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Urgent Debate on Acts of Religious Hatred – HRC 53 Statement and Explanation of Vote
As Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
July 11, 2023

Urgent Debate on Acts of Religious Hatred
General Comment During the Adoption Proceedings of the Resolution
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
Human Rights Council – 53rd Session


Thank you, Mr. President:

I want to start by acknowledging the pain and fear that I know members of the Muslim community feel when faced with images of their holiest text being burned in a public display of intolerance. I know this from my own visceral response to similar acts of desecrating the Torah and the horrors that evokes in me as the child of a Holocaust survivor. No sacred book should be disrespected or abused in this way.

The United States is deeply concerned by and strongly condemns the acts that have precipitated today’s discussion, including desecration of the Holy Quran on June 28.  We find the act of desecrating the holy text of any religion abhorrent, and we stand in solidarity with our OIC partners – with all people wishing to live their lives in accordance with their religious identity or beliefs, including the millions of Muslims in my own country.

The United States categorically calls out anti-Muslim hatred wherever it occurs. As President Biden stated in May, “Standing up against anti-Muslim hate is essential to who we are as a country founded on freedom and justice for all.”

We are proud of our leadership role in promoting the values established in Resolution 16/18, which carefully navigates the relationship between freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression and was negotiated at senior levels with members of the OIC and adopted by consensus in 2011.  Prior to that watershed moment, some perceived these two rights to be in conflict.  16/18 made clear that they are, in fact, complementary.  This has been, and remains, our approach to this issue.

We also recognize that the acts that predicated today’s action have not only continued but increased.  We have much work to do collectively to combat religious intolerance and hatred and, as such, we welcomed today’s urgent debate.

Given our important shared history of 16/18 and shared goal to seriously address this rising concern, we are disappointed that negotiations failed to find compromise on key edits that sought to protect the delicate balance we worked so hard to achieve in 16/18.  I had so hoped, as I believe we all had, that we could speak with one consensus voice in our commitment to stopping the promulgation of religious hatred.

While we abhor expressions of religious hatred, we do not believe freedom of expression can or should be abridged to outlaw them. Accordingly, we regret that we must vote against this unbalanced text as it conflicts with deep and longstanding positions on the freedom of expression.  The United States supports freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly as essential elements of any democracy.  At the same time, we recognize that acts that incite violence go beyond common understanding of free speech protections.

We hoped to continue to discuss this important issue with Member States with the aim of coming to a collective agreement as to how we will tackle the pressing challenge of religious hatred.

I thank you.


U.S. Explanation of Vote at the Urgent Debate on Acts of Religious Hatred
As Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
Human Rights Council – 53rd Session


Thank you, Mr. President.

I was up in the middle of the night with a heavy sense of sadness. I am truly heartbroken that this Council was unable to speak with a unanimous voice today in condemning what we all agree are deplorable acts of anti-Muslim hatred while also respecting freedom of expression.  Resolution 16/18 has shown us that this can be done, and I believe that with a little more time and more open discussion, we could have also found a way forward together on this resolution. The U.S. worked hard toward that goal and has repeatedly condemned the precipitating acts. Unfortunately, our concerns were not taken seriously.  

The United States acknowledges and deplores the rise in suspicion, discrimination, and outright hatred towards Muslims throughout the world, rightfully characterized by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in a 2021 report as reaching “epidemic proportions.”  We will continue to call for the repeal of those laws, policies and practices that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and tropes that depict Muslims and their beliefs and culture as a threat.  

We will continue to speak out against all forms of religious hatred and discrimination, including when governments themselves enact policies that systematically restrict and suppress practices that are part of the identity and cultural life of persons belonging to particular religious communities, such as the destruction of places of worship, cemeteries, religious texts and symbols, and restrictions on religious practices.  The Council must not turn a blind eye when governments themselves are responsible for religious intolerance, suppression, and acts of hatred. 

We strongly believe that hatred withers in the face of public scrutiny and that limiting freedom of expression will only force hateful ideas to find new venues in which to manifest and call undue attention to acts that we would not wish to amplify.  

We call on all governments to implement measures such as education; interfaith and intercultural dialogue; urging political, religious, and societal leaders to speak out and condemn offensive expression; and other mechanisms to confront hate speech in all its forms and wherever it occurs. 

And I hope we can all agree to uphold our duties and respect the rights of all persons to organize their lives in accordance with their religious beliefs, or lack thereof, identity, and conscience.