Atheists, some religious punished by many state governments: Report

The majority of countries violate the rights of atheists and non-religious people, according to the annual Freedom of Thought report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Boris van Ham, chairman of the Dutch Humanist Association, calls on the Dutch government, "as a representative of one of the most secular countries in the world", to work for the freedom of belief for believers and non-believers alike, Trouw reports.

The Humanist Association will give a copy of this report to human rights ambassador Kees van Baar on Thursday. "The coalition agreement has the protection of persecuted Christians and LGBTI people on the agenda, but not that of vulnerable threatened atheists. The Freedom of Thought Report shows that non-believers belong in the same row and deserves support from this cabinet." Van der Ham said to the newspaper.

The Freedom of Thought report shows that 36 countries actively punish criticism on religion. For example, Pakistan introduced blasphemy laws in 1998 and since then more than a thousand people were persecuted. Dozens of people who broke these laws are still on death row. Thirteen countries have the death penalty as punishment for blasphemy. Other countries prohibit "insulting religion" or "hurting religious feelings". 74 countries have legal constructions that resemble such laws, and that restrict freedom of expression. 

This week the Dutch Humanist Association launched a fundraising campaign for the newly established "Freethinkers in danger" fund, according to the newspaper.