PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
E-mail: press@centerforinquiry.net

Free Expression and Blasphemy Rights Defended in Newly Launched Campaign

October 01, 2012

“Campaign for Free Expression” to Combat Restrictions on Religious Criticism, Organize on Behalf of Persecuted Religious Dissidents

To fight the efforts of governments to criminalize speech critical of religion, and to push back against calls for global restrictions on free speech, the Center for Inquiry launches the Campaign for Free Expression. Timed to commence with International Blasphemy Rights Day, the Campaign aims to increase public awareness of threats to free expression, and develop plans to fight back, both in the world’s halls of power and at the grassroots.

Over the next several months, the Campaign will highlight cases of those being persecuted for “blasphemy” – expressing doubts about or criticizing religion, beginning with the unveiling of a content-rich campaign website and a powerful video introducing viewers to the names and faces of those who sit in jail or fear for their lives as a result of exercising their freedom to speak.

“Governments are punishing their citizens for speaking their minds about religion, and opportunistic extremists are using religious sensitivities as an excuse to mete out violent mob justice, killing innocents and terrorizing entire communities,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “The time has come for all of us as a global community to stand up and declare this blatant violation of human rights to be unacceptable.”

The world has been hotly debating several cases of men and women charged with blasphemy or other offenses against religion, such as Indonesia’s Alexander Aan, sentenced to prison for declaring his atheism on Facebook; Rimsha Masih of Pakistan, accused of desecrating a Quran; Saudi poet Hamza Kashgari, charged with defaming Muhammad on Twitter; the Russian band Pussy Riot, jailed for a defiant performance at a Moscow church; as well as many, many others.

“As President Obama recently told the UN, the way to combat bigoted and intolerant speech is not with violence, but with more speech,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s director of public policy, “No one has the right not to be offended, and centuries-dead religious figures certainly need no protection from insult.”

De Dora added, “For those whose freedom or safety is in jeopardy because they had the courage to speak their mind, we will speak for them.”

Learn more about the Campaign and about the individuals suffering for their right to free expression at: www.centerforinquiry.net/cfe.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization based in Amherst, New York; it is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.