FFRF is asking members and supporters to join PEN American Center's efforts to press Saudi Arabia's King Salman to immediately release the poet Ashraf Fayadh, who has been sentenced to death by beheading last month, and the writer Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 50-lash increments.
PEN, which is based in New York City and works to advance literature and defend free expression, has started a petition urging President Barack Obama to use his influence to persuade King Salman to exercise clemency.
Fayadh, 35, a Palestinian refugee who lives in Saudi Arabia, faces beheading for expressing "supposed atheistic and blasphemous themes" in his poetry. It's also suspected he's being punished because he posted a video online showing religious police publicly whipping a man. The court case against him has dragged on for nearly two years.
Badawi, 31, is a Saudi writer and activist who managed an online forum on which he encouraged debate and wrote about liberalism and secularism. He was arrested in 2012 and convicted of insulting Islam and promoting liberal thought through electronic channels. The New York Times reported the 1,000-lash part of the punishment was suspended after the first 50 lashes nearly killed him and caused an international outcry. Ensaf Haidar, his wife, now lives in Canada with their three children.
The petition states that "the gravity of these sentences, rendered for crimes that are not crimes, cannot go unremarked upon any longer by the President of the United States. . . . If these two writers die, and you as President have said nothing, the blame will be shared."
Add your name here to the petition. Blasphemy is a victimless crime.
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20037
The Freethinkers of Hastings-on-Hudson, a group from the village in New York, put up the Freedom From Religion Foundation's "Reason's Greetings" banner in a public park last week. It is the second year the group has put up the display during the December holiday season.
The local group also displayed its own sign, which depicts Rodin's "The Thinker" contemplating the village's water tower, near the FFRF banner in VFW Park. A Festivus pole, invented and made famous by the TV show "Seinfeld," is also in the park between the two signs.
The secular displays have been put up to counter two religious holiday displays traditionally hosted in the park: a Catholic church's nativity scene and a menorah put up by the Chabad. The nativity shelter currently sits empty, while the electrically lighted menorah is to the right of that.
FFRF, a state/church watchdog, has nearly 23,000 members, including more than 1,200 in New York.