Thursday, April 21, 2011

God's Little Acre

Pastor Terry Jones has not changed his plans to protest outside of one of Michigan's oldest and largest mosques in Dearborn. He has been both begged to change his plans and threatened of consequences if he does not.

But, this is not a post about Terry Jones and his apparent lack of operating brain cells. Rather, this is a post about free speech and the shackles that have been placed upon it by the city of Dearborn and a local prosecutor.

Free speech, with few exceptions, is unmitigated in this country. We do not falsely scream "fire" in a crowded theater because we can accurately predict the carnage that might result from people who scramble to distant exits, and we do not, with malice, intentionally launch damaging and untrue libels and slanders at those who surround us. Beyond that, pretty much anything else is game.

Just a few months ago the most vile sort of free speech was upheld as being constitutional by the Supreme Court in an 8-1 decision. In the case in question, the cretinous Westboro Baptist Church was found to be within its rights to protest at the funeral of a fallen marine. Carrying signs such as "God hates fags" and "thank God for 9-11" the lowlifes tried their hardest to disrupt a somber service in which a grieving family laid their son to rest.

The family of Matthew Snyder was hurt by the protests, but it was determined that the Snyder family's desire to be left alone during its most tragic moments was not an adequate reason to curtail "even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate."

Enter Pastor Terry Jones who plans to protest in the heart of America's largest Muslim population. While Jones has no plans of desecrating a Koran (the rumor of which can cause deathly riots in multiple countries) and has no plans of drawing a scandalous likeness of Muhammad (an unforgivable act that can kill on multiple continents,) he does plan on protesting against fundamentalist Islam and Sharia Law.

Not so fast.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has filed a petition that will be heard today in Dearborn to prevent the rally from occurring. While I know that prosecutor jobs are not of the single dimension variety, why should any prosecutor engage in the willful prior restraint of free speech? Are there no crimes in Detroit or elsewhere in Wayne Country these days worthy of a little prosecution?

In addition, the helpful mayor of Dearborn, Jack O'Reilly, Jr. has suggested that Pastor Jones relocate his protest to any one of the four "free speech" zones that exist within the city. (A free speech zone is a wonderfully conceived small area in which American citizens can engage in expression with the government's permission.)

God must be thrilled to know that the natural rights he granted to us, those same rights so obviously bestowed upon us as to be considered self-evident by the founding fathers, are at least still worthy of being honored inside a small little acre where government officials are willing to herd their expressive subjects.

Kym Worthy and Dearborn officials are exceedingly ignorant if they do not recognize this for what it is. I do not applaud Pastor Terry Jones for what he is doing because the point he is trying to make has been made so many times that he is but picking a scab, and do we really need another 20 or so violence victims in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East?

But, while the pastor is in town he really should symbolically pose a more important question.

What is the true purpose of any "free speech zone?" Does it provide a man-made cage so strong that human offense cannot penetrate it? Is the expression proposed inside its borders so well protected that riots would not erupt around the Middle East should the expressor commit an act as inadvisable as drawing the likeness of the prophet?

Sharia law does not exist in Dearborn. And yet, neither does the pure natural and constitutional law that was recognized by those great Americans who founded this country.

In a time and place where "free speech zones" mingle happily with government motivated petitions demanding prior restraint, we have a greater problem than potential Sharia Law. We are already bowing to a different tyrant.

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