Campaigner see blasphemy as free speech
(CNN) — In his youth, Ronald Lindsey planned to enter the priesthood, so fervent was his devotion to God. But these days, Lindsay is devoted to protecting a person’s right to ridicule, criticize — even lambaste God.
You might say he is a blasphemer’s savior.
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The devout Catholic turned non-believer leads a movement that is all about protecting people’s rights to speak irreverently about religion.
Criticizing God is an act punishable by death in several nations. In America, blasphemy laws remain on the books in six states, though they are largely arcane and not enforced.
But everywhere, it seems to Lindsay, scoffing at God is not socially acceptable.
People are willing to tolerate the harshest statements about the president of the United States, he said. But talk about Jesus or Mohammed — that’s a whole different ball game.
“We think religious beliefs should be subject to examination and criticism just as political beliefs are,” said Lindsay, 56, who heads the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York, an organization that claims about 100,000 followers worldwide. “But we have a taboo on religion.”
Outraged by nations that want to execute blasphemers and propelled by a deep belief in the freedom of expression, Lindsay is forging ahead with his “nothing is sacred” movement. Wednesday marks the first organized observance of Blasphemy Day, a series of events, exhibits and lectures unfolding in a host of mostly North American cities that are part of a larger Campaign for Free Expression.
The day coincides with the fifth anniversary of a Danish newspaper’s publication of controversial cartoons about Mohammed. The depictions of the prophet wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse sparked protests by Muslims worldwide and prompted media outlets to censor themselves.
But to Lindsay, a society is not truly free unless people can freely air their views on any subject — including God.