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VIDEO: Assistant Attorney General Refuses to Rule Out Blasphemy Prosecutions

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On September 19, 2012 @ 4:41 pm In The Point | 6 Comments

Sharia law in America is one of those crazy things that extremists like Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez make up when they refuse to answer whether they will criminalize blasphemy or not [1].

Perez keeps shifting to talking about threats for good reason, because hate crimes are safe ground and because the speech police is trying to move the idea that offending Islamists is a violent act [2].

In one of the most famous 1st Amendment cases in U.S. history, Schenck vs. United States, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. established that the right to free speech in the United States is not unlimited. “The most stringent protection,” he wrote on behalf of a unanimous court, “would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

I wrote about the Holmes Doctrine [3] push some years ago. It relies on a completely discredited argument that is making a comeback because liberals, who were formerly pretending to be defenders of free speech, want it to make a comeback.

To begin with, Breyer misstated what Holmes had said and what he had meant. In Schenk vs United States, Holmes wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” The key word here is “falsely”. Shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there really is a fire, is a warning. Shouting it when there is no fire, is a malicious attempt to start a panic.

Schenk vs United States was at least a case in which the defendant’s free speech arguably incited people to commit the illegal act, of dodging the draft. Burning the Koran does not incite people to commit any illegal acts. Schenk urged likeminded people to resist the draft. Refusing to serve was itself illegal, Schenk was encouraging sympathizers to commit an illegal act who would engage in the “stampede” and lead to the “danger” which justified criminalizing Schenk’s speech.

Either Breyer has to argue that burning the Koran will encourage violent assaults on Muslims, an argument that would essentially criminalize all criticism of Islam. Or he has to argue that burning the Koran will result in a backlash of Muslim violence. The latter is easier to prove, but sets an equally disturbing precedent, as it would criminally any speech that could lead Muslims to “stampede through the crowded theater”. A disturbing component of this argument, is that it would hold non-Muslims criminally responsible for Muslim violence.

For example a man walking through a Muslim neighborhood wearing a provocative t-shirt, who is set upon and stabbed by a Muslim, could be charged with inciting the very violence that he was a victim of. Under Felony-Murder laws, people have been charged with the murder of members of their group by law enforcement officers. Since a hate crime is considered a felony, and people have been charged with felony hate crimes for mere arguments, it would essentially become possible to charge people with the murder of one of their group by a Muslim, if they are found guilty of provoking the Muslim.

This is very explosive stuff that the left has decided to play with here. And the left is playing with it.

Finally, much 1st Amendment jurisprudence concerns speech explicitly advocating violence, such as calls to resist arrest, or videos explaining bomb-making techniques. But words don’t have to urge people to commit violence in order to be subject to limits, says Lewis. “If the result is violence, and that violence was intended, then it meets the standard.”

Now let’s calibrate that scenario a bit. The KKK announces that it will kill any black man who burns a Confederate flag. A Confederate flag is burned resulting in a riot and several deaths. Does the left really want to arrest a black man for burning that flag? Or does it want to create some magical isolated clause that will only apply to Muslim violence?

Because that is a defacto Blasphemy law.

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URLs in this post:

[1] whether they will criminalize blasphemy or not: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/150861/

[2] offending Islamists is a violent act: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-chayes-innocence-of-muslims-first-amendment-20120918,0,3112718.story

[3] wrote about the Holmes Doctrine: http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2010/09/will-america-ban-criticism-of-islam.html?m=0

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