Posts tagged with: human rights

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
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human-rights-weekLast week President Obama proclaimed December 10, 2016, as Human Rights Day and the week beginning December 10, 2016, as Human Rights Week, an annual observance to commemorate the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here are five facts you should know about international human rights:

1. Prior to the 1940s there were a number of documents, such as the the British Magna Carta and the U.S. Bill of Rights, that advanced the recognition of human rights. But few documents were recognized internationally as applying to all people at all times in all nations. During World War II the push for universal recognition of inalienable human rights was aided by the Atlantic Charter and by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech before the United States Congress in 1941. These ideals were also transmitted in a pamphlet called, “The United Nations fight for the Four Freedoms: The Rights of All Men — Everywhere.”

2. The atrocities of the Nazis caused the international community to recognize a need for human rights to be established as an international legal status. More than 1,300 American non-governmental organizations joined together in placing newspaper ads calling for human rights to be an integral part of any future international organization, and called for the United Nations Charter to include a clear and substantive commitment to human rights. On April 25, 1945, representatives from forty-six nations gathered in San Francisco to form the United Nations. They responded to the demand by mentioning human rights five times in the UN Charter. The charter also established a commission “for the promotion of human rights.” This newly created “Commission on Human Rights” spent three years drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
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CarllLarsen-Directing2Carl and Angel Larsen are Minnesota filmmakers who founded their own company, Telescope Media Group, with a very specific purpose: “to glorify God through top-quality media production.” Christian belief and a passion for “God’s story” has always been at the center of their business.

Now, due to a state law and statements from government officials, their religious beliefs expose them to a range of new threats as it relates to filming weddings. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Larsens may face severe financial penalties and up to 90 days in jail for declining to create expression in support of same-sex weddings.

“A government that tells you what you can’t say is bad enough,” says Carl. “But a government that tells you what you must say is much worse. You can’t force people to promote things that violate their beliefs.”

In response, the Larsens have partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom to file a federal lawsuit known as a “pre-enforcement challenge,” arguing that the state law threatens their rights and runs afoul of First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. As the ADF summarized in a recent news release: “The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has construed that law to force creative professionals like the Larsens to promote objectionable messages even though they gladly serve everyone and decide what stories to tell based on the story’s message, not any client’s personal characteristics.” (more…)

Liberty

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

In a new article for the Catholic Herald, Philip Booth outlines the next battle in the fight for religious freedom. The professor of finance, public policy, and ethics at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, writes that “liberal elites are paying the prices for sidelining” this important freedom.

He argues that while there are definitely threats to religious liberty in the United States, the rights to religious liberty and freedom of association are in far more danger in Europe. He makes this point with three examples.

A couple in Northern Ireland refused to bake a cake with “Support Gay Marriage” written on it and were charged with discrimination:

The judges stated quite clearly that the couple’s action was direct discrimination against gay people. This was so even though they did not know the purchaser was gay and despite the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland. In other words, the law is such that people are required to bake cakes with public policy messages on them.

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I want to be very clear from the outset that moral concerns surrounding transgender identity are not unimportant. But in the likely event that we don’t come to any national consensus on that question any time soon, it is important not to overlook other moral and social concerns that are far more pressing. In particular, there are legitimate concerns regarding safety and privacy, no matter which side one favors, but resorting to the force of law will leave some real victims vulnerable.

On the one hand, the Anti-Violence Project’s 2014 Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence found that compared to violence among the general population, “Transgender women [i.e. biologically male] survivors were 1.6 times more likely to experience physical violence and 1.6 times more likely to experience sexual violence, when compared with other survivors.” I have seen headlines connecting this violence with restroom use in the past, but now that the issue has become politicized those stories are harder to locate. In any case, privacy and safety are real and major concerns for many. We should not be indifferent to this.

On the other hand, according to the CDC,

  • Nearly 1 in 5 (18.3%) women and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.
  • Approximately 1 in 20 women and men (5.6% and 5.3%, respectively) experienced sexual violence other than rape….

Again, privacy and safety are real and major concerns here. We should not be indifferent. (more…)

On November 19, the Acton Institute was pleased to welcome Marina Nemat to the Mark Murray Auditorium as part of the 2015 Acton Lecture Series. Marina was born in 1965 in Tehran, Iran, in what was at the time a relatively secular and free nation. (Granted, she lived under the dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – the Shah of Iran – but as we were reminded a couple of weeks ago by Jay Nordlinger, when it comes to dictators you have to grade on a curve.)  After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, she was arrested at the age of sixteen and spent more than two years in Evin, a political prison in Tehran, where she was tortured and came very close to execution.

Since 1991, Marina has lived in Canada. Her memoir of her life in Iran, Prisoner of Tehran, has been published in nearly 30 countries, and has been an international bestseller. In 2007, Marina received the inaugural Human Dignity Award from the European Parliament, and in 2008, she received the prestigious Grinzane Prize in Italy. In 2008/2009, she was an Aurea Fellow at University of Toronto’s Massey College, where she wrote her second book, After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed. Marina regularly speaks at high schools, universities, and conferences around the world and sits on the Board of Directors at CCVT (Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture) and on advisory boards at ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) and PEN Canada. She also teaches memoir writing, in Farsi and in English, at the School of Continuing Studies at University of Toronto and writes book reviews for The Globe and Mail.

We’re pleased to be able to share Marina Nemat’s presentation with you via the video player below; you can also check out her Radio Free Acton interview here.

The BBC reported today that China is ending its one-child policy, providing the following overview:

  • Introduced in 1979, the policy meant that many Chinese citizens – around a third, China claimed in 2007 – could not have a second child without incurring a fine
  • In rural areas, families were allowed to have two children if the first was a girl
  • Other exceptions included ethnic minorities and – since 2013 – couples where at least one was a single child
  • Campaigners say the policy led to forced abortions, female infanticide, and the under-reporting of female births
  • It was also implicated as a cause of China’s gender imbalance

Before everyone celebrates, China did not, however, eliminate all limits but changed the limit to two children. Certainly this is a huge improvement and a step in the right direction, but it is not without its own economic, ethical, and political problems. (more…)

9780544373174_custom-65b05d09242abdf9624b6c53d7e29e6309aae9d9-s400-c85North Korea has been cut off from the rest of the world for nearly 70 years and few people outside of its borders – especially in the West – have a realistic picture of how life really goes on. Yes, we know it’s a horrible place, essentially a giant concentration camp, but how do North Koreans live their lives? Joseph Kim’s memoir, with contributions from Stephan Talty, Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015) helps to paint a picture of the closed off nation and remind us what we should know – that North Koreans are all too human with real hopes, dreams, and struggles. Most importantly, the book paints a vivid picture of life inside North Korea that, despite the accounts of suffering, by turns surprises and enlightens.

Under the Same Sky could easily be broken into three parts: Joseph Kim’s life before the famine that ravaged North Korea in the 1990s; how Kim survived during the famine; and his life after escaping from North Korea. The book is episodic, with each chapter telling one particular story from Kim’s life. Within this format, at just short of 300 pages, and given the compelling themes in many chapters, it’s a quick read and is often hard to put down. The narrative spans little more than a decade, starting when Kim is four or so, and ending when he’s an older teenager. He does talk about his new life in America, but it’s not the focus. The majority of the action takes place during the North Korean famine, but an early section in the book paints the idyllic picture that life wasn’t always so bad in this nation, at least not when seen through the eyes of a young child. (more…)