Note: this is the first in a series of five posts leading up to, and marking, International Blasphemy Rights Day on September 30.
Tonight, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face off in the first presidential debate of the 2016 campaign. Moderator Lester Holt, of NBC Nightly News, is expected to raise a number of issues with the candidates — taxes, health care, foreign policy, all the things we expect. However, neither Holt nor the candidates are expected to raise the issue that we are highlighting this week, an issue that chokes off the right to free expression and destroys the lives of those who speak out. We’re talking, of course, about blasphemy laws.
The United States has relations with many governments around the world that criminalize criticism of religious ideas, and relations with many more that are in a position to pressure such governments. Yet many countries continue to jail individuals for blasphemy, or else passively look on while individuals accused of blasphemy are persecuted, attacked, or killed, with no sign of change. Is the U.S. government really doing all it can to push for the end of blasphemy laws?
You can help try to put this issue on the presidential campaign radar tonight by tweeting tough questions about blasphemy laws with the International Blasphemy Rights Day (IBRD) and presidential debate hashtags.
Here are two sample Tweets:
“Do you think the U.S. government has adequately addressed blasphemy laws? What would you do differently?” #blasphemyday #HofDebate16
“What kind of pressure should the US put on countries that criminalize blasphemy?” #blasphemyday #HofDebate16
With your help, we can raise this issue’s profile by putting blasphemy laws and the struggle for free expression into the mainstream conversation — whether the candidates and the major networks address them or not. Their silence could speak volumes.
You can learn more about International Blasphemy Rights Day and the Campaign for Free Expression here. And be sure to come back here tomorrow for more on the fight for free expression.