International Blasphemy Day

International Blasphemy Day takes place annually on 30 September and encourages individuals and groups to openly express criticism of religion and blasphemy laws. It was founded in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry. In Amherst, New York, Who stated that religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just as political beliefs are, however there is a taboo on religion. The first annual Blasphemy Day in 2009 included an art exhibit in Washington, DC and a free speech festival in Los Angeles.

In some countries, blasphemy is punishable by death, such as in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. According to the International Press Institute, as of 2015, at least fourteen member states of the European Union maintain criminal blasphemy or religious insult laws, which prohibit defamation of religions as such or their beliefs, practices and divinities. These are Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France (Alsace-Moselle region only), Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland only). Turkey and Iceland also have similar laws. In the United Kingdom, the common-law offenses of “blasphemy” and “blasphemous libel” were abolished by section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. The last blasphemous libel conviction in Britain had been against Gay News and its editor in 1977. The publication had published a metaphoric poem involving Jesus and homosexual acts. The editor’s suspended prison sentence was quashed on appeal, but £1,500 in fines were upheld.

As of 2009, six U.S. states still had anti-blasphemy laws on their books: Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. These laws are unenforceable, however, because the U.S. Supreme Court, in Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson, 343 U.S. 495 (1952), found denying Americans the opportunity to view the short film “The Miracle”, (deemed blasphemous by the censors) to be a denial of the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.Blasphemy Day is celebrated on September 30 to coincide with the anniversary of the publication of satirical drawings of Muhammad in one of Denmark’s newspapers, resulting in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy. Although the caricatures of Muhammad caused some controversy within Denmark, especially among Muslims, it became a widespread furor after Muslim imams in several countries stirred up violent protests in which Danish embassies were firebombed and over 100 people killed.

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