Amherst’s Center for Inquiry steps up fight for free expression

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Amherst-based Center for Inquiry led its annual observance of International Blasphemy Rights Day, Thursday, with a special edition of its “Free Inquiry” magazine, the launch of a new website promoting free speech, and bringing in a guest speaker to lead a discussion of Islam extremism.

The Center for Inquiry is known for questioning religion, and promoting “secular humanism”. The latest edition of “Free Inquiry”, is the “Special Blasphemy Issue”.

The theme of the new issue is “Defending the Right to Blaspheme”, and editor Tom Flynn said center officials are concerned about efforts to outlaw criticism of religion, which some extremists consider blasphemy.

Flynn said extremists often threaten critics with death, or bodily harm, and cited the Paris massacre, last year, at the offices of satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, and a deadly shootout in Texas, led by Islamic extremists.

While the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion, Flynn points out that same First Amendment also holds sacred the right to criticize religion.

“There is strong efforts in the Muslim world to push for legislation which would outlaw any criticism of religion, any speech that would offend the believer in a particualr religion. We think that is going too far, and we are pushing back against it through the observance of International Blasphemy Rights Day.”

The Center for Inquiry culminated its observance of Blasphemy Rights Day, by hosting a discussion led by human rights activist, Muhammad Syed–a former Muslim himself–and founder of the group, Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA).

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