Terry Jones and the 1st amendment

Maybe it’s a publicity stunt, maybe it’s legitimate, but the fact of the matter is that Pastor Terry Jones of the hilariously ironically named Dove World Outreach Center is calling for Quran burnings and, to put it bluntly, if he goes through with it then our country and our troops are in a shitload of trouble.

Keep in mind that opposition to this isn’t some left-wing ideal, the list of those opposed contains “Gen. David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Sarah Palin and television evangelist Pat Robertson.” That’s a pretty solid across-the-aisle bloc of naysayers if you ask me.

Here’s a good question, though: if he goes through with it (or even if he doesn’t), can Terry Jones be considered in any way legally responsible for backlash? One might be tempted to react in a similar way to the whole “mosque at Ground Zero” situation, that as terrible as it is, in as poor taste as it may be, he has a first amendment right to do and say whatever he damn well pleases.

That said, the age old example is that it’s illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater because it can cause chaos and potentially lead to injury. In light of that, couldn’t we say that making a public display of burning Qurans would be an equal offense? But then, to play devil’s advocate to myself, I’ve vocally supported flag burning in the past. It’d be hard for me to say that flag-burning is different in any way.

While I wrestle with that ethical conundrum, let me point out that this is the exact kind of thing that causes terrorism. Sure, the lunatic Al Qaeda types are just aiming for Islamic supremacy, but if you want to guarantee that the United States gets branded as “anti-Islamic”, make a big spectacle of setting fire to their holy text. Think about our media’s reaction to the burning of US flags in the Middle East.

Legal ramifications? Maybe not, but I’d love to see this guy get a shovel in the face.

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7 responses to “Terry Jones and the 1st amendment

  1. It's not " illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater," that's not what Oliver Wendall Holmes said.
    What if the Theatre were on fire? Loss of life would occur by not yelling fire.

    Holmes said, in Schenck v US, "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man FALSELY shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

  2. It's not " illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater," that's not what Oliver Wendall Holmes said.
    What if the Theatre were on fire? Loss of life would occur by not yelling fire.

    Holmes said, in Schenck v US, "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man FALSELY shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. […] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

  3. It follows that falsely shouting fire in a theatre, would cause a stampede and serve no other purpose than to cause injury and mayhem. While that might be applied here to the troops, where is the line drawn? Can a group threaten to kill Americans if we ridicule a foreign leader or public figure? Would we stop there? What if they carried it out?

    I'm with you on not knowing were the line is, I have a hard time distinguishing between burning a flag and burning a book (holy or otherwise). To the Islamic Militant our system of government, denial of a state religion, vested power in secular courts all brand us as anti-Islamic.

  4. It follows that falsely shouting fire in a theatre, would cause a stampede and serve no other purpose than to cause injury and mayhem. While that might be applied here to the troops, where is the line drawn? Can a group threaten to kill Americans if we ridicule a foreign leader or public figure? Would we stop there? What if they carried it out?

    I'm with you on not knowing were the line is, I have a hard time distinguishing between burning a flag and burning a book (holy or otherwise). To the Islamic Militant our system of government, denial of a state religion, vested power in secular courts all brand us as anti-Islamic.

  5. i can’t believe human beings can get so upset about symbols. you can burn flags and burn books, but you can’t burn what they represent. a burned book is just paper and ink. a burned flag is just fabric and dye. i think everybody should just chill out (esp. that @$$ho!e Terry Jones).

    • Can’t disagree with you there. It really is interesting in that a book/flag burning really does show that BOTH sides are elevating it beyond that.

      I look forward to the day when people don’t put that kind of allegiance in mass-produced items.

  6. …to put it bluntly, if he goes through with it then our country and our troops are in a shitload of trouble.

    Really?

    We have combat troops in two Muslim nations, and are using unmanned drones to kill Muslims in an allied third country. We tortured Muslims at Abu Graib. We “rendition” them to other countries for the nasty shit that even we won’t do.

    Not to mention that whole “Great Satan” thing due to our support for Israel.

    Yet, I’m supposed to believe some nutjob burning a Koran is somehow going to increase their anger at us?

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