It was an amendment to the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
Throughout the world, many minority religious groups are forced to live in fear because of their beliefs. Christians face persecution in Myanmar, Jews and Zoroastrians face harsh punishment in Iran, and it’s treasonous to believe in anything but the supreme leader in North Korea. Now, the group that scratches its head in disbelief while watching all of this insanity has been extended freedom from religious persecution: atheists.
Last Friday, President Obama signed a bill amending the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) to include non-theists, humanists, and atheists. The IRFA established a watchdog commission to report on abuses of religious freedom throughout the world. The bill now condemns the “the specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs.”
One place the watchdog group should take a look is America where 13 states have laws that prohibit atheists from holding public office. Globally, there are thirteen countries in which atheists can be denied the right to marry, have their citizenship revoked or be killed because of their beliefs. According to the the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), non-believers in Islamic countries face “the most severe — sometimes brutal — treatment at the hands of the state and adherents of the official religion.”
Obama’s decision to extend protection to atheists was applauded by the American Humanist Association, which spent four years lobbying for the change. “The American Humanist Association is proud to see this historic legislation signed into law and looks forward to working with the US Department of State to ensure religious liberty for non-theists and religious minorities abroad,” Roy Speckhardt, executive the director of the American Humanist Association said in a statement. “That non-theists are now recognized as a protected class is a significant step toward full acceptance and inclusion for non-religious individuals, who are still far too often stigmatized and persecuted around the world.”