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."
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?
Don't be absurd.
Really. Look! I can do that trick, too!
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Does that mean I'm allowed to carry a gun into a court house? A school? A bar?
I think the words "Shall not be infringed." are a hell of a lot clearer than "abridging the right" are.
And yet there are still laws (Some good and some not so good) very clearly infringing on my right to bear arms passed for the personal health and safety of those near me.
Really. I don't see why people are tearing this man apart because he burned some letters on a page.
We already went through this debate. My argument is , if you burn a childrens pop up book , does that mean you are a bigot against children?
The guy burned a book to make a point. That point , IMO , needs to be made. The action itself , IMO , is not enough to speak negatively about the man. Other things he has done and said , perhaps ... but I for one do not see any reason to be against burning a book. It's not like he was banning them , or forcing Muslims to give their own Quran up to government officials.
I think all of this boils down to a case of the provisions for protecting religious freedom being allowed to trump secular human rights. If you start out making assurances for security of person and equality under the law then you need to uphold those first and foremost. In point of fact, those human rights in and of themselves provide protections to theists just as much as they do to everyone else - it's no more legal to make death threats against Christians in general than it is to do so against pedophiles, neither is tolerable; it is no more legal to discriminate against a Muslim candidate for a job (based on his/her beliefs) than it is to discriminate against a Caucasian (based the colour of his/her skin).
Now if I write a book that says all fags should be put to death because they caused aids and continue to put at us risk and indoctrinate our children - not only would my book not reach store shelves but I would likely face lawsuits for fallaciously maligning a segment of the population and I might even face criminal charges (at least in Canada) for Hate Speech. There should be absolutely no special privilege for indoctrinates of a religion to spread the same message, and such special privileges have already been used to overturn a conviction for spreading the EXACT MESSAGE I stated above. You cannot possibly preach a sermon from the first chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans without inciting hatred of everyone who subscribes to a sex life that doesn't make me yawn.
So the real question here is why do we tolerate religious people spreading messages of hatred, violence, divine justification of murder, homophobia, and gender inequality? If there books were written today they would either be banned for import or marked for adult content and any attempt to teach from them would be answered with a charge of Hate Speech - again, at least in Canada - but even in Canada we allow human rights to be overridden every day of 'worship' as indoctrinates of religion are instructed to follow ideas that undermine the core principles of our declared human rights. We let them do this because we have been swindled into offering them special exemptions from the law.
Now, after centuries of letting them incite all this hatred, they have actually come to blows with each other. If we stay the course and do not intervene then we have, by our very inaction, condoned the violence that ensues - it might even be considered a form of 'freedom of expression'! On the other hand, if we step in and try to stop them from inciting hatred - as we would rationally do if they were Neo-Nazis protesting the construction of a synagogue - then we are accused of infringing upon their 'human rights'. The religious freedom to incite hatred is not, and has NEVER been, a 'human right'. It has only ever been a special provision designed to offer special protection for them AGAINST such hate inciting speech, NOT to go around inciting hatred themselves.
There can be no rational stance in continuing to entertain the notion that allowing religious freedoms includes allowing them to incite hatred and to teach from texts that espouse intolerance. Mohammed and Jesus have become the proverbial twins in the back seat of democracy, pinching each other and screaming that the other one did it first, all the while saying that Jimmy can't come to the birthday party because his dad is a homo. It's time to stop the car and tell them to shut the fuck up or we won't be stopping at Chuck E. Cheese today! Put an end to their hate inciting speech by enforcing the law and arresting every priest and imam who preach sermons of intolerance and hatred before their congregation goes out into the world to practice these things. Require that sermons from these texts and of these views be R-rated and that children not be allowed in to see the most graphic horror movie of all time - we can do it at the cinema so we can equally well do it at their religious theatres.
Recently, President Obama enacted a hate crimes bill. If the Christian message was truly one of love and tolerance then they should have been lauding that bill. Instead, the message they have returned is that the bill actually impinges on their ability to preach the bible with a clear conscience, while conspicuously choking their way out of directly quoting the biblical passages they feel they can no longer preach from with impunity. Pat Robertson decries the bill and pretends there is 'not a chance' of a law protecting a religious person from being attacked for their beliefs, while in point of fact there is exactly such a law, and it has been on the books for over 50 years. These people know for a fact they are inciting hatred and they maliciously shield their own violations of human rights by proclaiming it is their human right to do so.