For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
September 29, 2009
CFI Participation in International Campaign for Free Expression Reaches Wide
Amherst, New York (Sept. 29, 2009)—The Center for Inquiry will join worldwide participants this Wednesday in commemorating International Blasphemy Day . Participation in Blasphemy Day is part of the Center for Inquiry’s larger Campaign for Free Expression , an effort to focus attention on one of our most crucial rights: the right of individuals to express their viewpoints, opinions, and beliefs about all subjects—including religion.
The motivation behind Blasphemy Day is not to offend the religious. The primary purpose of commemorating Blasphemy Day is to call attention to the continuing threat to free expression posed by blasphemy laws—as well as the informal social taboos that treat religion as a subject that is off limits. CFI maintains that not only should there be no legal restrictions on speech about religion, but informal social taboos on discussing religion should be discarded. “Placing religion off limits in social discourse is just another, gentler way of prohibiting examination and criticism of religion,” CFI President and CEO Ronald A. Lindsay said . “In my view, all subjects of human interest should be open to examination and criticism by humans.”
Sept. 30 has been designated International Blasphemy Day because it is the anniversary of the original 2005 publication of the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. The fury which arose within the Islamic community following this publication led to massive riots, attacks on foreign embassies and deaths. Four of the cartoons were reprinted in Free Inquiry magazine in support of the public’s right to free expression and criticism.
In addition to events at the Transnational headquarters in Amherst, CFI will also draw attention to Blasphemy Day in several other major cities across the continent this Wednesday. Events are scheduled for Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Montréal, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Tucson, Austin, Grand Rapids, and Tampa. The means of commemorating Blasphemy Day will vary from location to location.
Celebration of Blasphemy Day will not represent the end of CFI’s Campaign for Free Expression. Instead, it is merely one component. Other elements of the Campaign for Free Expression include:
- A Blasphemy contest to create a phrase, poem, or statement that is considered blasphemous—deadline Oct. 1.
- A Free Expression essay contest open to all students currently enrolled in accredited colleges and universities, with the winner receiving a $2,000 award—deadline, Jan. 5, 2010.
- A cartoon contest , judged by professional cartoonists, in which the theme will be the doctrines of humanity’s many and various religions (CFI aims to be as ecumenical as possible)—deadline to be announced.
- A new Web site, Please Block Us , featuring reports on recent censorship attempts and controversies as well as original material that would be suppressed under the laws of some countries. It’s an open invitation to oppressive governments to block its material from their citizens’ access, thus highlighting their opposition to free expression. Offending nations’ names will be listed on the site.
- Public discussions and writings regarding contemporary champions of free expression.
- A petition urging the United Nations not to limit speech critical of religion.
- Special events with prominent guest speakers; and more.
The Center for Inquiry/Transnational, a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York, is also home to the Council for Secular Humanism, founded in 1980; and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP), founded in 1976. The Center for Inquiry’s research and educational projects focus on three broad areas: religion, ethics, and society; paranormal and fringe-science claims; and sound public policy. The Center’s Web site is www.centerforinquiry.net .