Students react to Blasphemy Rights Day
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 12:10
"Faith is not wanting to know what is true."
This is one of many secular and sacred quotes that the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers chalked on the sidewalk Thursday as part of International Blasphemy Rights Day, a day held in defense of free speech.
Because of the largely negative response to some of the inflammatory chalkings that accompanied last year's Blasphemy Day, UNIFI focused on provoking discussion about religion by limiting the kind of messages that were chalked and by hosting discussions on Facebook, their website and outside Maucker Union.
"This year we really cracked down on our chalkers as far as what we would allow them to say. We didn't want to go out of our way to offend people or do something just because it is offensive; we wanted our blasphemy to be valuable because it is blasphemy and not because it is tasteless," said Cory Derringer, UNIFI vice president.
International Blasphemy Rights Day is held every year on Sept. 30 to commemorate the publishing of Jyllands-Posten's cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad, which sparked religious protest by Islamic groups around the world, eventually resulting in more than 100 reported deaths.
According to Derringer, UNIFI focused on protecting blasphemy because it is the most controversial form of free speech.
"We live on a largely Christian campus, obviously, and it has occurred to us that maybe a lot of these people have never heard about free speech in the way of blasphemy or speech against religion.
Blasphemy day started at 9 p.m. on Wednesday night when members of Brothers and Sisters In Christ and UNIFI chalked together.
According to Derringer, it was a very peaceful and engaging night.
"I never witnessed anything that was not civil last night. I had conversations with people that were chalking with us and I had conversations with people that were walking around and praying over our chalk or chalking other things, you know, BASIC chalkers, and I was very impressed with the civility," said Derringer.
"I think it is good that people are getting their opinions out as long as they are respectful about people having differing opinions," said Rachel Schebler, a senior psychology major.
While most of Blasphemy Day was focused on conversation, some people were offended by UNFI's chalkings.
"I am a believer in God. I find it pretty insulting. Even though I believe that people are allowed to believe in whatever they want to and have the right to say whatever they want, I just find it hard to take in. I am a person who is strong in my faith, but I am not going to try to press my beliefs on someone else and I don't really appreciate it that others are trying to push their beliefs on me," said Ashleigh Peska, a junior family services major.
However, some people did not seem bothered by the chalkings.
"I think it is a lot of back and forth between two people who have different opinions and do not know what to really think about it. Some of the stuff is kind of harsh toward each other; it can go both ways," said Paige Nieuwenhuis, a junior biology major.