First Amendment Tested | Good or Bad, Speech is Essential for Freedom Even for the Offensive

Sharia compliance in Dearborn, Michigan


Cal Thomas|Washington Examiner

The response to speech we don't like is not less speech, but more.

Reverend-In-Name-Only (RINO) Terry Jones is like his fellow RINO, Fred Phelps, but in political drag.

Jones, the “pastor” (PINO?) of the tiny and inconsequential Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., was jailed last week in Dearborn, Mich., “following a jury trial that found he was likely to create a ‘breach of the peace’ for plans to protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn,” according to the Detroit News.

Jones and his associate Wayne Sapp were taken into custody after they refused to post a $1 “peace bond.” A judge then barred Jones and Sapp from entering the property of the Islamic Center — the largest mosque in the U.S. — for three years. The two posted bond and were released, but they promised to return on Friday.

Last month, Jones burned a Koran, which led to demonstrations and deaths in the Middle East. Let’s get the obligatory and obvious out of the way before moving to the central issue in this case. Jones is a publicity hound and an offense to the One he claims to follow.

Having said that, what about Jones’ First Amendment rights? In 1977, the Illinois Supreme Court, after instruction from the U.S. Supreme Court, allowed the National Socialist Party of America to march through Skokie, Ill., home of many Holocaust survivors.

The Illinois Supreme Court even ruled that the hated swastika was a form of free speech and thus entitled to First Amendment protection. So, though neo-Nazi’s marching through a predominantly Jewish town wearing swastikas might be considered offensive, the court ruled, it was not illegal.

In the case of Phelps and his family, all members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who carry outrageous “Thank God for dead soldiers” signs and claim America is being punished because of its growing tolerance for homosexuals, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 8-1 majority:

“Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.”

Speech with which one agrees is easy to defend. Most would defend political speech with which they disagree, although a minority would censor it. The strength and uniqueness of the First Amendment is that it defends even hate speech.