The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday making the desecration of cemeteries a violation of religious freedom, the Religion New Service reported.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate, adds such a violation to the list of crimes the U.S. condemns as part of the 1988 International Religious Freedom Act. Under the Act, the U.S. can impose penalties on foreign nations and individuals for such crimes.
The bill was proposed by Jewish residents of New York State, who complained that Jewish cemeteries are frequently desecrated., especially in cities around the world that used to have strong Jewish populations.
Now, if only the U.S. House could add vandalizing religious houses of worship and religious statues, icons, and symbols inside and outside religious houses of worship to the list of crimes the U.S. condemns as part of the 1988 International Religious Freedom Act.
The right to freedom of religion is under renewed and, in some cases, increasing assault in many countries around the world. More than one-half of the world’s population lives under regimes that severely restrict or prohibit the freedom of their citizens to study, believe, observe, and freely practice the religious faith of their choice. Religious believers and communities suffer both government-sponsored and government-tolerated violations of their rights to religious freedom. Among the many forms of such violations are state-sponsored slander campaigns, confiscations of property, surveillance by security police, including by special divisions of “religious police”, severe prohibitions against construction and repair of places of worship, denial of the right to assemble and relegation of religious communities to illegal status through arbitrary registration laws, prohibitions against the pursuit of education or public office, and prohibitions against publishing, distributing, or possessing religious literature and materials. law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/22/6401
The amendment would apply to situations in which a foreign government desecrated cemeteries. I am not sure how common that is, but surely much less frequent than by similar desecration committed by individuals.
Vandalism of religious structures is nothing new in the history of the US, several convents were burnt down and destroyed as were other Catholic buildings at times in the history of the US as have Churches belonging to others. Anything that counters that and makes sure those who engage in such activities face a stiff penalty is no bad thing though.
I would have to say that this bill is a good thing. Vandalizing cemeteries and people’s graves is very wrong. It is gravely contrary to their dignity as human beings. Granted they are dead but they are still human beings and in reality they are actually alive in Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. That said, I just hope that this bill will be enforced as law with justice and no bias.