As you may have heard, controversial koran-burning pastor Terry Jones was jailed this week in Dearborn, Michigan, because of his plans to demonstrate outside the largest Islamic Center in the United States. He and an associate were apparently released on $1 bond each, on the condition that neither go within some specified distance of the Center for three years!! Eugene Volokh is following the story on his blog, providing periodic updates along with Constitutional analysis.
What does this mean for us? As Ayn Rand has said, free speech is the litmus test issue by which we judge whether we are still able to speak, to persuade our fellow man to adopt views consistent with individual rights. Now, even at the time she was writing about this issue, in the 1960’s, there were some restrictions on speech. So it’s not the case that one more restriction necessarily means we’ve gone over the precipice towards totalitarian dictatorship. But here we have what Constitutional scholars call a “prior restraint” on speech, one that Eugene Volokh predicts (at link above) should clearly be found unconstitutional. And yet it happened. Here.
In addition, this is distinctly unlike restrictions on obscenity or profanity. The ideology of Islam, if adopted and practiced consistently, does appear, from everything I know about it (I plan to learn more, soon, starting with my Koran reading group), to be a threat to our way of life. Freedom to protest against it is as important as freedom to protest against any politician, political party, or political ideology. This is not an issue of defending one’s right to produce or consume tasteless pornography, simply as a matter of principle, so that we can preserve our right to political speech. In my mind, this is an unjustified restraint on political speech itself. What do you think? Join in the discussion during my live webcast tomorrow and let me know (here’s the link to the Facebook event with more information, or you can go directly to register here).
[Update: Terry Jones apparently plans to sue the prosecutor’s office in Michigan for what they have done to him. Let’s hope he wins and that this sets a precedent for any other prosecutors that would prevent us from exercising our freedom of speech!]