The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist advocacy group, has issued a seemingly bizarre invite, offering students, faculty and the general public at the University of Wisconsin-Madison the opportunity to “stone” them at an upcoming event commemorating “Blasphemy Rights Day.” While the overall goal is to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the tactics are certainly eyebrow-raising.
It’s not what you might think, though. Rather than actual stones, those wishing to pelt non-believers will do so with water balloons during, “Is Blasphemy OK?,” an initiative that the organization plans to hold Wednesday evening.
The event is clearly a play on the horrific stoning deaths that often unfold in Islamic countries. But a release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that posters at the campus event will also invoke Judeo-Christian scripture, featuring signs with “biblical quotes calling for the stoning of atheists and blasphemers.”
Obviously, this is an effort to rile people up and to potentially drum up interest in the undertaking.
These verses that will be displayed, as presented on the atheist organization’s website, are as follows:
- “And everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.” – 2 Chronicles 15:13
- “You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” – Deuteronomy 13:10
- “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death.” – Leviticus 24:16
These proof texts, of course, were never intended to be Biblical mandates to modern-day Christians and are not put into proper context in their use by the foundation. Nonetheless, they will will be employed to make the organizers’ point: That freedom of speech — even speech that criticizes religion — should be permitted.
Students, faculty and passerby will have the opportunity to purchase the water balloons and to use them to “stone” atheists, including foundation co-president Dan Barker and one of the organization’s attorneys, Andrew Seidel.
Despite being an event that will likely spark controversy and ire among some (particularly because the use of Judeo-Christian scripture), the hope is that the money raised can be donated by atheists to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The event comes as non-believers prepare to celebrate the Blasphemy Rights Day, which is held on Sep. 30 each year. It’s also an opportunity to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
According to a Facebook page setup to commemorate the annual event, it is intended “to promote the rights to freedom of belief and expression and stand up in a show of solidarity for the liberty to challenge reigning religious beliefs without fear of murder, litigation, or reprisal.”
This story has been updated.