Most of you probably remember Terry Jones. He is the preacher that burned the Qu'ran in Florida which angered radical Muslims who rioted and killed 21 people in retaliation.

 

A few weeks ago, he started trolling for more attention when he announced that he was going to protest outside of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn Michigan. Dearborn has a large Muslim community and the mosque is the largest in the United States so it is understandable why he chose that particular venue.

 

Dearborn officials were worried that his actions could start a riot. Additionally, there were other logistical concerns such as the roads leading to the mosque just weren't big enough for the amount of people expected to turn out to the event. Therefore, the prosecutor in the city filed a petition to prevent him from holding his demonstration. The city then told Jones that he could only hold his protest in one of the four designated free speech zones. I want to note that these free speech zones are not new. The city has had them in place long before Terry Jones came into the national spotlight.

 

They also required him to pay a $40,000 bond because they anticipated that his actions may cause an outbreak of violence or rioting. Jones refused to pay the bond and refused to hold his demonstration in the designated places. The officials then told him that he would be put in jail if he demonstrated outside of the mosque.

 

Well, fast forward to yesterday 4/23. Terry Jones is in jail because he attempted to stage a protest outside of the mosque. Jones is claiming that his free speech rights have been violated.

 

"You may not agree with what we've done," Jones said, addressing the court for the first time in his baritone preacher's voice Friday morning. Quick to defend his constitutional rights, he added, "This is, to a certain extent, a First Amendment issue ... and the First Amendment does us no good if it confines us to saying what popular opinion is."

 

And the ACLU wrote a brief agree with him:

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a friend of the court brief. "If the First Amendment means anything, it means that the government cannot interfere in a person's free speech simply because it doesn't agree with the message or because someone else may not agree with the message," spokesperson Rana Elmir penned in the statement. "As reprehensible as his beliefs may be," Elmir added, "we believe this is an unconstitutional attempt to limit his unpopular speech."

 

You can read the article on Huffington Post.

 

The incident raises a couple of issues. First, I don't agree that Jones' right to free speech was impacted. As I understand the First Amendment you can say what you want. However, the government can limit where you say it especially if there is concern that your words could result in physical harm. The common example given is that you can't yell fire in a crowded movie theater because that could incite a panic where people get trampled to death.

 

The second issue that I think is even more interesting is actually something that has been brought up several times since the Qu'ran burning incident which is the reaction of the Muslim community to criticism of their religion. Why should the Dearborn government be afraid that the Muslim community is going to react violently to a protest of their religion?

I've never heard of riots in Dearborn before even after the Qu'ran burning incident. So I guess my question is are the Dearborn officials thinking of what happened overseas and thinking the same thing may happen in their city if Jones confronts them or is this an example of the Muslim community earning a reputation, perhaps undeserved, of being a religion that will cut the head off anyone who criticizes them?

 

Then the other thing is, is it really our responsibility to not offend them, or any other religion, out of fear of a violent reaction? Or is it their responsibility to not be offended or find a different way to express their unhappiness at the thing that offended them?

 

Thoughts?

Tags: Jones, Muslims, Terry

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"However, Jones carries a certain amount of personal responsibility for that situation as well. I support his right to free speech."

I strongly disagree here. You can only be held responsible for the logical consequences of your actions, not what extremists might possibly do (their actions are per this definition not a logical response). If we are responsible for how insane people interpret our words and actions society would become very muted.

If he had told muslims to go out and kill as many non-muslims as they could, a far fetched case could possibly be made that it then is a logical consequence that non-muslims were killed. But I see no cause and effect relationship between book burnings and beheadings.

What is this fetish with freedom of speech anyway?  Does it also entail freedom from liability for slanderous speech?  Does it include immunity from felony prosecution for murders incited by hate speech?  Does it deflect criminal charges when death threats are made?  At what point do people accept that there are in fact limits on where, when, and what you can say?  This applies to expression as well.  If you don't believe me, try walking around an African American oriented institution of some sort swinging a hangman's noose by your side.

 

There should be absolutely no special privilege of religion in these matters at all.  Everyone should be able to feel safe walking the streets and no one should be making death threats against any group that they belong to, whether they belong to it by nature, nurture, indoctrination or informed consent - Freedom of speech should not extend to those who would make death threats against such groups or espouse the virtues of putting members of that group to death; just say 'no' to Paul's Epistle to the Romans Chapter 1.

 

Burning a text that is the official emblem of a group is not freedom of expression, it's just plain maliciously designed to incite and invoke hatred and anger.  It's sickening to see a municipality have to deal with this through improvised use of bylaws and city resources.  This is an issue that should be recognized at the highest levels of government for just what it is so they can legislate the power for police and courts to deal with it directly.

 

A text that incites and invokes hatred, espousing virtue in violence, murder, and intolerance, should be categorized as containing Adult content and kept away from children.  Teachings from such a book that include such lessons that violate human rights should be prosecutable as a hate crime on the spot - how does the freedom to make speeches on the virtue of killing gays or people of particular religious beliefs constitute anything of virtue?  How is this not recognized as compromising security of person and therefore negating the freedom to express such views?

 

This world has truly gone mad.

Freedom of speech does not allow for criminal acts.

The burning of books I don't find in anyway an expression of free speech even if the courts would disagree with me. People burn books to limit access to the information, if you look throughout history when books were being burned someone rights were being messed with. What is going on is a form of bigotry, Islam has taken the place of the USSR as America's base fear to keep the military machine running at full tilt.

Agreed.  Here in Canada the Hate Crimes bill bars one from inciting hatred, including any attempt to convince others that harm should come to a particular group.  As far as I know, to date no one has used this law to prosecute those who try to teach from Romans, Chapter 1.

Om am far from convinced about my support for banning hate speech all together. Since (effective) hate speech generally is directed downwards by someone who holds power, either through vote majority or otherwise, It's essentially a protection of those who hold least power.

Blacks were detested for a long time in our societies and deprived of power. It's getting better but we are not there yet. But they have definately taken ownership of the hate speech, there's only people of a certain skintype that can get away with the n-word. Homosexuals is another target of hate speech, but they already held so many position of power that normalization has been quick, and they took ownership of language that was previously hate speech, such as queer and gay.

The latest incarnation of this language of hate is of course directed towards Islam. But it wasn't hate speech laws that has allieviated the problems, it was just repetition till noone could stand listen to it any longer and just face that their bigotry had to be hidden to be a member of society. Hate speech laws deprive Islam of that.

In addition, Islam does have a lot about it one can legitemately hate - blacks and homosexuals never did. 

Well I think most people could see a big difference between a speech that says pedophiles cannot, by their nature, be trusted with custody of children and another speech that says pedophiles are seeking to rape your children and therefore killing them is the only way to protect society.

 

I should be free to hate you, and even hate your group.  I think I should also be free to declare that I personally hate a particular group.  Once I cross the line of proclaiming it is the moral duty of all people who share my beliefs to throw rocks at or kill people of a particular group, well then I'm crossing a line that is, at least, very obvious to me - and I hope that it is obvious to others.

 

I personally feel that even if a person is a pedophile they should be afforded the right to walk down the street without fearing that there are those who would attack them or kill them for being a pedophile.  I feel that we need to find ways to protect our children but I do not feel anyone should have the right to incite violence against any group.

 

Of course there would need to be an exception for acts of war declared by the government.  That is all I have to say about that.  (for now)

Hmm.. That is a very thought provoking answer.

Unfortunately it leads to a more personal conclusion that there is a part of me that hates the acts of religion as much as I hate the act of pedophilia. I don't allow myself to give hate speech about pedofiles, the persons behind the act, they are mentally ill and should be accomodated for treatment. But their acts I do want the ability to state exactly what I feel about, including hate speech.

But if everyone is able to distinguish between hating acts and persons I'm not so sure about, so I guess you are right in a social cohesion standpoint.

Yes, well I like to get down to brass tacks on something like this.  I suggest you should feel free to hate pedophiles, Muslims, or gays - we don't want thought police, after all.  I suggest you should be free to publicly declare that you hate any or all of these groups - as long as you aren't making accusations about them that you cannot reasonably support.  As soon as you move to forming a congregation in a public place to make a lot of noise about this hatred, however, I think you are crossing a line (avoid forming threatening crowds in public).  As soon as you start organizing a system to make day to day life difficult for members of these groups, I think you are definitely crossing a line.  Once you start to promote the idea that these people should be physically harmed in any way, you cross the line hook line and sinker.

 

Now if you want to promote laws that prohibit behaviors that define these groups, well you are taking part in the democratic process.  At this point it is up to the politicians to ensure their laws are not inspired by hatred or unfounded accusations.  If you are writing a book that criticizes any of these groups, well you should be held liable for any claims you make that are unfounded, so you better do your research rather than just typing out a ranting narrative of hatred.  If the act of molesting children destroys the potential for the happiness of those children, well why not back that up with the results of some peer reviewed studies?  If many pedophiles take part in insidiously predatorial behavoirs, then why not be specific and elucidate, along with providing some crime statistics?  Is this too much to ask?

 

How am I doing here?

Terry knew that there was a very probable that his actions would cause a reaction (he is looking for that reaction). Asking him to pay to have the security needed is not unreasonable.

A free speech zone is wrong, just plain wrong.

"plain wrong"
Makes no exceptions for personal safety. Your right to protest is second to my right to enter my work place safely. If police are not confident that they can insure the physical safety of protestors, counter-protestors police and bystanders, it is their responsibility to provide somewhere that they can. That is why we have designated free speech zones.
Large mobs present a clear and present danger.

Your not talking about free speech, as soon as someone is physical assaulted then free speech has ended and something else is going on. If the plan is not to allow free speech to happen those that want it ended need to be herded off for the safety of the speakers.

What you are dealing with is hate crime clothed in religion.

 

I would say that 'hate speech' is a hell of a lot more of an affront to free speech than zoning is. Seems like a gray area to me. You can't hate-speech someone to death. Hell, you can't even offend someone to death. Why then..can certain words be illegal if uttered in a specific order?

Free Speech Zones are areas made safer than protest-organized sites because they take into account emergency response time, fire codes and a whole mess of other things that have to be planned to keep it reasonably safe -not just for the protesters -but for the common person going about their day. Just because someone wants to throw a pride parade outside of a homophobic church doesn't mean I should have to watch my grandfather die because it took an ambulance 45 minutes to fight through the crowd.  So for all you folks that say that Free Speech Zones are an infringement on your civil rights, I DARE you to work in Emergency Services for a year or two. 

Peaceful protests and civil disobedience are technically two different things, but BOTH of them have an assumption of risk. That's fair enough.

However....government services and the protesters themselves have an obligation to act as good citizens and see that innocent residents or local workers are not put into any harm's way. 

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