Mar 10, 2014
The Qurans Didn’t Burn, but Maybe the First Amendment Did
Posted on Sep 13, 2013
There’s a certain appeal to watching the walking Molotov cocktail that is The Rev. Terry Jones get metaphorically extinguished, but the satisfaction quickly fades when you realize that even people with such extreme views have the right to their speech.
And there are serious questions about whether Jones’ arrest Wednesday, rather than being a positive step by law enforcement to defuse a volatile situation, in reality is just another example of an overreaching prosecution meant to stifle free speech.
Jones is the Gainesville, Fla.-based preacher whose previous public displays of burning copies of the Quran led to riots and killings in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., his virulent anti-Muslim views are fringe, at best, but overseas he is seen as an agent provocateur, and an exemplar of U.S. views toward Islam.
On Wednesday, Jones and an assistant pastor were in a truck towing 2,998 kerosene-soaked Qurans—one for each 9/11 terror attack victim—in a large grill on a trailer. The plan was to burn the religious books to mark the 12th anniversary of the hijacked-plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the fourth flight that was force-crashed into a Pennsylvania farm field.
As the truck and trailer moved down a state highway, Polk County sheriff’s deputies pulled the truck over, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Jones also was charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for allegedly carrying a gun for which he says he has a permit. But the illegal-transport charges are the big ones, carrying up to 40 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
But if the cops were effectively lying in wait for Jones, some experts say there could be significant First Amendment implications, according to U..S. News & World report.
As objectionable as Jones’ views might be, defenders of free speech should be just as concerned about his rights as those of the protesters routinely hauled out of the Wisconsin State Capitol for singing. The issue here is the muzzle applied, not the nature of the speech that is silenced.
—Posted by Scott Martelle.
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