Trevor Boeckmann was the president of the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI) this past year and he tells the story of what his group did for Blasphemy Day in the latest issue of Free Inquiry.
His group chalked the campus that day with the understanding that “religion does not deserve any special protection from criticism.”
What happened as a result?
I will never forget that night — scrawling the words of Richard Dawkins in front of the music building, quoting Deuteronomy in front of the campanile, and drawing stick figures of Muhammad on the way to the business building. The response was immediate. Curious onlookers approached, many of them engaging us in conversation. Shortly after came the defacing.
My phone started ringing off the hook. People all over campus were defacing our chalking. Some were walking around with water bottles, washing out what they could. Others were spitting on it or scratching it out with their feet. Still more were chalking back.
We started riding down a sidewalk and saw derogatory messages written in response to ours. Next to Thomas Jefferson’s “Question with boldness even the existence of a god” was the less elegant “Imagine my cock in your eye socket, fun times you cunts.” At the end of the sidewalk, hunched down by another of our chalkings, was the author of that sentiment. We raced to him and snapped some pictures, inquiring as to what he was doing. “Don’t worry,” he protested, “we’re fixing it.” We explained that we were the ones who originally did the chalking. He was rendered motionless by the realization. Then he lunged at my camera, managing only to graze it before sprinting away.
This is why Blasphemy Day is so important and why I’m now such a strong supporter of it.
It’s not about mocking religion or calling a believer names.
It’s about the freedom of speech and the idea that religion (along with other strongly-held beliefs) should be open to criticism.
No one should be able to silence you because they don’t like what you say.
Incidentally, the Center For Inquiry has launched their Campaign for Free Expression Video Contest. Make a video explaining why free expression is so important and you could win $2,000!