Burning Qurans, Flags, Bibles? The First Amendment Rules

picresized_1284076161_800px-Quran_cover.jpg
~crystalina~
If the book burning was to be of Bibles instead of Qurans, would anyone have cared?

All the sturm und drang of the past few days over a Florida pastor's plans to burn a pile of Qurans on September 11 may have paid off.

The AP is now reporting that Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville's Dove World Outreach Center has canceled the holy book bonfire, claiming that he's reached a deal with the folks building the Muslim religious center two blocks away from Ground Zero. He says they've promised to move it farther away from the site of the World Trade Center attacks.

However, other news outlets are reporting that the people behind the so-called Ground Zero Mosque in New York are denying that this oddball deal has been struck.

If any of this backpedaling on the mosque-building or the book-burn turns out to be true, it's an unsettling day for bedrock principles of American democracy such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, as enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

For the past week, the local news has wrung its hands over the pending Quran-roast by this Florida wacko. There's been legitimate concern about a rise in bias incidents against Muslims. And the Arizona Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ) has urged media professionals to be "responsible" when reporting on the story.

Such anxiety has been widespread, with President Barack Obama and his top guy in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, urging the pastor not to go forward, for fear that this constitutionally protected act would inflame Muslims around the globe and, perhaps, provoke attacks against U.S. troops, citizens and embassies.

The rub, of course, is that we are free country governed by a Constitution that is the envy of the world. And the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that symbolic speech enjoys the same protections as other kinds of speech.

This guarantee of a right to symbolic expression has applied to students wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, African-American sit-ins at all white lunch counters during the Civil Rights Era, and those barbecuing the American flag. It would, presumably, also apply to the burning of Qurans, the Christian Bible, and just about any other religious text you can think of.

There was a report on CNN today that FBI agents had visited the pastor to discuss his plans with him. Talk about gross intimidation. If Jones had been threatening others, like the President himself, he might deserve such a visit. Otherwise, the FBI's call on the pastor can be seen as having a chilling effect.

Just because someone's religious or political expression might tick others off, this is not a valid argument for censorship.

Indeed, late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, writing for the majority in Texas vs. Johnson, found that a defendant's burning of the American flag constituted "expressive conduct," and that arguments that it might inflame others were moot.

"The State's position," he wrote, "therefore, amounts to a claim that an audience that takes serious offense at particular expression is necessarily likely to disturb the peace and that the expression may be prohibited on this basis. Our precedents do not countenance such a presumption.

"On the contrary, they recognize that a principal 'function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may, indeed, best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.'"

You may recall the neo-Nazi rally at the Arizona State Capitol in November of last year. The 60 or so neo-Nazis in attendance wore Nazi regalia, bore flags emblazoned with swastikas. They tore up Mexican flags, stomped and spat on them, and hurled racial epithets. Anarchists met them in counter-protest. Both sides were armed. There could have been violence. Fortunately, there wasn't.

That, my friends, is America. In fact, there is nothing more "American" than Nazis demonstrating at a state Capitol under the protection of law enforcement. The Phoenix PD did nothing to dissuade the Hitler-lovers. Instead, they facilitated them. And rightly so.

Similarly, there is nothing more "American," in its weird way, than some crazy Bible-thumper pouring gas on a stack of Qurans and lighting a match. Ditto an atheist burning a pile of Bibles. Or some anti-war dude firing up the American flag. Or a nativist who flambés the Mexican tricolor.

Sure, there are some limits. The Ku Klux Klan can burn a cross in a vacant field on private land. It cannot do so outside someone's house as a means of intimidation.

But how can the entire Muslim community be threatened by a lone crackpot grilling its holy book on the property of a tiny church in backwater Florida? Offended, Muslims and others may be, but they are not threatened.

As far as the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, I couldn't care less if it was right next door to that sacred spot. What better way to celebrate the very freedom and diversity that the 9/11 hijackers were so intent on obliterating?

To the argument that Jones' act might have endangered our soldiers in Afghanistan, I agree that's something to worry about, to anticipate and prepare for.

But that's no reason to back down on American principles, any more than it would have been for that Danish newspaper to have balked at running those "blasphemous" cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad a while back.

I want to live in a free society, where I can give the raspberries to Muhammad, Jesus Christ, L. Ron Hubbard, the Buddha, Hello Kitty, and any number of other icons, religious and otherwise.

As for the Quran, it's just a book, like the Bible or Sarah Palin's memoir. Its being reduced to ashes by some Christian nut should cause us no more angst than throwing Going Rogue onto a blazing hearth. 


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25 comments
Marklizard
Marklizard

"Similarly, there is nothing more "American," in its weird way, than some crazy Bible-thumper pouring gas on a stack of Qurans and lighting a match. Ditto an atheist burning a pile of Bibles. Or some anti-war dude firing up the American flag. Or a nativist who flambés the Mexican tricolor."

Right on the money!!

Rule of Law Forever An Asshole
Rule of Law Forever An Asshole

Rule Of Law... Did you take a class on being an imbecile or is it something in your bloodline ? Any time I come across one of your idiotic entries it seems to outdo your last pitiful scribbling. Perhaps, you might benefit somewhat by devoting your time to self improvement, and then you may be able to get a job and finally off the welfare roll. Without all that free time for misguided intolerance of the life forms that are forced to share the Earth with your fucked-up ass, you might find happiness. Or does racism, ignorance, and a flair for blaming others for your messy existence what truly satisfies you ? I can guess that you are white, a veteran of D.O.C., and smeared with the standard issue tattoos that celebrate the banalities of a life lived in fear and familial oppression. You probably have no drivers license, as you lack the talent required for a task like operating a machine. You've devoted your little life to the environs of this city where the lumps and mistakes of Nature care to congregate. Sunnyslope, and other white guy ghettos filled with the abysmal creations that fancy themselves closer to God. If you could only understand how laughable a creature you appear as, you would do something to change it.

Hatin the wrong one
Hatin the wrong one

The conversation subject of "9/11" is always one with a truly predictable outcome.The supposedly insulting "Troofers" label, found elsewhere in this addition of N.T., tries to suggest a person of little sanity and intelligence who hates US government for its own sake. As I am not signing this entry I wll tell you that I have an IQ of 132, besting President Obama's reported 125 IQ. I am neither Republican nor Democrat, and I do not believe in God because the God story is too insultingly absurd to give any credit to.What I do believe is that US government operates no differently than any other to be found at any time in history... Pol Pot, Vladamir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, George W. Bush; the names, places and dates change, but NOT the final outcome.Who cares if the Muslims want to build a mosque in Manhattan, they were victimized by 9/11 just as much as anyone. AND NO... we can't all just get along. In any talk on this subject, the outcome is the same. The "Troofers" are the only ones who seem to know any details of the event called 9/11, while those who hate the Muslims don't know a goddamned thing about what really happened.

mirandaX
mirandaX

oh and don't forget the bookofmormons, newtranslationbibles, aracistzona republic, etc etc. back to you billy.

mirandaX
mirandaX

idiots! don't burn them. recycle fool!

Cal777
Cal777

I must agree with the author, and applaud his 'spot on' notions of what it means to be "a Real American". Too often lately this ideal has been hijacked by those that would have us believe it means to behave in a racist and violent manner towards others that don't live or think as we do.As a non-religious individual I think no differently of Muslims than I do Christians. Both have their zealots and moderates, both believe in the God of Abraham, both believe they are more 'right' than the other. If we give audience to a loony tune like the good pastor then we have perpetuated his hatred. If we ignore him and allow him to proceed with his right to burn this book, then we diffuse the situation without inflaming the masses. He is an obvious zealot. On another front, we certainly can't cower to the threats of any religion that exists on our soil . This would be more dangerous in the long run, than any instant threat from these extremists. We must keep in mind that these people have been preaching "death to america" for quite some time. Have we only now offended them? Certainly not. These threat are not new, however there is likely validity to the notion that such a book burning act would further recruitment efforts of these extremists groups, and breed more resentment towards America in general. But this resentment is ignorant and misguided. The people of America have not offended you. SOME people in America have offended you. We are individuals. I don't know the Pyro-Pastor personally. I would not consort with people of his nature. So why hate America for one Americans actions? Or even 1000 Americans actions? We number in the millions. We are Americans, not the American Government or the few wackos that make the news.

Fugemall!!
Fugemall!!

Why just the other day, I say Mohammad butt-fucking the Pope with Jesus holding his balls while Budda sat by jerking off. Moses was really upset cause he didn't get to lick the cum up.

Ross
Ross

I wonder what would have happened if the publicity hound had simply announced his church was going to burn a Quran every time an American was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But then, I wonder what would have happened if George Bush had made a speech telling the American public about the religious beliefs of the people we were going to help in those countries. Or if Ronald Reagan had made the same speech, when he was supporting the Taliban against the Soviets.

They both might have said, "Don't worry -- these guys recognize Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus as prophets, just like Jews and Christians do. Well, scratch the last one from the Jewish list. And as far as them recognizing someone who came along later as another prophet -- well, isn't that what our Mormon friends do? And they signed on to that polygamy belief for a while, too."

In the long run, though, all we are looking at is the short run. Either we tolerate the Muslim world so they will keep selling us oil, or we cut them off from the 21st Century and hope their nuclear weapons programs are not used against us. In another generation or two, there will be more Muslims in the world than Christians, so it's probably toleration that should be encouraged.

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

Nobody is trying to do anything to this man's right to free speech. He is still free to burn the books, they are simply asking him not to, there's a difference, and I figured a journalist would be able to see that. The only legal recourse they have is to get this ass on burning without a permit, and they have to wait until he sets match to paper first.

Doesn't matter if it's Obama or the CIA, all they can do is ask that he not do it, there's nothing legal they can threaten him with.

Roro
Roro

The First Amendment is a wonderful thing. It gives me the "right" to say almost anything about anyone. However, in cases where someone is libeled or slandered, there can be legal and/or monetary consequences and in cases where I utter something that is highly offensive to another, I must take into account that he might break with decorum and flatten my nose with his fist. Just because I have "license" to do something, doing that thing isn't necessarily the wisest course of action. There might be consequences that I hadn't anticipated.

Pit Boss
Pit Boss

This may be my favorite story ever. A religious kook decides to not burn holy books because he was promised the "mosque" near Ground Zero would be moved further away by some dude in an outfit that looked Muslim. And he fell for it on a National stage. Fucking beautiful.

I'm one of those libertarian types and I'm all for freedoms and the Constitution and all that crap. Even I, at times, have to question the cost/benefit ratio of Freedom of speech. How many people now believe Obama is a Muslim or was not born in the U.S. as opposed to when he was campaigning? People like Glenn Beck are able to influence millions of people just by making shit up.

Maybe we need to get smarter, less gullible and more independent-minded before Freedom of Speech is as valuable as it could be.

hms-one
hms-one

A good old fashioned book burning, yee-haw! Because burning books has always been used as a reasonable form of protest against fascism!

Or was it a tool of fascist censorship? hmm...

Whatever, let's burn us up some Koranses... woot!

And all without any sense of irony whatsoever.

These fanatics rights should be protected, but that does not mean their actions should be condoned. The burning of a holy book (any book really) should be met with the most vehement social opprobrium.

GENO
GENO

If that idiotic pastor is anything besides being a lunatic fringed "pastor". Its a fuck-tard. It sounds like he's just been had. In other words--duped. How on Earth, did he actually think there was a "deal"? He's certianly no different from our aging redneck politiKKKos, right here in Sandland.

Dismal Moron
Dismal Moron

I cannot disagree with what was said. I thoroughly believe my ability to say exactly what I wish, and behave exactly as I please is the single best thing about our country. It is one of our essential personal liberties, and would fall as such under the pursuit of happiness.

In the event that one person infringes on another's personal pursuit of happiness, who is right - the person committing the act, or the person whose liberty is being denied by the act? This has been addressed, and re-addressed over and over since before the Constitution was ratified. That is a debate well beyond my years.

The endangerment of our nation, however; is something entirely different. We need to realize that we are not as infallible as we presume to be. Every action we (as a country) make is watched by the entire world. Our decision to advertise that a Quran burning is going to take place does anger people. It angers people that already want to destroy our country. His right is to burn books. Hell, as much as I disagree with him, I would hand him thee match. He bought them, or someone that advocates his cause did, so it's his money going up in flames.

The media, however, is free as well. They are not REQUIRED to publish stories like this, but they do. This sort of heated controversy sells, and when it comes down to it, News is a business like any other business. At the end of the day, they want to be in the black, and the higher the numerals, the better. What consequences this will have on individuals, communities, religious groups, and our nation as a whole is not thought of any further than creating databases of readers and their interests to better target advertisements for more money.

We have had enough death and injury sustained by military conflicts and engagements. How many of us have lost friends, family, or other loved ones? How many families have been sundered, with wives, husbands, and children being relentlessly torn from each other's arms? How many people's lives were completely ruined, either by disease, physical ailment, or mental illness?

No - I would never deny someone their rights of free speech; and I love that we have a free press that can publish whatever it likes; but with the ability to influence trillions of people, all over the globe, there comes also responsibility. With things like twitter, youtube, and ustream, the things we write, say, and do are transmitted and viewable worldwide, almost instantaneously. Where's the accountability for this? How can someone stand up and question a syndicated newsgroup for their actions? It's nearly impossible.

Technology has rounded a corner, and we need to catch up. Think about what we are saying and doing, and think about how our individual decisions will affect others. It's not a matter of free speech. It is a matter of respect for our fellow man. Respect for someone else's beliefs and the realization that one small group's actions do not dictate the larger group's free will or ideology. Asking questions and learning before condemnation: Extending our hands in friendship, instead of throwing down the gauntlet of ignorance and blind hate.

Until we begin to act and behave with respect and acceptance towards each other, we will never know peace.

/steps off soapbox

Chem Trail Karen
Chem Trail Karen

So DoDo Bird wants to give the rasberrys to Hello Kitty? Figures.

Freinds and colleges,I have decided to cancel the Koran burning this saturday. Instead I decided to do something more acceptable here in Arizona.

A MEXICAN FLAG BURNING PARTY!

Stoller, Contact your email list. I think the New Times parking lot is perfect. We can burn the New Times and maybe DoDo Bird in efagy.

Love,Karen

Roro
Roro

Burning a Quran is a very serious offense against Islam and I wonder if that fool preacher realizes that if he proceeds with that affront to the faith that he could very well end up dead? He seeks to grievously offend all Muslims for the acts of a few.

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

Kinda weird that they don't list the religion of the killer in MOST domestic abuse articles. Isn't it weird how it only matters if the guy is Muslim?

Rule of Law
Rule of Law

Then keep hiding under your bed Roro, and the few, the proud and the brave will take care of business, while you snuggle-up in fear with your boyfriend.

Fuck the radical Muslims, socialist and Marxists. I'd wipe my ass with the Muslim hate book, just like the New Times is only worth picking up dog shit with.

hms-one
hms-one

I could give a rats ass about offending radicals, nor do I fear 'retribution' from radicals. That fear stems from the same bigotry that inspires this reverend to burn the Quran. Oh NO, we shouldn't offend the Muslims because they're all crazy and are gonna kill us! How about not offending Muslims because it is RUDE?

This statement from the white house is a straw man that allows them to condemn this action based on imaginary consequences, but not for the intolerant, un-American, jack-assery that it is. Book burning should offend us all, it certainly offends all Muslims, and it should be publicly denounced from the highest office in the land as antithetical to American principles.

If I announced a bible burning ceremony on the anniversary of the Oklahoma city bombing, which coincidentally fell on Easter Sunday, I wonder how many would rush to defend my first amendment rights.

Rule of Law
Rule of Law

Beheading your spouse is "domestic abuse' ?

Mike Wells, this is your mind on dope.

Alehound
Alehound

An electronic homosexual??

Pit Boss
Pit Boss

Fun Tip of the Day: I use the Holy Bible to pick up my dog's shit. There are a lot of pages but they are also kind of thin, so you need to use more else you risk getting the smell on your hand.

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

If it's not abuse, what is it then?

Rule of Law, this is your mind on hate.

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