Quaking over Free speech in the Quaker state…

Does the First Amendment protect against against ‘blasphemy’, which is clearly a term only of sectarian religion?  

“… in a nation without a state religion and with a formal separation of church and state, a nation with a panoply of faiths and a growing proportion of nonbelievers, blasphemy is defined by religious, often overtly Christian, terms.”

“When you read the First Amendment, this is something you can be proud of,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, then you care about the First Amendment.”

Samuel G. Freedman writes in today’s (NY) Times:”Back in the fall of 2007, with only the most practical motives in mind, George Kalman took his pen to the standard form for creating a limited liability company in Pennsylvania…The first line on the document asked Mr. Kalman to supply his chosen corporate name, and he printed it in: I Choose Hell Productions, LLC. In a personal bit of existentialism, Mr. Kalman believed that, even if life was often hellish, it was better than suicide.

A week later, the daily mail to Mr. Kalman’s home in the Philadelphia suburb of Downingtown brought a form letter from the Pennsylvania Department of State. His corporate filing had been rejected, the letter explained, because a business name “may not contain words that constitute blasphemy, profane cursing or swearing or that profane the Lord’s name.”

Mr. Kalman felt quite certain, he recalled here the other day, that the letter was some kind of prank….After a couple more readings, though, Mr. Kalman realized that the rejection was genuine. Pennsylvania, it turned out, indeed had a law against blasphemy. In the short term, Mr. Kalman successfully filed for incorporation as ICH Productions, LLC. In the longer run, he put in a call to the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and set in motion a challenge to the state law.

“They’re actually imposing their religious beliefs on me,” said Mr. Kalman, 49. “They’re saying that you either believe what we believe or we won’t let you live your life.”  

“Narrowly speaking, the suit filed last month in Federal District Court in Philadelphia — George Kalman v. Pedro A. Cortés, Pennsylvania’s secretary of state — seeks to have the state law struck down as unconstitutional. More broadly and more interestingly, the litigation has lifted the rock off an obscure remnant of American jurisprudence: the continuing existence of blasphemy laws…The problem, at least for opponents of these laws, is that in a nation without a state religion and with a formal separation of church and state, a nation with a panoply of faiths and a growing proportion of nonbelievers, blasphemy is defined by religious, often overtly Christian, terms. Several of the state statutes explicitly outlaw verbal attacks on God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and “Scripture.”

What mystifies Mr. Kalman … is that he had not even intended such an attack. He said he counted both atheists and born-again Christians among his friends and described his own attitude about God as “don’t know.”

His views on the Constitution, however, are plenty clear.

“When you read the First Amendment, this is something you can be proud of,” he said. “If you care about the human condition, then you care about the First Amendment.”

Would anti-islamic cartoons have violated the state’s laws?

see:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/21/us/21religion.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=blasphemy%20issue%20in%20pennsylvania&st=cse

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