Blasphemy Day

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Blasphemy Day
Observed by Various countries, Mostly European and North American, None officially
Type Cultural
Significance A day celebrating blasphemy (as defined in the various national, state or religious laws)
Celebrations Educating about the importance of freedom of expression, even opinions contrary to religions or offensive to religious people
Date September 30
Next time 30 September 2015 (2015-09)
Frequency annual

International Blasphemy Day encourages individuals and groups to openly express criticism of religion and blasphemy laws. It was founded in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry.[1] A student contacted the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York to present the idea, which CFI then supported. Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry said regarding Blasphemy Day, "We think religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just as political beliefs are, but we have a taboo on religion," in an interview with CNN.[2]

Events worldwide on the first annual Blasphemy Day in 2009 included an art exhibit in Washington, DC and a free speech festival in Los Angeles.[3]


According to USA Today '​s interview with Justin Trottier, a Toronto coordinator of Blasphemy Day, "We're not seeking to offend, but if in the course of dialogue and debate, people become offended, that's not an issue for us. There is no human right not to be offended."[3]

Anti-blasphemy laws exist throughout the world. In many parts of Europe and North America they have been overturned, although there are anti-blasphemy laws in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Iceland, San Marino, Spain and the UK. (The UK common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were abolished by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, section 79. The remaining law, Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, concerns inciting hatred against a person on the grounds of their religion.) There are also "religious insult" laws in 21 European nations.[4][page needed]

The Republic of Ireland passed the "Defamation Act 2009" in that year, which states in part, "A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €25,000."[5]

Finland has been the setting for a number of noteworthy blasphemy trials in the 2000s. The Finnish linguist, political blogger, Helsinki City Councillor and subsequent member of parliament Jussi Halla-aho was charged with "disturbing religious worship" because of internet posts in which he called Muhammad a pedophile, Halla-aho was fined €330.[6]

The article 525 of the penal law in Spain considers "vilification" of religious "feelings", "dogmas", "beliefs" or "rituals". This extension to "dogmas" and "beliefs" makes it very close to a blasphemy law in practice, depending on the interpretation of the judge.[7]

In some countries, blasphemy is punishable by death, such as in Afghanistan,[8] Pakistan,[9] and Saudi Arabia.[10] Six US states (Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wyoming) still have anti-blasphemy laws on their books, although they are seldom enforced.[11] Such laws contradict the allegedly higher law[12] of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The US has come to be characterized by inconsistent application of the rule of law (due to growing interference with the random selection of jurors[13]), with the overall trend in the courts since 1803 being to gradually eliminate pre-existing limits on government power (such as the Fourth Amendment right to be "secure" in one's "persons, papers, and effects" now being "interpreted" to allow unlimited confiscation of property under the "asset forfeiture" laws). The trend in the area of free speech has been similar, especially on college campuses, where federal tax-funded grants and student loans pay for a school's operation, but the school is nonetheless considered "private property" subject to restrictive "speech codes" and not subject to the federal Bill of Rights's First Amendment.[14]


Blasphemy Day is celebrated on September 30 to coincide with the anniversary of the publication of satirical drawings of Muhammad in one of Denmark's newspapers, resulting in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. Although the caricatures of Muhammad caused some controversy within Denmark, especially among Muslims, it became a widespread furor after Muslim imams in several countries stirred up violent protests in which Danish embassies were firebombed and over 100 people killed.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. "Penn Jillette Celebrates Blasphemy Day in "Penn Says"". Center for Inquiry. 2009-09-29. Retrieved 2013-09-30. 
  2. Basu, Moni (September 30, 2009). "Taking aim at God on 'Blasphemy Day'". 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Larmondin, Leanne (2 October 2009). "Did you celebrate Blasphemy Day?". 
  4. Venice Commission (2008). "Analysis of the Domestic Law Concerning Blasphemy, Religious Insult and Inciting Religious Hatred in Albania, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Turkey, United Kingdom on the Basis of Replies to a Questionnaire" (PDF). Council of Europe. Retrieved 14 May 2010. 
  5. "Defamation Act 2009, Section 36". Government of Ireland. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  6. KGS (8 September 2009). "Finnish District Court squashes free speech". Tundra Tabloids. Retrieved 14 September 2009. 
  7. "Consolidated Document BOE-A-1995-25444". Official State Agency Bulltein (in Spanish). Spanish Government- Ministry of the President. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  8. "2008 Report on International Religious Freedom – Afghanistan". United States Department of State. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  9. Thames, Knox (28 August 2012). "The Ravages of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law". Freedom House. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  10. McCormick, Ty (17 July 2012). "Why is Saudi Arabia beefing up its blasphemy laws?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 30 September 2013. (subscription required)
  11. Freedman, Samuel G. (20 March 2009). "A Man’s Existentialism, Construed as Blasphemy". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  12. Marbury v. Madison
  14., Harvey (1998). The Shadow University. The Free Press, Simon & Schuster Inc. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  15. Chivers, Tom (30 September 2009). "International blasphemy day: from Danish cartoons to Jerry Springer". The Telegraph (London). 

External links[edit]