Confusion about the Constitution

I am sure our readers have been keeping up with the latest Islamic radicalism issue—the attempted terrorism in Garland, Texas at a Muhammed drawing contest.  The two terrorists were killed by police.  The featured participant and sponsor, Pamela Geller, was unharmed.  She had organized the event in order to promote free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacres in France.  Now it seems Ms. Geller is getting flak from the predictable quarters.  Muslim activists and imams are attacking her, one asserting that she should be tried and executed under Sharia Law.  Others have issued a fatwa against her, a call to Muslims to kill her.  Liberals have accused her of bringing the attack on herself and some have even suggested that free speech should be curtailed when, as they claim, it becomes “hate speech.”  Even some more conservative pundits have condemned Ms. Geller for her bad motives in sponsoring the contest in the first place, knowing it was risky—being as they say “in your face.”

I could have predicted this reaction.  In fact I did.  But the critics have confused a good many issues in their zeal to protect radicalism at all costs.  As Christians, let us assume that we ought not to actively engage in speech and actions that might provoke others to violence.  That holds for any similar kind of action aimed at any person or group—“live a quiet life,” we are told, though this certainly does not foreclose all speech that might offend others.  Sometimes offense is taken for the slightest of reasons.  Be that as it may, we don’t go around provoking.  And some might argue that Ms. Geller did that very thing.

But having said that, there is a very big difference between what a Christian ought to do and what our own Constitution without doubt allows individuals to do.  To say that such speech is “hate speech” is to imply that such speech is somehow different from other types of speech, and therefore is not protected.  That is simply ludicrous.  The courts are clear on that.  The Constitution is pretty clear too.  But activists and radicals don’t get it—because they don’t want to.

Radical Muslims can use it to drum up violence, further attacks, and also much more sensitive treatment by feigning offense.  This doesn’t hold water as a defense or an offense.  Do Christians and Jews, whom seem to be increasingly the butt of jokes, rude speech, hate, etc., respond with the kind of violence we saw in Texas?  No, I cannot name one such incident from Christians or Jews for explicitly religious reasons that we saw in Garland and was articulated afterward.

Liberals, including the media for the most part and the university intelligentsia, too are calling for the restriction of free speech.  It is a bit ironic that they want to restrict speech critical of radical Islam but not speech directed at Christians or Jews.  Even so, what they want is just as ridiculous.

I don’t advocate that Christians ought to go out of our way to prove we have free speech rights and will stand for them.  At the same time, I don’t advocate cowering in abject fear of radicalism.  We speak when we need to speak.  But we should also be clear that the Constitution makes no distinction between what some call “hate speech” (which is too often just a euphemism for speech with which they disagree) and regular speech.  It says simply that “Congress shall make no laws respecting…freedom of speech….”  So I will defend what Ms. Geller did even if I might question its wisdom.

13 thoughts on “Confusion about the Constitution”

  1. Hate speech is not the issue as much as is the violence that can stem from it. They often go hand in hand. The constitutional debate over hate speech will continue to rage on.

    I find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly see that Ms. Geller “organized the event in order to promote free speech.” Let’s take an honest look at her pathetic post-9/11 career. I see a narcissist whose main talent seems to be in finding creative ways to insult people of faith. She is good at what she does. So are Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, who actually are less immoral than her.

    I thought she had hit her peak of looniess when she suggested that Grover Norquist was a closet Muslim. I guess I was wrong.

    She also baselessly claimed the president is a closet Muslim. I give her a pass on that, considering that according to one recent poll over half of Republicans answered “Muslim” when asked which religion describes President Obama’s “deep down” beliefs. So continues the long, pathetic bear market of the once-great party of Abraham Lincoln.

    I could think of seemingly countless alternative approaches to promoting free speech. Her cartoon contest as a way to promote free speech? Really?

    If anything, as this blog post points out (kind of), her silly cartoon contest now has created at least verbal THREATS to free speech. And it has helped spawn ADDITIONAL hate speech by Muslims who want her injured or worse.

    I don’t know how she lives with herself, considering her indirect role in the deaths of those security guards. Then again, I am not a sociopath. As such, she probably sleeps well at night, believing that she has zero culpability. To some, publicity is all they need to feel self-important. If someone else gets hurt, well, that’s what we call “collateral damage.”

    Pam Geller is a anti-Muslim bigot and publicity hound. She, and not “liberals” or “university intelligentsia”, lol, is the problem. That, and those who continue to take her seriously.

    1. Whether you agree or not that her motive is to support free speech, and regardless of her checkered past, it does not change the issue being discussed.

      If Christians and Jews started shooting people or blowing up things when someone mocked their religion, what would the response be? Would the liberals and the PC police suddenly decide to take the same position on “hate speech” with them that they have done with Muslims, that people shouldn’t say those things about Christians and Jews because it would provoke violence from them? Somehow, I seriously doubt they would. Their response would probably be something along the lines of “that would be giving in to them”. Problem is, this is what they want to do with Muslims and not with others.

    2. And it is a bit shocking that you actually seem to infer that she bears any role at all, indirect or otherwise, in the deaths of the security guards. She was not the thug who pulled the trigger. The gunmen, and the gunmen alone, are responsible for those deaths. They had a choice to make and they made it. They were the ones who broke the law, not Ms. Geller. No matter how repugnant she is, no matter what she said or did it was no excuse for what the gunmen did.

    3. If you want to argue as a Christian that Ms. Geller should not have been so brash, that is one thing. That is an ethical issue that can be debated. But to say she did NOT organize it as a free speech event is pretty bold–I hope you don’t believe you can read her mind. Moreover, there is under the current Constitutional jurisprudence in this nation no difference between so-called hate speech and ordinary political speech. People are allowed to say what we don’t like to hear and we can say what they don’t want to hear.

      In addition, you don’t see any problem with the media on this–their apparent hypocrisy? And what about university intelligentsia continually calling speech that is critical of radical Islam hate speech, while at the same time bashing Christianity and Judaism? I call that hypocrisy too.

      Finally, what is your position on free speech? And, do you consider hate speech just speech you believe causes violence? If so, how do you intend to determine that? Any speech at all can lead to violence as long as we live in a world of imperfect humans. So do you propose to have some body of censors to make that determination? Can you say 1984? Or at least potential for significant abuse.

      1. Actually there is a class of hate speech that’s not protected. This contest from my knowledge would be protected, however if I directly insult someone and incite them to violence that is not protected. Also I do believe (and I could be wrong) that the two deaths were the two shooters, guards were put in harms way, but not killed. I’d say if you do something to incite a response or backlash that’s not the same as doing something to exercise free speech. She knew what she was doing, hopefully knew there would be a violent response but at least knew there would be backlash, after all this was a response to what happened in France.

      2. Yes, you are correct. It was the shooters that were killed. I think a couple others were wounded. Notwithstanding, the point still stands that it was no one’s fault but the shooters for what happened.

    4. I may not like what you say, but will defend with my life, your God given right to say it. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech.prove to me that you know for a fact I have hate in my heart. Dothnot the Lord command us to love our enemies ? Christians are incapable of hate.

      1. Christians are capable of hate because God is capable of hate. God hates sin. The nuance of course is that He also loves the sinner. We should be incapable of hating people, but we can still hate what they do.

  2. Yes, the “inciting to violence” (defined legally) is not protected, but that isn’t the same as “hate speech” as defined in current discussion and debate. Inciting to violence is to call for violence specifically or to know that one’s words would would be taken by persons as a call to action (action that AGREES with the person speaking, not the persons who opposes him, and who would attack him for his words). If I call a group to get their guns and meet me at the courthouse to go after some official, that is restricted. But Ms. Geller clearly did not do this. She merely called for a drawing contest for Muhammed’s likeness. That does not call for violence and the violence that did occur was against her and those with her, not those about whom she was speaking.

    As for the guards “exposed to harm,” I am not aware of any legal challenges to an individual or organization related to hate speech–if there have been any, they didn’t make it far in courts. I suppose you could sue for medical costs for generally exposed to danger, but first, that is not tied to speech issues and second, there is an expectation on the part of an occupation like a security officer that there is potential danger in any event. So I can’t see a court buying such an argument.

    1. Actually I was referring to fighting words not inciting violence.

      And I wasn’t talking about courts, just trying to correct facts from the previous poster. It might be considered negligence if you know there is danger and leave your guards unarmed, but that might be a stretch

    2. One must profess to know another man’s heart in order to know therein lies hate, who impertinent man’s heart but Jesus Christ alone ? Man cannot profess to know what another man thinks or feels. Hate crimes are a lie right out of Satan’s mouth.

  3. I agree in principle once again about the deal. Can you address the political problem raised by the adverse effect of the deal in the short run to a sub-set of employees in industries that are harmed. I understand that in the long run, the deal is to everyone’s benefit (assuming it really does promote free trade), but politics is not about perfect policies but about prudence. It is likely that there will be significant pressure to alleviate short-term suffering through some sort of unemployment benefit scheme. Would you concede that? I am envisioning a moderate scheme–though these “temporary” policies can turn into permanent ones. At any rate, I would like to know what you think.

  4. Marc,

    Great explanation about “inciting to violence” speech vs. “hate speech.” It’s complicated stuff. I don’t know how you remember all these complicated distinctions from constitutional law. But you are a professor after all…

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