The United Nations General Assembly may soon vote — not for the first time — in favor of a resolution opposing the “defamation of religions.” The idea, which may sound appealing at first blush, is particularly championed by Islamic countries, which would like to go even further and have the condemnation enshrined in international law.

But a new report by Freedom House, a Washington-based human rights organization, demonstrates how such policies have too often been used by countries to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of religion, leading to serious human rights abuses.

Freedom House examined laws against blasphemy and religious insults in Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Poland. Some were more aggressive in enforcing the laws than others, and penalties varied from fines to imprisonment to death sentences. But in every nation it studied, Freedom House found violations of international human rights norms.

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