The Campaign for Free Expression: It’s time for the world to stand up
The Center for Inquiry is proud to announce the launch of the Campaign for Free Expression, an initiative designed to combat the rising tide of blasphemy and incitement laws—laws used to criminalize criticism of religion or apostasy—and reassert the primacy of perhaps the most fundamental human right: the right to freedom of expression.
Here’s the official press release heralding the start of the campaign. Keep reading to see how you can get involved.
To fight the efforts of governments to criminalize speech critical of religion, and to push back against calls for global restrictions on free speech, the Center for Inquiry launches the Campaign for Free Expression. Timed to commence with International Blasphemy Rights Day, the Campaign aims to increase public awareness of threats to free expression, and develop plans to fight back, both in the world’s halls of power and at the grassroots.
Over the next several months, the Campaign will highlight cases of those being persecuted for “blasphemy” – expressing doubts about or criticizing religion –beginning with the unveiling of a content-rich campaign website and a powerful video introducing viewers to the names and faces of those who sit in jail or fear for their lives as a result of exercising their freedom to speak.
“Governments are punishing their citizens for speaking their minds about religion, and opportunistic extremists are using religious sensitivities as an excuse to mete out violent mob justice, killing innocents and terrorizing entire communities,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “The time has come for all of us as a global community to stand up and declare this blatant violation of human rights to be unacceptable.”
The world has been hotly debating several cases of men and women charged with blasphemy or other offenses against religion, such as Indonesia’s Alexander Aan, sentenced to prison for declaring his atheism on Facebook; Rimsha Masih of Pakistan, accused of desecrating a Quran; Saudi poet Hamza Kashgari, charged with defaming Muhammad on Twitter; the Russian band Pussy Riot, jailed for a defiant performance at a Moscow church; as well as many, many others.
“As President Obama recently told the UN, the way to combat bigoted and intolerant speech is not with violence, but with more speech,” said Michael De Dora, CFI’s director of public policy, “No one has the right not to be offended, and centuries-dead religious figures certainly need no protection from insult.”
De Dora added, “For those whose freedom or safety is in jeopardy because they had the courage to speak their mind, we will speak for them.”
The Campaign will be waged on many different fronts over the coming months. Apart from the content on the website and stirring video, you can take action by writing to world governments, the U.S. Congress and White House, and the United Nations, and you can learn a lot more about the state of free expression in a new CFI report, Dissent Denied: A Survey on Global Blasphemy and Incitement Laws.
You can also follow the official Campaign for Free Expression Twitter account at @CFICFE (and look for the hashtag #CFICFE), as well as the official Facebook page, to keep up to date with news and opportunities to get involved.
This campaign is at the heart of what CFI stands for, and we’re looking forward to the coming months as we work to awaken the world to what is a growing human rights crisis, and hopefully inspire the global community to stand up in defense of free speech.