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 (2015-09-30)
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]

Background[edit]

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]

According to an analysis by the International Press Institute, as of 2015, at least fourteen member states of the European Union maintain criminal blasphemy or religious insult laws, which prohibit defamation of religions as such or their beliefs, practices and divinities. These are Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France (Alsace-Moselle region only), Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland only).[4] Turkey and Iceland also have similar laws.[4]

In the United Kingdom, the common-law offenses of "blasphemy" and "blasphemous libel" was abolished by section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.[5] The last blasphemous libel conviction in Britain had been against Gay News and its editor in 1977. The publication had published a metaphoric poem involving Jesus and homosexual acts.[5] The editor's suspended prison sentence was quashed on appeal, but £1,500 in fines were upheld.[5] See blasphemy law in the United Kingdom.

In some countries, blasphemy is punishable by death, such as in Afghanistan,[6] Pakistan,[7] and Saudi Arabia.[8]

Six U.S. states still have anti-blasphemy laws on their books: Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.[9] These laws are unenforceable, however, because the U.S. Supreme Court, in Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495 (1952), found blasphemy laws to be unconstitutional restrictions on the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[10][5]

Origins[edit]

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.[11]

See also[edit]

References[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'". CNN.com. 
  3. ^ a b Larmondin, Leanne (2 October 2009). "Did you celebrate Blasphemy Day?". USATODAY.com. 
  4. ^ a b In EU, calls to repeal blasphemy laws grow after Paris attacks: IPI research: blasphemy, religious insult still a crime in half of member states, International Press Institute (January 16, 2015).
  5. ^ a b c d Tim Crook, Comparative Media Law and Ethics (Routledge, 2010), p. 392.
  6. ^ "2008 Report on International Religious Freedom – Afghanistan". United States Department of State. 19 September 2008. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Thames, Knox (28 August 2012). "The Ravages of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law". Freedom House. Retrieved 30 September 2013. 
  8. ^ McCormick, Ty (17 July 2012). "Why is Saudi Arabia beefing up its blasphemy laws?". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 30 September 2013. (subscription required)
  9. ^ Freedman, Samuel G. (20 March 2009). "A Man’s Existentialism, Construed as Blasphemy". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  10. ^ Phillip I. Blumberg, Repressive Jurisprudence in the Early American Republic: The First Amendment and the Legacy of English Law (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 335.
  11. ^ Chivers, Tom (30 September 2009). "International blasphemy day: from Danish cartoons to Jerry Springer". The Telegraph (London). 

External links[edit]