Blasphemy around the world

The Washington Post notes that it’s International Blasphemy Day via Brandon G. Withrow at Religion News Service.

“God is a lie.”

In some countries, uttering, scribbling or texting that statement will get you thrown in jail, beaten with a rod or possibly killed. The “crime” is blasphemy and Wednesday (Sept. 30) is “International Blasphemy Rights Day,” set aside by human rights activists to highlight the blasphemy laws on the books in 22 percent of the world’s nations, according to the Pew Research Center.

Withrow mentions China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It could also have mentioned India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sudan…

“Freedom of conscience is a fundamental right, and it must be valued, protected and advanced everywhere in the world,” says Michael De Dora, director of the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy — the organization behind Blasphemy Rights Day — and the center’s representative to the United Nations. The Center for Inquiry is a humanistic and First Amendment watchdog group based in Buffalo, N.Y.

In response to foreign policies suppressing free expression, U.S. Reps. Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas have proposed House Resolution 290, which calls for making the repeal of blasphemy laws a condition of U.S. cooperation. They urge that the label “country of particular concern” be applied to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

“Fortunately, many governments have been strong in publicly condemning blasphemy laws, whether at the U.N., in public statements or in their softer diplomacy,” CFI’s De Dora said. “The problem is many of these condemnations are just words. What we could really use is more governments using the possibility of changing or pulling out of trade and other agreements to put some force behind these words.”

But of course so many US legislators would themselves love to have laws against blasphemy on the books.