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International religious freedom observers mostly praised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's opposition to anti-defamation policies because such restrictions would limit free speech.

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote soon on a pending anti-defamation resolution sponsored by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

"Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion," Clinton said at a press conference on Monday. "I strongly disagree."

"The protection of speech about religion is particularly important since persons of different faiths will inevitably hold divergent views on religious questions," Clinton said. "These differences should be met with tolerance, not with the suppression of discourse."

Experts consider the UN anti-defamation effort mostly a reaction to the 2005 publication of cartoons in a Danish newspaper that depicted the prophet Muhammad. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, is lobbying against the resolution this week because he fears people could be criminalized for converting from Islam or speaking against Islamic teachings.

"The United States is making an unequivocal statement while defining the rights of individuals versus religious beliefs," Moeller said. "You cannot provide a religious belief system the same level of protection that you do for a human."

Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute, expressed concern over another Human Rights Council resolution on freedom of opinion and expression passed in early October: "[The council] expresses its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination ...

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October 2009

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