Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Anti-Quran-Burning Protests Planned

Story here.  Apparently, local officials have denied a Florida pastor a permit to have a Koran bonfire on church property.  But as the story notes, smaller fires may be permitted.  Officials cannot stop the planned burning on the ground that it might offend others, either in the U.S. or abroad.  It does not appear that Pastor Jones intends to threaten others by engaging in this expressive conduct.  The act of burning does not constitute "fighting words."  And the pastor does not appear to have the intent to incite others to commit violent acts -- although they may well be the effect of his speech.  Federal officials, including Defense Secretary Gates and President Obama, have spoken out against the proposed Quran burning.  Government officials can certaintly seek to dissuade a citizen from speaking.  But they cannot punish or threaten to punish him for doing so.  The best response to this hateful speech is not to punish the speaker, but to rely upon counter-speech advocating tolerance for religious beliefs and respect for religious texts and symbols.    

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