Intellectual Freedom across the Globe: Religion, Free Expression, and Libraries

This webinar will consist of three presentations:

BLASPHEMY AND DEFAMATION OF RELIGION LAWS: A CHALLENGE TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: The issue of insults to religion, as a set of beliefs, is an issue with life or death significance in a number of countries (the murder of Salman Taseer) and has been a source of serious international dissension (the Danish cartoons). Avoiding offence to people with religious beliefs is a matter of tact and decorum, but despite this the human need (and right) for freedom of expression in matters of religion itself remains paramount.

ETHICAL PERSPECTIVES ON DONATIONS TO LIBRARIES: The way in which libraries deal with donations of books, other materials and access facilities is on the face of it a simple procedural matter. However, the ideological content and proselytising purpose of some donations exposes ethical dimensions that can be very contentious. The need for well crafted donations policies and their consistent application becomes significant in this context. Some relevant case studies (including the donations programme of the Church of Scientology) will be discussed

LET US PRAY @ YOUR LIBRARY: In the U.S., the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. At the same time, it commands that public institutions not promote religion.  This presentation will discuss how U.S. libraries and courts have dealt with religious organizations seeking to use public library meeting rooms to meet and worship, and offer best practices and suggested meeting room policies for libraries.

Learning Outcomes

  • Participants will gain an understanding of blasphemy and defamation of religion laws, and the repercussions on the basic rights of freedom of expression and freedom of access to information
  • Participants will be able to craft, articulate, and apply policies for materials donation
  • Participants will learn about U.S. meeting room policies, laws, and best practices in the U.S.


  • Paul Sturges O.B.E., Professor Emeritus, Loughborough University and Professor Extraordinary, University of Pretoria, United Kingdom; Past chair, FAIFE Committee
  • Almuth Gastinger, Senior Research Librarian, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
  • Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Deputy Director, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, Chicago, IL, USA


How to Register

To register, click here to begin the online registration process. You will need to enter your ALA ID and password. If you do not have an ALA ID and password, you will be asked to create one. Click here for a PDF with instructions on how to create an ALA ID.


Jonathan Kelley,