State Department religious freedom report slams allies

Story highlights

  • A new State Department report takes aim at the human rights records of several countries
  • Several US allies are knocked for the blasphemy laws

(CNN)The State Department criticized American allies Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia Wednesday for having laws that infringe upon religious freedom.

The criticism is part of the newly released 2015 Report on International Religious Freedom, which tracks 199 countries and territories around the world.
    The report cites blasphemy, apostasy and anti-conversion laws in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt, Indonesia, Mauritania and Nepal as evidence that religious freedom is being curbed in those countries.
    "Such laws conflict with and undermine universally recognized human rights," the report says.
    It also cites reports from human rights groups that 40 people are on death row in Pakistan for committing blasphemy.
    While last year's report also called out countries that included US allies like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for their government's blasphemy laws, this year's version appeared to place a greater focus on these type of laws and their limitation of religious freedom.
    The report additionally takes issues with American adversaries, slamming Iran for executing "at least 20 individuals on charges of moharebeh, translatable as 'enmity towards god,'" and criticizes non-state actors like ISIS and Boko Haram for violence against religious minorities.
    Speaking to reporters during the report's Wednesday rollout, the US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein, said that 74% of the world's population lives in countries "with serious restrictions on religious freedom."
    He added that "Saudi Arabia penalizes blasphemy with lengthy prison sentences and lashings, often after detention without trial, or so-called protective custody, according to legal experts."
    "In far too many countries, 2015 witnessed appalling patterns of significant restrictions on religious practice, as well as societal intolerance of, restrictions on and even violence against members of religious minority groups," Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Wednesday at the State Department event.
    "Bigotry and intolerance can be found in every part of the world, including the United States, but every country has an obligation to respect religious liberty and freedom of conscience," he added.