Blasphemy Law: Don’t Poke Your Nose

Taslima Nasreen is a writer and humanist who I was privileged enough to meet last year at a conference in Virginia. When I approached her after a panel, I thanked her for sharing and speaking, and we shook hands politely. Then, I walked away to the coffee stand, kicking myself for not saying something more important or engaging, and talked to an elderly woman about her dog. In all truth, I felt pretty humble in Taslima’s presence, not in the manner of intimidation, but rather a silent awe and respect.

Screenshot 2015-02-09 at 10.02.10 AM - Edited

I was researching blasphemy in the United States recently and came cross an organization called End Blasphemy Laws (link) that Taslima supports. The website ultimately raised a lot of questions and good points for me. I was surprised to see that the United States was not highlighted on the website’s home page map and then further surprised to read about “blasphemous libel” in Canada, which is punishable for up to two years in jail. When looking at their map, I wonder if the creators of End Blasphemy Laws are simply doing a preliminary keyword search to find blasphemous law in global legal databases or what their research methods entail. For instance, I live in Tennessee and would consider Section 2 of Article IX in the Tennessee Constitution blasphemous law. The section reads:

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.

There are similar laws in the states of Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and others across the board. (You can see similar laws internationally in Pakistan, Ireland, India, and other countries. Even the United Nations has some notable complications in this particular field of legality and religiosity.) The Texas legal statement on public office is particularly interesting. The law reads:

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

I would consider these legal statements under the category of blasphemy law, but often these particular laws are considered “unenforceable” as well and thus dismissed from conversation.

My research into blasphemy law comes admittedly from the Charlie Hebdo internet movement and influx in media representation. My thoughts on Charlie Hebdo are complicated to say the least, too involved with censorship and then Islamic blasphemy law, and thus convoluted and perhaps even ill-informed as some opinions tend to be. And maybe, I am too late in on the conversation. Anyway, it’s blasphemy thoughts for today, readers. And I find that I am all too reminded when researching law of the familiar childhood phrase, “Don’t poke your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

5 comments

  1. D. Eaton · February 9, 2015

    Amen to the removal of blasphemous law. ;-)

  2. thecuriousbum · February 9, 2015

    We used to look up weird laws as kids. Things like don’t bathe your donkey after sundown or whatever. The god requirements ought to be taken down quicker even if they’re not technically enforceable.

  3. starmanjones · February 10, 2015

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK_yPvB1vws take this which is far sharter that reading cat’s cradle by vonnegut yet elegantly touches upon the kinder side to making things TABOO. I still haven’t read Stanic Verses by rushdie yet because it carries ire or death for the author if he visits the wrong dark alley… I remember it…. love is powerful so chirpy songs go and so is hate … indifference though is the real monkey wrench.

  4. Miss Angolia · February 10, 2015

    I can’t imagine what I would do if I met Taslima! She is so courageous. Have you ever read her poems?

    HERE: “Human nature is such
    That if you sit, they’ll say, ‘No, don’t sit.’
    If you stand, ‘What’s the matter? Walk!
    And if you walk, ‘Shame on you, sit down.!

    If you so much as lie down, they’ll order, ‘Get up.’
    If you don’t lie down, no respite, ‘ Lie down.’

    I’m wasting my days getting up and sitting down.
    If I’m dying right now, they speak up, ‘Live.’
    If they see me living, who knows when
    they’ll say, ‘Shame on you. Die!’

    In fear, I secretly go on living.”

  5. Catholic Tap House · February 10, 2015

    Blasphemy laws are something I have many opinions on especially being from Ireland…. My number #1 gripe?? Blasphemous law doesn’t stop tension or curb slurs against sacred subjects. Blasphemous law isn’t a peaceful solution; instead, these laws inflame the passions of people and even promote violence.

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