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What kind of speech is free?
The Daily Vex ^ | 9/16/2010 | Devon W

Posted on 09/16/2010 1:58:37 PM PDT by HushTX

In 1968, Congress passed a law that prohibited desecration of the United States flag. This was in response to the actions of the so-called “Peace Movement.” Because flag burning was often associated with anti-establishment rhetoric and behavior that was often considered sedition, it became synonymous with anti-Americanism. It was often assumed that burning the flag was akin to burning the United States in effigy. In some cases this may have been a correct assumption, but it cannot be fairly stated that it was always true.

Much to the dismay of patriots and pro-American sentimentalists, the law prohibiting the desecration of the American flag was struck down in 1969 when the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the conviction of James Meredith, a civil rights activist who burned the flag in the streets of New York. While the ruling did not directly address burning the flag, it was clearly stated that disparagement of the flag is protected under the First Amendment. This ruling was later supported in 1989 when all such laws were struck down by the Supreme Court, and the pattern of banning and striking down bans has continued ever since. Currently the legal position is that burning the flag of the United States is protected under the First Amendment as a means of free speech.

All this makes one wonder why a Justice sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States would question a citizen’s right to burn a book.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer stated that he is unsure if the First Amendment condones burning the Quran. He referenced an often cited, yet notably discredited statement about the First Amendment application to shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer said. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

It takes some thought to understand what he is saying, but there is a very dangerous message here. Essentially, the comparison suggests that burning the Quran will lead to people being injured and killed, so we should not do it. Burning the Quran will invite violent reprisal from the Muslim world, and their attacks will lead to people “being trampled to death,” as well as being burned, blown up and beheaded. This threat seems enough to make Justice Breyer question whether the First Amendment allows for freedom of speech against Islam.

Nobody said freedom of speech was freedom from consequences.

Americans who choose to exercise their free speech understand that it comes at a price. It will never be possible to make a statement of any kind without some kind of consequence, and despite the tendency for many people to demand speech without reprisal it simply cannot work that way.

Beyond that, Breyer is attempting to interpret the Constitution by assuming there is some scale of value judgment built into the document. The Constitution of the United States is written on a fifth grade level, and is one of the most concise and clear documents in human history. In the case of the First Amendment this means that American citizens either have freedom of speech or they do not. There is no picking and choosing what the First Amendment protects or prohibits. When we begin to apply value judgment, or allow anyone else to dictate what we can or cannot say, freedom of speech no longer exists. For him to say he is unsure the First Amendment “condones” burning the Quran betrays the very nature of the amendment. The Constitution does not make value judgments in that way.

Justice Breyer has since changed pace and stated that burning the Quran is wrong, but Americans have the right to do it. He did not recant his previous claims or express that he spoke out of turn, he simply pretended that he never said any of it. The comments were unpopular, he was being criticized, so he took a different approach. Unfortunately, there is a record of his statements and his critics are not letting go quite that easy. It is one thing for someone to change his mind, but that requires admission of fault. There has been none.

Still, the issue here is not Justice Breyer himself. I can forgive most people for being wrong, and as I often make comments off the cuff I can forgive others for doing so. Granted, his comments have made it very clear where he stands on the issue, but he is not a single individual expressing the sentiment. This issue runs the gamut from the President of the United States to the average citizen at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Islamophobia, a term I used to dismiss as a liberal construct to demean those who oppose Islam, is a very real thing. The problem is that it is not those who oppose Islam that suffer Islamophobia. The real victims of this phenomenon are those who want to silence anti-Islamic speech out of fear that violent Muslims will carry out their threats. That “people will be trampled.”

The murder of the Dutch cartoonist, the threats against the creator of “Draw Mohammed Day” and the flag burning riots in the Middle East all show what the Left is afraid of, and why they are trying so hard to silence people who criticize Islam. It has gotten to the point where Park51 is truly not an Islamic Victory Mosque, but instead has become a Liberal Appeasement Mosque. Even Imam Rauf’s statement that not building the mosque will invite violent response indicates that our primary reason for building will be to keep violent Muslims happy.

When you give an inch, they take a mile.

Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that when we give a mosque, they take our First Amendment.

Once the right to free speech is infringed, all other rights are lost.

TOPICS: Government; Religion; Society
KEYWORDS: firstamendment; islam
Meh. Stream of thought here, but it was bugging me.
1 posted on 09/16/2010 1:58:39 PM PDT by HushTX
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To: HushTX
For him to say he is unsure the First Amendment “condones” burning the Quran betrays the very nature of the amendment. The Constitution does not make value judgments in that way.

It was an idiotic statement to begin with. The first amendment does not "condone" any particular form of speech; it simply prohibits congress from restricting free speech. The first amendment does not condone any particular news outlet; it simply prohibits congress from restricting the freedom of the press. The first amendment does not condone any particular group or association; but it prohibits congress from restricting the people's right to freedom of association. The first amendment does not condone any particular religion; it DOES prohibit congress from restricting the free exercise of one's religious belief.

2 posted on 09/16/2010 2:08:02 PM PDT by VRWCmember (Jesus called us to be Salt and Light, not Vinegar and Water.)
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To: HushTX

There is no free speech. Hasn’t been for a few decades now. Just an illusion. The government sends the FBI to persuade you if you say you will burn an indoctrination book.

I take it back. If you say you are going to kill Americans in the name of your death cult, you are free to say and do whatever you want without government inteference.

3 posted on 09/16/2010 2:36:32 PM PDT by Leftism is Mentally Deranged (Annoying liberals is my goal. I will not be silenced.)
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To: Leftism is Mentally Deranged

Disgusting, isn’t it?

4 posted on 09/16/2010 2:41:01 PM PDT by HushTX (Numbers 11:18-20)
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To: HushTX

IMO, what Breyer said only underlines that he really has no business being on the Supreme Court. I’ve never take a single class on the law, and I understand the Constitution better than he does, apparently.

5 posted on 09/16/2010 3:11:19 PM PDT by Boogieman
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