For the past several years, the United Nations Human Rights
Council and General Assembly have adopted resolutions recognizing
and promoting the concept of "defamation of religions." Proponents
seek to establish an international ban on any speech that would
insult, criticize, offend, or disparage any person's religion.
Specifically, the Organization of the Islamic Conference has
suggested that national legislatures pass laws to ensure
protection against "defamation of religions."
Such a ban, however, could not withstand legal scrutiny in the
United States. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
protects free speech and expression, even when speech is
offensive or insulting. Moreover, a religious "speech code" would
disrupt the assimilation of religious minorities that has occurred
throughout U.S. history and could breed resentment rather than
understanding among America's religious communities.
The U.S. government has spoken out strongly against the
"defamation of religions" effort at the United Nations. The next
U.S. Administration should oppose the further promulgation of
"defamation of religions" at the U.N. and must resist any attempt
to legitimize the concept within the United States. Given the
penchant of some federal judges-including justices on the U.S.
Supreme Court-to rely on the decisions and opinions of
international courts and organizations, the "defamation of
religions" effort at the United Nations must be confronted.
The "Defamation of Religions" Effort
at the U.N.
In 1999, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a
resolution titled "Defamation of Religions" that expressed concern
over the "negative stereotyping of religions" and "that Islam is
frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations
and with terrorism." In its most recent resolution passed
in March 2008, the Human Rights Council (which replaced the
Commission on Human Rights in 2006) urged all U.N. member states
"to provide, within their respective legal and constitutional
systems, adequate protection against acts of hatred,
discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from the
defamation of any religion" and stated that while "everyone
has the right to freedom of expression…the exercise of this
right carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and may
therefore be subject to certain restrictions…."
In short, the resolution maintains that while everyone has a right
to free speech, that right does not permit the "defaming" of Islam
or any other religious denomination.
The U.N. General Assembly, of which all the nations of the world
are members, has passed a "defamation of religions" resolution
in each of its last three sessions from 2005 to 2007. The text of
these resolutions is similar to that of the resolutions passed by
the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council from
1999 to the present. The votes on the General Assembly resolutions
split along the same general lines as the votes on the
resolutions adopted by the Commission and the
Council-with the Islamic nations and the developing world
voting in favor, and Western democracies, including the United
States, voting against.
The alleged need for international protection against
"defamation of religions" was explained in a recent report
submitted to the Human Rights Council by the Secretary General
of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC):
The Muslim Ummah has noticed with utmost concern the continued
attacks by a section of marginal groups and individuals in the West
on the most sacred symbols of Islam including the Holy Quran and
Prophet Muhammad in an offensive and denigrating manner, the most
recent being the reprints of the blasphemous cartoons by 17 Danish
newspapers on February 13, 2008 and the release of the film Fitna
by a Dutch Parliamentarian on March 27, 2008.…
The instances quoted or referred to in this report corroborate
that marginal western groups and individuals, motivated by hatred
and intolerance against Muslims and Islam remain unabated in acts
of provocation and incitement of religious intolerance by misuse or
abuse of the right to freedom of expression. The need to address
this issue through adoption of an adequate international
instrument has been underscored in the Report.
In addition to the supposed need for an "adequate
international instrument" (presumably an international convention
or treaty) to prohibit "defamation of religions," the OIC
report also calls for the enactment of legislation by national
legislative assemblies to prohibit by law the "defamation of
religions." In short, it is clear that one goal
of the OIC is for national legislatures-including, presumably,
the U.S. Congress-to enact legislation prohibiting the criticism of
any religion, especially Islam, its prophet, and its
The U.S. has been highly critical in its opposition to
"defamation of religions" resolutions at both the Human Rights
Council and the General Assembly. Protestations by
Congress and the executive branch of the U.S. government,
however, may not be sufficient to stop the recognition of
"defamation of religions" in the U.S. In recent years, certain
justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have relied on the judgment of
foreign organizations in reaching their decisions. Justice
John Paul Stevens, writing for a majority of the Court in Atkins
v. Virginia, a death penalty case decided in 2002, was
apparently swayed by the beliefs of "the world community" regarding
the death penalty and aligned himself with that "community" rather
than respecting the opinion of a Virginia jury. In writing the
majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 case involving
homosexual sodomy, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited an opinion of
the European Court of Human Rights as well as a law passed by the
British Parliament to overturn a ruling made by the Supreme
Court fewer than 20 years before. It, therefore, stands
to reason that Americans should be wary of the steady adoption of
"defamation of religions" resolutions at the U.N. as well as the
enforcement of such laws throughout the Islamic world, given the
opinions of some Supreme Court justices.
Fortunately, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would
prohibit the enactment or enforcement of any legislation
prohibiting "defamation of religions" in the U.S. and should
militate against recognition of the concept by the Supreme Court,
regardless of the proclivities of some of its members noted
Incompatible with the U.S.
The First Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no
law…abridging the freedom of speech." The "hallmark" of the
First Amendment "is to allow 'free trade in ideas'-even ideas that
the overwhelming majority of people might find distasteful or
discomforting." Moreover, "[i]f there is a bedrock
principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government
may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society
finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." With some
narrow exceptions, such as obscene materials and
libel, offensive speech and expression is
protected by the Constitution.
Inoffensive speech and unobjectionable expressive conduct
usually require no protection to begin with, since the government
has little reason to censor such speech. Criticism of powerful
people (such as religious figures or public officials) and
institutions (such as organized religion), however, is the
very type of speech that requires protection, especially if
that criticism is controversial or offensive.
Blasphemy, sacrilegious statements, and any other speech or
expression that insults or denigrates organized religion is, for
better or worse, protected by the First Amendment.
Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson. In 1950, the State
of New York censored an Italian film by denying its distributor a
license for commercial exhibition. The film in question, titled
The Miracle, told the fictional story of a deranged young
woman who, while tending a herd of goats, misunderstood a
passing stranger to be Saint Joseph. "Saint Joseph" then plied the
girl with wine and impregnated her.
The Motion Picture Division of New York State's department of
education initially granted a license that allowed the viewing of
the film, but after a public outcry the New York City
Commissioner of Licenses declared the film "officially and
personally blasphemous" and ordered that the license be
withdrawn. The New York State Board of Regents ultimately
decided that the license should be withdrawn since in its opinion
the film was "sacrilegious" pursuant to a New York statute
that allowed exhibition licenses to be withheld if a movie is
deemed to be "obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman,
sacrilegious, or is of such a character that its exhibition would
tend to corrupt morals or incite to crime…" The Board
of Regents ordered the Commissioner of Education to rescind
the exhibition license for The Miracle, which he did.
The case was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,
which ruled against the Board of Regents and the Commissioner,
holding that "under the First and Fourteenth Amendments a state may
not ban a film on the basis of a censor's conclusion that it is
'sacrilegious'" and that "such a previous restraint is a form of
infringement upon freedom of expression to be especially
In so holding, the Court highlighted the dangers inherent to
censoring expressive speech based on allegations that it ridicules
a religious denomination:
In seeking to apply the broad and all-inclusive definition
of "sacrilegious" given by the New York courts, the censor is set
adrift upon a boundless sea amid a myriad of conflicting
currents of religious views, with no charts but those provided by
the most vocal and powerful orthodoxies. …
[F]rom the standpoint of freedom of speech and the press, it is
enough to point out that the state has no legitimate interest in
protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them
which is sufficient to justify prior restraints upon the expression
of those views. It is not the business of government in our
nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular
religious doctrine, whether they appear in publications,
speeches, or motion pictures. (Emphasis
The "defamation of religions" concept, if instituted as
U.S. law, would clearly run afoul of the Court's holding in the
Joseph Burstyn, Inc. case. Any attempt by the federal
government (or any state government) to censor speech or expressive
conduct under such circumstances would place the government in
the untenable position of suppressing "real or imagined
attacks" on Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or any other religious
faith currently practiced in the U.S.
Criticism of Religion Is Not Incitement to Violence. The
proponents of a "defamation of religions" law maintain that
such a measure is necessary in order to avoid incitement to
violence and discrimination. The 2008 "Combating
defamation of religions" resolution passed by the U.N. Human
Rights Council states that the Council "deplores the use of
printed, audio-visual and electronic media, including the
Internet, and of any other means to incite acts of violence,
xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards Islam
or any religion." In other words, criticizing,
insulting, or spoofing Islam or any other religion in a newspaper,
on television, in a movie, or on the Internet should be
The First Amendment to the Constitution, however, protects
controversial and offensive speech and expression regarding
religion even when there is some likelihood that it could incite
In the 1940 case Cantwell v. State of Connecticut, the
Supreme Court addressed a situation in which religiously
provocative speech allegedly incited a breach of the peace. Newton Cantwell, a Jehovah's
Witness, had been going door to door in a heavily Catholic
neighborhood in New Haven, Connecticut, selling books, handing
out pamphlets, and playing records with religious content on a
portable record player. He approached two Catholic men on the
street and asked them to listen to one of his records, which
attacked the Catholic Church and its doctrine. The two men "were
incensed by the contents of the record and were tempted to
strike Cantwell unless he went away."
Cantwell was arrested, charged, and convicted of inciting a
breach of the peace. The case eventually reached the Supreme
Court, which overturned the convictions. The Court stated that
under other circumstances Cantwell may have been guilty of a crime
if his actions presented a "clear and present danger of riot,
disorder…or other immediate threat to public safety, peace,
or order." Cantwell's actions, however provocative, did not rise to
that level regardless of the fact that the record he played
"singles out the Roman Catholic Church for strictures couched
in terms which naturally would offend not only persons of that
persuasion, but all others who respect the honestly held
religious faith of their fellows."
The Court recognized that debate over competing religious
doctrines is inevitable in American society, and criminal charges
are not warranted each time a particular denomination is
In the realm of religious faith, and in that of political
belief, sharp differences arise. In both fields the tenets of one
man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade
others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times,
resorts to exaggeration, to vilification of men who have been, or
are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement. But
the people of this nation have ordained in the light of
history, that, in spite of the probability of excesses and
abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, essential to
enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the
citizens of a democracy.
In other words, free speech and expression, even if patently
false and even when taken to the limits of what polite society
allows, must be given precedence over any hurt feelings or insult
that may result.
That is not to say that any and all incendiary speech is
protected by the Constitution at all times. The First Amendment
protects provocative and insulting speech, but not when the speaker
threatens someone else with immediate violence, or attempts to
induce others to imminently commit an illegal act. A strict
line, however, can and must be drawn between constitutionally
protected free speech criticizing or insulting a particular
religious denomination, and unprotected speech where the speaker
plainly intends to incite immediate violence or discrimination. It
is precisely that very clear line that the proponents of
"defamation of religions" blur intentionally.
Those proponents seek to ban all criticism of religion
regardless of context or setting. According to the OIC, insulting
Mohammad or Islam is in and of itself an incitement to violence and
discrimination and therefore must be banned as "Islamophobic." Any
speech, book, film, or other form of expression that depicts Islam,
Mohammed, or Muslims in an unflattering light constitutes
This point was made clear in a June 2008 letter from the OIC to
the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights wherein the OIC listed
several incidents that it deemed to be defamatory to Islam,
- The publication in Denmark of "defamatory" and "blasphemous"
cartoons depicting Islam's prophet Mohammed,
- The release of the short film Fitna, which
"denigrat[ed] the Holy Qur'an" and was "a major Islamophobic
incident that shocked and dismayed all Muslims and the
international community," and
- "[T]he unfortunate and unwarranted remarks of Pope Benedict XVI
at a University in Germany on September 20, 2006."
Yet none of those incidents-had they taken place in
America-would be actionable under U.S. law because there was no
threat that the respective audiences would be immediately incited
to commit acts of violence or discrimination. The cartoons of
Mohammed published in the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper
in September 2005 were distributed through normal channels (by home
delivery and on the newsstand), and therefore not in a manner that
would incite imminent violence or discrimination against Muslims or
Islam. Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilder's short film
Fitna-which intersperses passages from the Quran with images
of terrorist attacks-was posted on a Web site and, therefore, could
be viewed by anyone in the world with Internet access. Pope
Benedict's 2006 speech-wherein he criticized the Muslim practice of
forced conversion to Islam-was delivered to 1,500 students and
faculty at Regensburg University in Germany.
The act of distributing a newspaper to the public-however
incendiary the content of the newspaper's articles-does not
constitute an incitement to violence, much less a "clear and
present danger" of causing a riot or disorder. Nor does posting a
short film on a Web site constitute an "immediate threat to public
safety, peace, or order." A speech delivered to an assembled
audience-if it is clearly evident that the speaker intends to
incite the audience to committing an immediate act of violence-may
be actionable under U.S. law, but no reasonable person could
conclude that the Pope's speech fell within those parameters.
In addition to being unconstitutional, a neutral application of
a "defamation of religions" law in the U.S. would be extremely
difficult, if not impossible, due to America's religious pluralism.
Although the overwhelming majority of Americans identify
themselves as Christians, the U.S. is home to millions of
Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and members of many other denominations. The
difficulty of enforcing a religious speech code on a heterogeneous
citizenry was hinted by Justice Reed in his concurring opinion
in the Joseph Burstyn, Inc. case:
In the Rome of the late emperors, the England of James I, or the
Geneva of Calvin, and today in Roman Catholic Spain, Mohammedan
Saudi Arabia, or any other country with a monolithic religion, the
category of things sacred might have clearly definable limits. But
in America the multiplicity of the ideas of "sacredness" held with
equal but conflicting fervor by the great number of religious
groups makes the term "sacrilegious" too indefinite to satisfy
constitutional demands based on reason and fairness.
That is not to say that the enactment of a "defamation of
religions" law would be acceptable if the U.S. had a mostly
Moreover, due to America's religious diversity, the enactment of
such a law would inevitably devolve into a legal morass of
competing religious grievances. It would be virtually impossible to
develop a uniform, national standard for what does and does not
constitute "defamation" of a certain religious denomination.
Similar to Supreme Court jurisprudence regarding obscenity,
the determination of criminal prosecutions for "defamation of
religions" would likely hinge on what the accepted "community
standards" are in any particular locale. Practically, this
means that judges and juries in local and state jurisdictions
across America would be empowered to determine whether a certain
affront to Islam, Christianity, or any other religion is criminally
actionable "defamation" or constitutionally protected free
speech. A movie critical of Islam shown in Dearborn, Michigan,
which has a large Muslim population, may be deemed by a local jury
to "defame religion" while the same film may pass community muster
in Boise, Idaho. A novel highly critical of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints may be banned in Salt Lake City while
becoming a bestseller in Boston.
These geographical discrepancies in religious demographics would
result in a patchwork of jurisdictions across the U.S. legal
landscape that are "Christian-friendly," "Muslim-friendly,"
"Mormon-friendly," or completely religion-free. This type of
religious Balkanization is the polar opposite of the healthy
assimilation of various religious minorities that has occurred in
America for hundreds of years. It will not lead to better relations
between people of different faiths, and may well serve to breed
resentment among them.
"Defamatory" Art and Entertainment
Allowing a civil cause of action for "defamation of religions"
would undoubtedly have a deleterious effect on American social and
cultural life. Controversial works of "art" such as the highly
objectionable photograph of a crucifix immersed in a glass of
urine would most certainly be challenged in court. The
Mohammed cartoons published in Denmark-none of which was reprinted
in a major U.S. newspaper in a shameful episode of
self-censorship-would have resulted in lawsuits against the
small U.S. papers that did print them.
A likely target for those prone to filing lawsuits for
"defamation of religions" would be the entertainment and
publishing industries. Many movies and books with religious subject
matter generate great public controversy in the U.S., and if there
were a legal mechanism available to halt their exhibition,
publication, or distribution, it is likely that some "aggrieved"
party will make use of it. The distribution and exhibition of
books and films deemed religiously controversial may be challenged
in courtrooms across the nation:
- Christian litigants may seek to ban films like Martin
Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and The
DaVinci Code (2006), both of which depict accounts of the life
of Jesus that are not found in the Gospels. The books
on which those two films were based could also be banned as
"defamatory" to Christianity.
- Muslim litigants may attempt to ban books such as Salman
Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (1988), which is considered
blasphemous by some Muslims and led Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini
to issue a death fatwa against Rushdie. Films that could
easily be banned include Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh's
Submission (2004)-for which Van Gogh was brutally murdered
by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim in Amsterdam that same year- which
ties Quranic verses to the mistreatment of Muslim women, as well as
the aforementioned Fitna (2004).
- John Krakauer's 2003 book Under the Banner of
Heaven-which tells the true story of a brutal murder and
depicts fundamentalist as well as mainstream Mormons in a poor
light-could compel American adherents to the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-Day Saints to sue to ban the book.
- Some Jews might attempt to censor Mel Gibson's allegedly
anti-Semitic film The Passion of the Christ (2004) for its
portrayal of Jews regarding the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of
For every major and minor religious denomination living in
the U.S., there are books and films that portray their particular
beliefs in an unflattering light. Imagine if a legal cause of
action for "defamation of religions" existed in
multi-religious cities, such as Detroit, Miami, and New York City-
aggrieved members of each and every religious denomination that
live in those cities could sue to ban films and books that they
happen to find objectionable. As a result, only those movies
and books free of any content even remotely critical of any
religion would be safe from censorship in those large, diverse
What the United States Should Do
Recognizing a new legal cause of action that bans insults or
criticism of religion will provide no benefit to the people of
the United States. While state and local law enforcement should not
hesitate to condemn religious discrimination and prosecute acts of
incitement to violence, the federal government should tread
extremely lightly where disputes over religious doctrine are
concerned. The U.S. does not need a national speech code that would
restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans, no matter how
offensive that speech may be to any particular religious
On an international level, the U.S. must remain wary of
continuing efforts by U.N. member states to gain wider acceptance
of the "defamation of religions" concept. Its proponents will
continue to push the "defamation of religions" agenda at the U.N.
Human Rights Council, the U.N. General Assembly, and at other
international forums such as the April 2009 Durban Review
Conference. Issues relating to religious intolerance-which is what
the "defamation of religions" concept seeks to address-should be
considered under the relevant mechanisms that already exist at the
The U.S. should therefore:
- Oppose any effort to codify "defamation of religions" into
U.S. law. Any attempt to establish a criminal or civil
"defamation of religions" law in the United States at the federal,
state, or local level must be strongly opposed. Attempts to
introduce such legislation may be incremental- notably, in May
2005, when a group of U.S. Congressmen sponsored a resolution
in the House of Representatives calling for the Quran to be treated
with dignity and respect. Such piecemeal legislation
must be closely guarded against.
- Resist the spread of "defamation of religions" within the
U.N. system. The Bush Administration has been consistent
in its opposition to "defamation of religions" resolutions at both
the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. The
proponents of the "defamation of religions" concept,
specifically the nations of the Organization of the Islamic
Conference, will persist in introducing such resolutions at both
U.N. forums in the following years. The next Administration must
continue to oppose these resolutions and attempt to persuade U.S.
allies who have voted in favor of past resolutions (or have
abstained from voting) to change their votes to "no."
The idea that religious tolerance should be promoted and
protected is inexorably intertwined with the founding of the United
States and is deeply rooted in American custom. For that
reason, American society has successfully assimilated a
multitude of religious and cultural traditions over the past
several centuries, while nurturing a constitutional framework that
allows American citizens to express their thoughts and ideas
without unreasonable constraints.
The U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court jurisprudence
protect religious liberty while promoting tolerance and free
speech. The introduction of "defamation of religions" laws
would upset the delicate-and successful-balance that has been
achieved between the free exercise of religion and free speech,
both of which are protected under the First Amendment. Government
intrusion into these areas is unwarranted in the absence of a
compelling purpose. Protecting the hurt feelings of aggrieved
members of particular religious denominations is not one such
Steven Groves is
Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center
for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis
Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage
 Commission on Human Rights Resolution
1999/82, April 30, 1999.
 Human Rights Council Resolution 7/19,
"Combating Defamation of Religions," ¶¶ 9, 12, March 27,
2008, at /static/reportimages/70C45A6BD21A2EADA34508FB6A259157.pdf
(October 20, 2008). With minor variations to the text, U.N.
resolutions condemning the "defamation of religions" have been
adopted at each subsequent meeting of the Commission and the U.N.
Human Rights Council, as well as the U.N. General Assembly
beginning in 2005.
 OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia,
 Press Release, "United States Government
Response to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights concerning Combating Defamation of Religions," U.S.
Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, July 11, 2008, at http://geneva.usmission.gov/Press2008/July/
0715DefamationReligions.html (November 4, 2008);
Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State, "Remarks on Release of 2008
International Religious Freedom Report," September 19, 2008, at
/rm/2008/09/110022.htm (November 4, 2008); and John
V. Hanford III, Ambassador at Large for International Religious
Freedom, September 19, 2008, at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/rm/2008/110027.htm
(November 4, 2008).
 Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304,
316-317 n.21 (2002).
 Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558
 Virginia v. Black et al., 538 U.S.
343, 358 (2003), quoting, Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S.
616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J., dissenting). This paper does not
address whether the enforcement of a "defamation of religions" law
would violate the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the
 Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S.
397, 414 (1989).
 Roth v. United States, 354 U.S.
476 (1957); Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973) (The
Court established criteria which must be met in order for allegedly
obscene publications to be subject to government regulation).
 Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343
U.S. 250 (1952); New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S.
254 (1964); Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323
 Although not the subject of this paper,
it should be noted that the "defamation of religions" concept is
antithetical to existing international human rights instruments,
such as Articles 18 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights and Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights. See, for example, "Combating Defamation
of Religions," Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Issues
Brief, June 2, 2008, at /static/reportimages/2A6ED4F2AC7D32666CD2F9697556C1CF.pdf
(October 20, 2008), and "Combating Defamation of Religions,"
European Centre for Law and Justice, June 2008, at http://www.eclj.org/PDF/080626_ECLJ_submission_to_
 Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson,
Commissioner of Education of New York, et al., 343 U.S. 495,
507 (1952) (Reed, J., concurring).
 Ibid. at 497-499, citing
McKinney's N.Y. Laws, 1947, Education Law, 129.
 Ibid. at 503, 506 (1952), citing
Near v. Minnesota ex rel. Olson, 283 U.S. 697 (1931).
 Indeed, Article 20 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights-to which the U.S. is a
party-states that "Any advocacy of…religious hatred that
constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence
shall be prohibited by law." At the time of ratification of that
Covenant, however, the U.S. entered the following reservation:
"That article 20 does not authorize or require legislation or other
action by the United States that would restrict the right of free
speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of
the United States." International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, "Declarations and Reservations," at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/ratification/
docs/DeclarationsReservationsICCPR.pdf (October 20,
 Human Rights Council Resolution 7/19,
"Combating Defamation of Religions," March 27, 2008.
 Cantwell v. State of
Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940).
 Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S.
444 (1969) (States may not forbid incendiary speech "except where
such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless
action and is likely to incite or produce such action.");
Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942)
(States may restrict so-called "fighting words" which "by their
very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach
of the peace."); Virginia v. Black, et al., 538 U.S. 343
(2003) (Court upheld statute banning cross burning where there is a
specific intent to intimidate).
 Charge d'affaires ad interim of the
Permanent Mission of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to
the United Nations Office at Geneva, letter to the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights, June 26, 2008, General Assembly
document A/HRC/9/G/2, July 24, 2008.
 Pope Benedict criticized the practice
of forced religious conversion, quoting 14th-century Byzantine
emperor Manuel II Paleologus who stated, "Show me just what
Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only
evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the
faith he preached." Ian Fisher, "Some Muslim Leaders Want Pope to
Apologize," The New York Times, September 16, 2006, at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/16/world/europe/16pope.html?fta=y
(October 20, 2008).
 343 U.S. 495, 528 (Reed, J.,
 See Miller v. California, 413
U.S. 15 (1973).
 "Piss Christ" (1989) by American
photographer Andres Serrano.
 H. Res. 288, introduced by Congressman
John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), on May 19, 2005.