (lower-case ‘n,’ just as lower-case ‘f’ ‘fascism’ refers to any fascist party of any country, rather than to the Italian original, ‘Fascist Party’). (The German original nazi party was, of course the capital-’N’ ‘Nazi Party,’ the nazi party of Germany.) I left the Democratic Party yesterday, because I cannot support the first American President who ever installed anywhere in the world a nazi regime — it has never happened before, not even under a Republican President; and, until Obama, I had always assumed that if it ever would happen, it could come only under a Republican President, never under any Democratic one. But I was wrong — mortifyingly wrong — because Barack Obama did this in Ukraine (see here and here for the evidence); he is the first-ever U.S. President to install a nazi regime anywhere, and so I wrote to my Representative seeking Obama’s impeachment by the Democrats in Congress; and, yesterday, that person, a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, told me that, notwithstanding Barack Obama’s having unquestionably done this, this Democratic Representative will not introduce on the floor of the U.S. House (which is the only place where a bill of impeachment can be introduced) a bill of impeachment against this — what is the appropriate term for such a person, if not a — nazi U.S. President. (That’s nazi as an ideology, racist fascist, not as a party designation, which is merely a party’s name.) Simply because Obama calls himself a ‘Democrat,’ that Representative in the House will not introduce a bill to impeach him. There was no argument on the facts; the facts weren’t at issue here at all; it’s just that Obama calls himself a ‘Democrat.’ That’s all.

    [lots of documentation and call for impeachment of Obama, read the article if interested]

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