Working to promote freedom of conscience for every person, no matter who they are or where they live.

UN General Assembly Adopts Defamation of Religions Resolution But Support is Weakening

The 3rd Committee of the UN General Assembly has again adopted the Defamation of Religions resolution (A/C.3/65/L.46/Rev.1) as it has since 1999 however support is waning. Gone are the days when countries adopted the resolution without giving it a second thought. The change in opinion is clearly seen in the numbers. In 2005, 101 countries voted Yes supporting the resolution, 53 voted No, and 20 Abstained. This year the vote was 76 Yes, 64 No, and 42 Abstained. Even year over year there has been significant change. In 2009 the 3rd Committee voted 81 Yes, 55 No, and 43 Abstained.

“Clearly we are seeing numbers in the right direction,” noted Barry Bussey, Director of UN Relations for the IRLA. “This is encouraging. We are now only 13 votes away from defeating this problematic resolution. Last year it would have taken 27 votes! As the country delegations look in depth at this issue they recognize the challenges.”

The IRLA has remained vocal in its opposition against the Defamation of Religions concept. In 2009 the IRLA Board of Experts noted the following concern – they argued that if the concept were put into law it would in all likelihood:


  1. interfere with the core religious right of evaluating, comparing, and exchanging religious beliefs and practices.
  2. interfere with the freedom of speech and expression.
  3. be used by dominant groups to repress the rights of vulnerable individuals and groups.
  4. impair the rights of all religious groups by strengthening the power of the state to interfere in religious matters.
  5. suffer from vagueness and a lack of enforceable standards.


In this years' voting eight countries (Argentina, Bahamas, Fiji, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Solomon Islands, Chad, Dominica) changed their votes from Abstain or Yes to No. While countries (Barbados, Bhutan, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon) changed their votes from Yes to Abstain. Unfortunately there were three countries (Gambia, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe) that changed their No vote to a Yes.

“Our work continues,” Dr. John Graz, the Secretary-General of the IRLA, noted, “we must support the right to freedom of religion and expression. While only 13 votes now separate us from defeating this resolution it will not be easy. It will take a continued, persistent effort to share with others the dangers this resolution represents.”