The Course of Reason

What are you doing for International Blasphemy Rights Day?

August 22, 2011

International Blasphemy Rights Day is an awareness day that is celebrated by showing support for free speech issues and learning more about blasphemy laws and censorship around the world. The United States’ first amendment disallows any laws that make blasphemy illegal, but there are still free speech issues that we should be fighting here in the United States, and there are certainly people around the world that are not able to speak freely, including questioning religion and religious practices.

Center for Inquiry encourages student groups to hold events that show their support for free speech as well as awareness and criticism of blasphemy laws. International Blasphemy Rights Day is September 30th. Here are a few ideas for events that you can hold or participate in.

Blasphemy Night

Comedy shows have become 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 are 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 the Center for Inquiry Speaker’s Bureau or email Dren Asselmeier if you would like help booking a comedian.

Draw Muhammad and Friends Day

Many students are aware of the fact that people who follow the religion of Islam do not allow for any physical depiction of Muhammad. Illustrators and artists who have done so in the past have suffered violence and threats of violence at the hands of people who were offended by these drawings. Luckily, those of us who live in the United States can draw whatever we damned well please, and drawing religious figures has become a way for students to band together and let their communities know that religious criticism is not off limits. You don’t have to say anything offensive; this isn’t about trying to offend people so much as it is about saying that speech can’t be stifled just because someone says that what you say is offensive. Chances are you won’t get your school newspaper to print your cartoons (it’s worth a shot), but have an art contest, do some chalking, or publish your own posters that sport the very best drawings. You don’t have to limit your drawings to just one deity. All higher powers deserve a caricature now and then! Get out your crayons and allow yourselves to be touched by his noodly appendages! Make sure you send your art to CFI On Campus and Dren will see if she can get them published or posted on the website. Heck, we may even hang them on the refrigerator.

Have My Megaphone

Does your school have a free speech zone? That sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? But by making a free speech zone, your school may be disallowing free speech on other parts of the campus. Some students challenge this idea in order to make their whole campus a place where students can speak freely without fear, but for now, go ahead and reserve that free speech zone for a high-traffic time near or on International Blasphemy Rights Day (September 30th). Find a place where you can buy or borrow a megaphone (you may have to do some searching, but they exist), make some posters, and get on your soapbox to say whatever you want. Encourage passing students to take a second and let out whatever they’d like to say. They can even tell you how stupid and annoying you are for having a megaphone! That’s what’s great about it! I had an Irish woman yell at my student group once because she said there is no such thing as free speech. Take the megaphone, lady! Set up a table to give out merch if you’d like, and make sure to print off fliers that explain what you’re doing so that passing students can take one and read about the reason we recognize International Blasphemy Rights Day.

Click here to like the Facebook page and get updates about “sacri-licious” events near you. Visit our Campaign for Free Expression resources page to get more ideas and help organizing. Do you have any other ideas? Need more help? Want to send us your drawing of Vishnu giving jump-high-fives? Send us an email and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Read more about the history of IBRD here and here



About the Author: Dren Asselmeier

Dren Asselmeier's photo

Dren Asselmeier does student outreach as a campus organizer at the Center for Inquiry. She got her start as an organizer while interning at Center for Inquiry–Michigan in 2008. She stayed until 2010 as a volunteer campus coordinator, and was CFI–Michigan Freethinker of the Year in 2009, as well as president of Center for Inquiry–Grand Valley State University. Dren has a B.A. in English from Grand Valley State University. She is the president of Buffalo Area Non-Profit Professionals, an event volunteer at Buffalo Subversive Theatre, and a contributor to the Buffalo Storyteller Hour. 


#1 Malimar on Monday August 22, 2011 at 11:06am

The funny part is a cleric can't cast <i><a href="">blasphemy</a></i> until level 13. Of course he's not amused: <i>blasphemy</i> cast at a caster level of 13 weakens and dazes the level 12 cleric, no save!


Maybe on Blasphemy Rights Day I can run a one-shot where you fight against (or, more appropriately, alongside!) a <a href="">balor</a>, which are notorious for their ability to use <i>blasphemy</i> at will.

Or maybe I should just alter <i>blasphemy</i> in my campaign to be a [good] spell instead of (or in addition to) an [evil] one. Actually, I think I'll go do that very thing now, and set up a blog post on the subject to go up on Blasphemy Rights Day itself. That, uh, hopefully won't be the extent of my contribution.

#2 Malimar on Monday August 22, 2011 at 11:07am

...pretend that HTML works, I always forget it frequently doesn't in comment threads.

#3 Dren Asselmeier on Monday August 22, 2011 at 11:17am

Arg! Yeah, sorry about the html. Thanks for schooling me about clerics. :D haha

#4 Cory Brunson on Tuesday August 23, 2011 at 7:15am

Perhaps there's already a conversation about this somewhere, on the forums or in some article i haven't come across. If so, i apologize, and please clue me in!

I love the idea of a public megaphone at which anyone may voice any view without threat of repercussion (but almost with promise of rebuttal). However, as i've gotten marginally familiar with the BDSM scene i've become aware of the occasional triggers that people may harbor, the activation of which can be extremely distressing.

I understand that the risk of seriously foul statements at a BRD event are low and that the chance of overlap with some unsuspecting survivor passing by is next to nil. However, this angle seems to change a megaphone event from potentially hurtful to potentially harmful. (I'm trying to distinguish the effects of hate speech from those of triggers without understating either.)

I'm not knowledgeable about these things.
1. Is there indeed a meaningful distinction between the psychological harm incurred from hate speech and the effect on a trauma victim of triggers, or do these things lie along a spectrum?
2. Does a consideration of trauma victims change the perspective we should take toward such an event?

#5 web design (Guest) on Sunday August 28, 2011 at 11:18am

I always forget it frequently doesn't in comment threads..pretend that HTML works,




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