|Observed by||United States, Canada, other countries|
|Significance||A holiday celebrating blasphemy|
|Celebrations||Educating about the importance of freedom of expression, even opinions contrary to religions or offensive to religious people|
Blasphemy Rights Day International is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to openly express their criticism of, or even disdain for, religion. It was founded in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry. A student contacted the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York to present the idea, which CFI put its support behind. 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. The day was set 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.
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."
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. Blasphemy Day was also widely discussed across the web and covered by several media outlets.
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, the Netherlands, San Marino 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.[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."
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.
Day of celebration
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 wide-spread furor after Muslim imams in several countries stirred up violent protests in which at least 137 people were killed, embassies burned and other acts of recrimination carried out because of the blasphemy.
- "http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/09/30/first.blasphemy.day/ Taking aim at God on 'Blasphemy Day'", CNN.com, September 30, 2009
- Did you celebrate Blasphemy Day? - USATODAY.com
- On Blasphemy Day, Freedom of Speech Is in the Eye of the Beholder | Fox News
- International blasphemy day: from Danish cartoons to Jerry Springer - The Opera - Telegraph
- 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. Council of Europe. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
- Defamation Act 2009, Section 36
- Freedman, Samuel G. (20 March 2009). "A Man’s Existentialism, Construed as Blasphemy". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2009.
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