If there are readers out there in cyberspace who have been reading GetReligion for a decade-plus, the odds are good that they have heard of the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article 18. That's the one that proclaims, in the name of the United Nations:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Long ago, this statement was considered a cornerstone on the political and cultural left. However, that is no longer (alas) always the case today. Here at GetReligion I have been asking the following questions in recent years, while probing some of the shallow labels that journalists often use with little or no thought. They are:
* What should journalists call someone who is weak, when it comes to defending freedom of speech?
* What should journalists call someone who is weak, when it comes to defending freedom of association?
* What should journalists call someone who is weak, when it comes to defending freedom of religion?
I'm not sure what the correct answer is, these days, but anyone familiar with the history of political thought in the West will know that the correct answer is not "liberal."
Why bring this up right now? Well, because of an absolutely bizarre statement at the end of a recent BBC report that ran under this strange (it's almost a fragment) headline: "Sudan apostasy woman Mariam Ibrahim 'to campaign'."
The story surrounding Ibrahim received quite a bit of attention here at GetReligion, but click here to catch up. She was in Washington recently to be honored for her stand in favor of religious liberty -- leading to her pledge to "campaign" for the rights of all who face religious persecution. Here's a key part of the BBC story:
Born to a Muslim father, she was raised a Christian by her mother and married a Christian man. Under Sudan's version of Islamic law, however, her father's religion meant that she too was still technically a Muslim. A court found her guilty of apostasy, or renouncing one's faith.
Sentenced to hang, she gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison. Under intense international pressure, her conviction was quashed and she was freed in June. She told the BBC that she had been threatened by the guards while she was in court.
"The judge told me that I needed to convert to Islam," she said. "And so these warnings made me anticipate I would be sentenced to death."
You can see the relevance of Article 18 in the Universal Declaration, of course. That's why the final statement in this report is so bizarre.
The following is not, I promise you, from The Onion.
On Saturday night, Ms Ibrahim received an award from a gathering of evangelical Christian conservatives in Washington, who see her treatment in Sudan as an assault on their values.
I guess that is accurate, on one level. But what's the point? Is it now an "evangelical value" to be support a key clause of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? So would non-evangelicals not consider the treatment of Ibrahim an "assault on their values"?
Journalists: What was the point of that final statement? What factual content did it add?