The date for Blasphemy Day was chosen to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the publication in a Danish newspaper of a controversial cartoon depicting Mohammed wearing a bomb as a turban. The drawing was protested by many Muslims as blasphemy. Wednesday's observance included a contest for the best blasphemous slogan. The winning phrase was memorialized on a t-shirt.
While I condemn blasphemy, I join with Lindsay in affirming the right of people to speak against God if they so choose. Rightfully the 100,000 supporters of the Center for Inquiry are outraged that some nations seek to execute blasphemers. Furthermore this CNN report made me aware that six states in this country (Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wyoming) have laws against blasphemy on the books. This is disturbing.
According to Massachusetts law:
Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or
contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars ...
Some of the language of the anti-blasphemy laws of the other five states can be found here.
Baptists in the early days of this country affirmed the right of citizens to speak freely, including those who do not believe in God. John Leland, a Baptist leader, wrote in 1791, “Let every man speak freely without fear—maintain the principles that he believes—worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing …”
Leland aggressively proclaimed the gospel, baptizing more the 1,500 people in the course of his ministerial career. But he and his fellow Baptists of 200 years ago were equally aggressive in defending complete religious liberty and the separation of church and state. They were utterly against blasphemy, but they were also against blasphemy laws. They were convinced that the Lord would accomplish his purposes just fine without any coercive laws of the state.
They were right too.