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.