September 30 marks International Blasphemy Rights Day (IBRD), which the Center for Inquiry has observed since its beginning.1 IBRD celebrates the right of authors, artists, and dissidents to treat religious matters as they see fit, even to the point of offending believers. And it calls for defending blasphemers when political repression or criminal prosecution loom. With that comes a call for the repeal—or when that is not possible, the moderation—of blasphemy statutes across the world.
Noteworthy, perhaps, is what is not called for above: protection for blasphemers from simple criticism, social condemnation, or purely verbal abuse. Anyone who speaks out in the public arena must be open to such things, for just as blasphemers have the right to offend, those whom they offen have a right to register their disapproval—but in the domain of rhetoric, not violence, — whether it is mediated by individuals, religious institutions, or the state.
Free Inquiry focused on blasphemy in politico-social discourse in our June/July issue. In this one, our annual IBRD feature will focus on blasphemy in the arts. Our contributors are:
- Bruce Adams, a Buffalo, New York–based artist and longtime humanist (among many other things, he designed the Center for Inquiry’s first logo in 1991) whose prolific output has included numerous blasphemous works;
- Pat Oleszko, a nationally renowned performance artist, choreographer, puppeteer, and social satirist whose works often stand at the junction of sexuality and religion; and
- Sara Ali, a young journalist and ex-Muslim who presents a nuanced vision of the rights—and responsibilities—that an artist’s decision to blaspheme may touch upon.
- John Roberts, an award-winning writer of articles, essays, poems, and books.
- IBRD is observed on September 30, the date in 2005 on which the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the twelve commis- sioned Muhammad cartoons that touched off an international contro- versy and reshaped public discussions of blasphemy.