Bring the Campaign for Free Expression to Your Campus

The Campaign for Free Expression is a CFI initiative to focus efforts and attention on one of the most crucial components of freethought: the right of individuals to express their viewpoints, opinions, and beliefs about all subjects.

Timely aspects of the Campaign:

"So, what can my student group do?"

Your group can participate in a wide range of activities—from lectures and educational presentations to in-your-face blasphemy events—to help challenge complacency and raise awareness about impediments to free expression on campus, at the local and regional level, and worldwide. Understandably, some of the events below might not fit with the mission of your campus group or with the climate of your campus or community.

Note: Make sure to investigate university regulations before engaging in potentially offensive activities. You can always publicize and protest harsh or unfair restrictions, but you might want to avoid activities that could result in punishment or de-recognition for your club.

During Banned Books Week (September 21–27, 2014):
  • Lecture/Presentation: Invite a school librarian or other speaker to give a presentation on censorship, book banning, blasphemy, and/or free speech.
  • Banned Books Readout: Invite group members and passers-by to read aloud sections from their favorite banned and challenged books in a public area on campus.
  • Food for Freethought: The Metro State Atheists at Metropolitan College of Denver came up with this service project idea. During Banned Books Week, they gave away donated books to students who bring in non-perishable food items to be donated to a food bank.

For International Blasphemy Rights Day (September 30, 2014):
  • Free Speech demonstration in a public area of campus. Some ideas:
    • 90-Second Megaphone: Anyone can come up and use the megaphone for 90 seconds to say anything, no matter how blasphemous or offensive. (You could also use a soapbox-style small platform for the speakers.
    • Blasphemy Boards: Hang posterboard or butcher paper for anyone to write on.
    • Post-It Board display: Anyone can come up throughout the day to write on a Post-It note that is then stuck to a display board for the day.
  • Blasphemous Art Display: Partner with the college Art Department or with art students and have a blasphemous art show or demonstration in a public area on campus.
  • Blasphemous Day of Service: Curious as to how to turn this into a service project? On the Sabbath (Sunday) preceding or following September 30th, your club can engage in a day of volunteer work! After all, in Exodus 31:15 it says, "For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death."
  • Blasphemy Comedy Night: Comedy shows are a fun and inexpensive way to celebrate free speech. Most college campuses have improv and comedy groups that are happy to perform at student events. Ask around and see if you can find comedians who support free speech and the right to blaspheme—they're usually very big supporters of being able to speak freely because comedy is a social commentary that is often funniest when it is both outrageous and true. Check out CFI's Speakers Bureau or email us if you would like help booking a comedian.
  • Blasphemy Game Night: Host a social game night with the games "Blasphemy: The Race to the Cross" and "Playing Gods: The Board Game of Divine Domination"; or, you can create your own Blasphemy Pictionary and Blasphemy Charades.
  • Screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian, an irreverent film that has been banned in some areas for its blasphemous content.
  • Deity Drawing Contest: This is well-suited to tabling in a public area. Provide basic drawing supplies (crayons, pencils, paper) for a contest where the best drawing of a deity wins a prize! Drawings can, of course, be of deities like the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, or Cthulhu. Make sure to collect names and contact information for each submission so that the winner can be contacted.
  • Soul Exchange: Invite people to trade their souls for delicious home-baked cookies.
  • Pascal's Wager Wheel: Create a spinner labeled with different gods. Then, invite passers-by to spin the wheel to find out which deity Pascal's wager applies to for that person.
  • Bus and Billboard Campaigns: Work in coalition with local groups to sponsor atheist/humanist/secular bus or billboard ads in the community. Many municipalities and transit authorities have refused to run these ads—find out if they'll fly in your area! (It's also a good way to attract new members to your group.)
  • Chalking for Reason:
    • Chalk quotes around campus from famous freethinkers, secularists, atheists, etc.
    • Chalk about campus/community free speech concerns (see here and here for examples).
  • Flyering for Free Expression: Research speech restrictions on campus (including in the residence halls). Create flyers that publicize vague and limiting restrictions on speech through flyering, leading up to possible petitioning and challenging the regulations.

For the Campaign for Free Expression:

If you have new ideas about ways that students and campus groups can get involved promoting freedom of expression, let us know! Send an e-mail to oncampus@centerforinquiry.net, and we'll add your idea to the list. And remember, if you are doing a campus event for International Blasphemy Rights Day or Banned Books Week that's open to the public, let us know so that we can publicize it in your region!


Other resources online:

(There's a good list of relevant websites in the downloadable British Council's Freedom of Expression and the Media booklet, pp. 10-13.)

Campaign for Free Expression student-related events in the media:

2013 Articles:

2012 Articles:

2011:

A summary of articles can be found on The Course of Reason blog: "Blasphemy Rights Day 2011: In Case You Missed It", 10/5/11

2010:

Articles

Blog posts by campus groups

2009 Articles: