Justice Breyer: No right to burn Korans in First Amendment?

posted at 12:55 pm on September 14, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

I’m not sure which is more unsettling — the fact that a Supreme Court justice can get the First Amendment so wrong, or that it is so unclear that George Stephanopoulos thought to ask the question.  Until now, I perhaps naïvely thought that everyone understood that the provocateurial pastor in Florida had the right to burn Korans, or any other book he legitimately owned, but that it was a really bad idea for many reasons, most of which Allahpundit argued in his excellent posts on the subject.  Silly me:

Last week we saw a Florida Pastor – with 30 members in his church – threaten to burn Korans which lead to riots and killings in Afghanistan. We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans.  But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on “GMA” that he’s not prepared to conclude that — in the internet age — the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it?  Why?  Because people will be trampled to death.  And what is the crowded theater today?  What is the being trampled to death?” …

“It will be answered over time in a series of cases which force people to think carefully.  That’s the virtue of cases,” Breyer told me. “And not just cases. Cases produce briefs, briefs produce thought. Arguments are made. The judges sit back and think. And most importantly, when they decide, they have to write an opinion, and that opinion has to be based on reason.  It isn’t a fake.”

Hopefully, they put more thought into it than Justice Breyer does in this argument.  The “fire in a crowded theater” standard is intended to limit government intrusion on free speech, not enable an expansion of it.  It means that only when speech that will directly and immediately result in a threat to human life in the proximate setting can the government criminalize it — and it has to contain the element of malicious falsehood as well.  After all, no one will prosecute a person who yells “Fire!” in a crowded theater when it’s really on fire, or when the person yelling honestly believes it to be so.

Otherwise, Breyer’s argument would put government in charge of judging the qualitative value of all speech.  Would speech urging an invasion of Pakistan be therefore criminalized, too?  After all, it might cause Pakistanis somewhere to riot and people to die, even if the argument is largely discredited in contemporary American politics.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has already ruled on burnings as free speech.  In both Texas v Johnson and US v Eichman, the court ruled that free speech trumped any offense and/or concerns about public safety raised by burning the American flag.  In Johnson, the court spoke directly to this issue:

The State’s position … amounts to a claim that an audience that takes serious offense at particular expression is necessarily likely to disturb the peace and that the expression may be prohibited on this basis. Our precedents do not countenance such a presumption. On the contrary, they recognize that a principal “function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or … even stirs people to anger.”

Now, perhaps Breyer foresees a reversal of Johnson and Eichman, but that doesn’t appear to be where he’s leading.  Instead, Breyer seems to want to put the Koran in a separate class for purposes of protest, a dangerous direction that flies in the other First Amendment restriction, the establishment clause regarding religion.

Put simply, Breyer couldn’t have possibly been more wrong in this answer, and one has to wonder just what kind of standard Breyer will apply to future cases of free speech.


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Worse than what is obvious.

He is saying that if Person A does anything that makes Person B act violently, then Person A is the criminal.

albill on September 14, 2010 at 2:58 PM

…Or rather, thanks to Petunia’s sacrifice and others like her, the rest of us will get second helpings of mashed potatoes.

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 3:00 PM

So, mashed potatoes denied, Petunia. Now you have to ask yourself a question—what are you going to do about it?

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 3:01 PM

If you’re willing to accept freedom on a plate then you’ll accept whatever portions they’ll give you.

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 2:50 PM

You anticipated my answer! Good for you. I demand mind reading be part of all discussions!

I accept that foreign policy is the job of our government. We are not free to undermine war policy.

Also, intentionally getting people killed, even if you are completely within your rights to do so is not something I support!

I think supporting our troops includes voluntarily censoring ourselves, so the government isn’t forced to make the decision to do it.

Self-government demands self-control!

Which in the end the Pastor did. But others thought they were making some grand point. When they were really just getting people killed for no good end.

Was even one mind changed in our favor over such boorish behavior? I think not.

If we are not able to govern ourselves freedom will be lost because public opinion will turn against freedom and towards more and more laws.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM

Freedom is never free. Society pays a price for free speech but it is a price that must be paid.

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 2:04 PM

True and the price of freedom is self-control. Without self-control you get laws that govern every possible situation.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Dire Straits sent me the link for that website,I visit it
daily!
=======================================

http://www.theospark.net/

canopfor on September 14, 2010 at 2:56 PM

Should have known.

….Straits always has something worthwhile to offer.

Baxter Greene on September 14, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Ah, but the islamic correct way of disposing of a koran is in fact to burn it.

slickwillie2001 on September 14, 2010 at 1:56 PM

Is that true? So Christians are voluntarily following Shariah Law? Hmmmmmm

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:19 PM

True and the price of freedom is self-control. Without self-control you get laws that govern every possible situation.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:08 PM

…and it is past time for the “moderate muslims” to call for some self-control within the muslim religion.

I am not going to walk around on eggshells to satisfy the faux injustices and the selective outrage of jihadist radicals.

Baxter Greene on September 14, 2010 at 3:19 PM

He doesn’t care about the first amendment, except when it can be used in an argument to support something he agrees with.

DFCtomm on September 14, 2010 at 3:20 PM

I think supporting our troops includes voluntarily censoring ourselves, so the government isn’t forced to make the decision to do it.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM

You do not understand the fundamental rights of the Constitution. The government isn’t ALLOWED to make that choice. Writing they are just undermines the Bill of Rights thingy.

gitarfan on September 14, 2010 at 3:20 PM

He doesn’t care about the first amendment, except when it can be used in an argument to support something he agrees with.

DFCtomm on September 14, 2010 at 3:20 PM

And there are people here on HA that can set it aside with some rhetoric for a little false safety.
I’ll take the dangerous road of freedom instead of the ‘safe’ road of kibbitzing.
I’m well armed.

Badger40 on September 14, 2010 at 3:22 PM

gitarfan on September 14, 2010 at 3:20 PM

There are people in this world who have really convinced themselves the govt is their protector.
I know personally when I have waited for the govt to just fulfill its duty that it falls woefully short.
More promises of ‘safety’ & ‘protection’ do nothing but give it more power.

Badger40 on September 14, 2010 at 3:24 PM

canopfor on September 14, 2010 at 2:56 PM
============================================
Should have known.

….Straits always has something worthwhile to offer.

Baxter Greene on September 14, 2010 at 3:13 PM

Baxter Greene:So true,Dire contributes greatly to H/A!:)

canopfor on September 14, 2010 at 3:26 PM

You anticipated my answer! Good for you. I demand mind reading be part of all discussions!

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM

It’s not mind reading. Even way back during the American revolution the founding fathers new where your argument leads. Luckily they chose a different path rather than submission.

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 3:28 PM

Worse than what is obvious.

He is saying that if Person A does anything that makes Person B act violently, then Person A is the criminal.

albill on September 14, 2010 at 2:58 PM

I believe Justice Breyer just made “flag burning” in my presence unconstitutional, since I will now go off on the a**hole.

gonnjos on September 14, 2010 at 3:30 PM

You anticipated my answer! Good for you. I demand mind reading be part of all discussions!

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:05 PM

It’s not mind reading. Even way back during the American re\/olution [censored] the founding fathers new where your argument leads. Luckily they chose a different path rather than submission.

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 3:30 PM

knew…

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 3:30 PM

True and the price of freedom is self-control. Without self-control you get laws that govern every possible situation.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Who is that a quote from? King George? Castro? Mao? Hitler? Stalin?

Luka on September 14, 2010 at 3:31 PM

True and the price of freedom is self-control. Without self-control you get laws that govern every possible situation.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Never mind. I looked it up. You are paraphrasing George Orwell.

Luka on September 14, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Liberals admire violence.

GardenGnome on September 14, 2010 at 1:46 PM

Especially in books!

Del Dolemonte on September 14, 2010 at 3:35 PM

I find appalling the lack of response to Islam and it’s Koran not only on the part of ‘liberal’ women in the USA but also in Europe and throughout the West. It is exactly this type of response, ignoring the obvious in the false hope that what you are seeing isn’t really happening that allowed Hitler to rise to power in Germany. I would encourage every woman to read Brigitte Gabriel’s “Because They Hate.” Perhaps if you hear the truth from a woman who has first-hand experience of how Islam and the Koran affected her and her family you will begin to see that your silence is condemning women to a fate that is horrifying and appalling. By raising your voices and standing in unison with your conservative women sisters you would send a message that leaves absolutely no doubt that you disapprove of how women are treated under Islam and the Koran and Sharia law and that it will NOT be tolerated in any shape, form, or fashion here in these United States. The women of the United States can be a very powerful voice for positive change in the world but it needs to be heard. I encourage you. As not enough men will denounce Islam and the Koran and Sharia in no uncertain terms, you must do so, and maybe by doing so, you can shame them into speaking up more like real men.

HalJordan on September 14, 2010 at 3:37 PM

The guy is complete idiot. I’m sure the “Wise Latina” and Kagan agree with him. THAT is the scary thing.

dogsoldier on September 14, 2010 at 3:42 PM

True and the price of freedom is self-control. Without self-control you get laws that govern every possible situation.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:08 PM

Who is that a quote from? King George? Castro? Mao? Hitler? Stalin?

Luka on September 14, 2010 at 3:31 PM

Never mind. I looked it up. You are paraphrasing George Orwell.

Luka on September 14, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Um no. Calvin Cooledge. And our founding fathers.

Funny you think King George, Castro, Mao, Hitler, Stalin were all about maintaining self-government?

That explains alot! Prehaps you should study up.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 4:07 PM

So the best way according to Breyer for Christians to get the same level of hands off behavior as Muslims is to start killing people?

sharrukin on September 14, 2010 at 1:03 PM

Yes. But doing so will kill Christianity.

Esthier on September 14, 2010 at 1:18 PM

Surely you aren’t suggesting that an entire religion would be tarred with the brush of a few “extremists?” You obviously haven’t observed the left’s keen powers of distinction and overall religious even-handedness.

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 4:07 PM

mankai on September 14, 2010 at 1:36 PM

OK, I’ll bite. Whose quote is that?

jwolf on September 14, 2010 at 1:47 PM

Gregory XVI

mankai on September 14, 2010 at 4:08 PM

Surely you aren’t suggesting that an entire religion would be tarred with the brush of a few “extremists?” You obviously haven’t observed the left’s keen powers of distinction and overall religious even-handedness.

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Heh. I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of reputation, but of course you know that their disdain for broad brush painting only applies to Muslims. It’s our fault that IRS guy killed himself, remember?

Esthier on September 14, 2010 at 4:09 PM

This is what we should do:

Every time a Muslim kills an innocent (like the nuns during the Muhammed cartoon kerfluffle or the Danish film director), we burn a Koran. Maybe then they will stop killing people.

The argument that they use works both ways. If they are only killing people because we are doing what we are doing and they have to kill people out of a moral compunction (which we know is B.S.), then we can say that we are only burning their Koran out of a moral compunction. We value life. They value the Koran (or so they say). Do they value the Koran enough to stop killing innocent people?

Then we will see exactly how much they value the Koran or if it is just a ploy to be able to kill innocents and do whatever they want in the name of being “offended”.

Theophile on September 14, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Esthier on September 14, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Yes, and yes (I hope the missing s/ wasn’t misconstrued).

But back to

sharrukin on September 14, 2010 at 1:03 PM

‘s point: I believe it’s fair to call it a reductio ad absurdum counter-argument to Breyer.

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 4:19 PM

If you haven’t noticed, free speech as regards Islam, is over.

BL@KBIRD on September 14, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Instead, Breyer seems to want to put the Koran in a separate class for purposes of protest, a dangerous direction that flies in the other First Amendment restriction, the establishment clause regarding religion.

I really cant even figure out where to begin on this one…..

Koa on September 14, 2010 at 4:31 PM

True and the price of freedom is self-control. Without self-control you get laws that govern every possible situation.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 3:08 PM

…and it is past time for the “moderate muslims” to call for some self-control within the muslim religion.

I am not going to walk around on eggshells to satisfy the faux injustices and the selective outrage of jihadist radicals.

Baxter Greene on September 14, 2010 at 3:19 PM

I think refraining from publicly burning the Koran is hardly eggshell walking.

We really can do nothing that controls them. Ultimately we can only control ourselves.

I see no real Christian reason to burn Korans. The only real purpose would be to stir up anger. And to what end?

Are they going to admit the Koran is an evil document because we burned it? Are they going to be peaceful happy campers from here on out? Are they all lining up to convert to Christianity? What is the goal?

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 4:32 PM

In other Breyer News, Newsbusters tells us:

Giving Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer an unusual evening newscast platform to plug a book, on Monday’s NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams brought viewers back to the Left’s ten-year-old grudge, cuing up Breyer to agree: “Do you think Bush v Gore hurt the credibility of the modern court?” Breyer replied with a simple “yes” and Williams suggested: “Irreparably?” “No,” Breyer said in rejecting Williams’ overwrought premise, so Williams pressed: “For how long?”

-snip-

The second topic raised by Williams:

WILLIAMS: Do you think Bush v Gore hurt the credibility of the modern court?

BREYER: Yes.

WILLIAMS: Irreparably?

BREYER: No.

WILLIAMS: For how long?

BREYER: I don’t know. That’s up to historians. I thought that the decision — I was in dissent. I obviously thought the majority was wrong. But I’ve heard Harry Reid, I heard him say this, and I agree with it completely, he said the most remarkable thing about that case, Bush versus Gore, is something hardly anyone remarks. And that remarkable thing is even though more than half the public strongly disagreed with it, thought it was really wrong, they followed it. And the alternative, using guns, having revolutions in the street, is a worse alternative.

Breyer was one of only 2 SCOTUS Justices to believe Algore had a right to try and steal the 2000 election. Luckily there were 7 other Justices who didn’t.

Can you say “Activist Justice”? Exactly why Clinton named him to the post.

Del Dolemonte on September 14, 2010 at 4:41 PM

So Breyer’s definition of the First Amendment would be:

You can say anything you want, unless it bothers someone who has violent tendencies.

hawksruleva on September 14, 2010 at 4:51 PM

I see no real Christian reason to burn Korans. The only real purpose would be to stir up anger. And to what end?

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 4:32 PM

To point out that Islam isn’t a religion of peace? To point out the difference in tolerance between the major world religions? To create a lovely fire as part of a piece of performance art?

I wasn’t aware that speech had to have a good reason in before it could be allowed.

hawksruleva on September 14, 2010 at 4:53 PM

So does Justice Breyer believe in Gay’s rights to Marry? Because they use that as a recruiting tool too.

Rbastid on September 14, 2010 at 4:53 PM

Publicly burning the Koran sounds like exactly the right thing to do, My great Uncle the WW2 veteran of D-Day was offended at the punks who burn the American Flag, who protected his rights?? Not the Supremes, thats for damn sure. Are we really caring SOOOO much about the sensibilities of Radical Islamics that we are about to whittle away the first amendment on their behalf? I say BS!!

Viper1 on September 14, 2010 at 4:54 PM

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 4:32 PM

I may disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it, so I’ll kill you.–Voltaire’s Muslim twin.

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Rbastid on September 14, 2010 at 4:53 PM

+100.

LASue on September 14, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Every argument needs to have a direct tie to the Constitution. To use case law based on another case, which was based on another case is subversive.

ButterflyDragon on September 14, 2010 at 2:19 PM

heh. So much for the Anglo-American common law system.

Please. Breyer opened this door – not Hot Air.

No, HA did. By implying he actually thinks burning Korans isn’t protected speech. He said nothing of the sort.

crr6, do you believe that koran burning is protected speech?

blink on September 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM

Yeah, I do.

crr6 on September 14, 2010 at 5:15 PM

No, HA did. By implying he actually thinks burning Korans isn’t protected speech. He said nothing of the sort.

No, but a more “selective” reading and an outrageous headline really gets the comments going!

Proud Rino on September 14, 2010 at 5:35 PM

I would encourage every woman to read Brigitte Gabriel’s “Because They Hate.”
HalJordan on September 14, 2010 at 3:37 PM

I own & have read this book. I highly reccomend it.
It is not just about muslims, it is about Arab culture in general, too.

heh. So much for the Anglo-American common law system.
crr6 on September 14, 2010 at 5:15 PM

Then why is a Constitution + the Bill of Rights even needed?
The info in them is obvious & not convoluted like lawyers have tried to make us believe.
Everything really is pretty cut & dry in there.
The rest is up to the states.
Bcs it is a confederation of STATES. The Federal govt lives at the pleasure of the states & is responsible for upholding the former mentioned documents.
It’s got no business doing ANYTHING else.
Regulating pot & alcohol included, unless its interstate commerce & NOT intrastate commerce.
Precedence that goes aginst the documents has led to the system of legalistic chaos we have now.

Badger40 on September 14, 2010 at 5:37 PM

Then why is a Constitution + the Bill of Rights even needed?
The info in them is obvious & not convoluted like lawyers have tried to make us believe.
Everything really is pretty cut & dry in there.

No, it’s not “obvious”. Our Constitution is short. Really short. The Founders could have made a 1000 page Annotated Code complete with advisory notes, a table of contents and a “definitions” section. That would have been clear. But they didn’t do that. They made a vague and malleable document that’s open to many different interpretations.

The rest is up to the states.
Bcs it is a confederation of STATES. The Federal govt lives at the pleasure of the states & is responsible for upholding the former mentioned documents.
It’s got no business doing ANYTHING else.

Dude, did you hear we got rid of the Articles of Confederation?

Regulating pot & alcohol included, unless its interstate commerce & NOT intrastate commerce.

Uh, that’s a random example. What are you up to this afternoon Badger?

Precedence that goes aginst the documents has led to the system of legalistic chaos we have now.

Badger40 on September 14, 2010 at 5:37 PM

“Precedence”? Indeed.

crr6 on September 14, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Justice Breyer

not prepared to conclude that — in the internet age — the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

Supreme Court judicial activism to negate the FIRST Amendment.

“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”

“Koran!” shouted in a crowded theater might turn heads and at worst raise jeers, but no one’s getting trampled to death.

Hardly a comparison.

maverick muse on September 14, 2010 at 5:42 PM

That would have been clear.

Actually, to be fair….it still wouldn’t have been clear.

crr6 on September 14, 2010 at 5:43 PM

So Breyer’s definition of the First Amendment would be:

You can say anything you want, unless it bothers someone who has violent tendencies.

hawksruleva on September 14, 2010 at 4:51 PM

AND people with violent natures are free to terrorize and murder without a police response and without fear of prosecution.

maverick muse on September 14, 2010 at 5:45 PM

Can you say “Activist Justice”? Exactly why Clinton named him to the post.

Del Dolemonte on September 14, 2010 at 4:41 PM

Thanks to save me that question. who the hell…

maverick muse on September 14, 2010 at 5:48 PM

Our Constitution is short. Really short. The Founders could have made a 1000 page Annotated Code complete with advisory notes, a table of contents and a “definitions” section. That would have been clear. But they didn’t do that. They made a vague and malleable document that’s open to many different interpretations being hijacked by radical Leftists and their handpicked Activist Judges, in order to subvert the original intents of the people who wrote it.

crr6 on September 14, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Fixed.

Del Dolemonte on September 14, 2010 at 6:01 PM

I don’t recall any attempted “state action” (other than entreaties) to either restrain Jones or threaten him with criminal prosecution if he proceeded. Without that, how does a First Amendment issue even arise?

But assuming he were to be restrained or charged (under something like like a public nuisance or breach of peace ordinance, e.g.), isn’t the “fighting words” doctrine likely to be where the main argument would focus?

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 6:08 PM

Saw this interesting comment on another forum:

The fact that Breyer would use that particular Holme’s quote, from Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919) is simply astounding. That case, that if heard today, would easily be decided in the other direction unanimously (although perhaps not considering Breyer’s comments). In effect, both conservatives and liberals believe that the majority got it dead wrong in Schenck, a case that said a man had no constitutional right to protest the draft.

In fact, the court goes a LONG WAY in narrowing (almost to the point of reversing perhaps even a de facto reversal) Schenck in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), which essentially said it is constitutional to advocate for violence, just not incite violence. Breyer’s entire interview can be found here. But, it’s clear from watching it, he is laying some foundation to limit speech if that speech could be met with violence from dissenters. That is a deeply, deeply troubling position and a position I wouldn’t think would be popular even in liberal circles.

It’s amazing Breyer would comment on this at all, and even more amazing that he said what he said – quoting a case that has been, for all practical purposes, undone almost to the point of reversal.

Del Dolemonte on September 14, 2010 at 6:18 PM

This so insanely outrageous.

ronsfi on September 14, 2010 at 6:19 PM

Without that, how does a First Amendment issue even arise?

Breyer’s argument, following from Holmes, seems to be a public safety one. That is, the burning disrupts the public order and leads to violent reactions.

But of course the danger to public safety or order occurred in Afghanistan, not here. So how does violence or a threat to public safety in Afghanistan lead one to argue that the act committed here can be banned or prevented?

Breyer appears to be advocating some sort of “global crowded theater” where threats to public safety anywhere can be sufficient reason to limit speech here.

It’s absurd.

This is what has gotten us all perplexed.

SteveMG on September 14, 2010 at 6:23 PM

New wording of first amendment;

Congress shall make no law but the Supreme Court shall make law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Dasher on September 14, 2010 at 6:24 PM

By implying he actually thinks burning Korans isn’t protected speech. He said nothing of the sort.

No, but he clearly suggested to me that because of the internet that there’s some sort of “global crowded theater” where speech causing public disorder in one part of the world is sufficient to suppress speech here.

Or at the very least – the very – he suggested that it should be looked into.

It’s absurd. The fact that violence may occur in Afghanistan or anywhere in the world because of a speech or act here is simply not reason to suppress that speech. Period.

SteveMG on September 14, 2010 at 6:27 PM

I see no real Christian reason to burn Korans. The only real purpose would be to stir up anger. And to what end?

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 4:32 PM

I don’t think it is about what is Christian and what is not.
It is about freedom of speech.

I don’t agree in the least with this idiot that wants to burn the Koran.

I also don’t agree with all the idiots who marched against Bush/Cheney and our troops for 8 years but now have gone to the coffee shops.

But the bottom line is that people have the freedom to say and act how they want (within the law).

If you don’t like what someone is protesting about…you can speak up.

When we start controlling what people can and can’t say….that is opening the door to tyranny.

Americans that supported the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan did not go chopping peoples heads off or blowing up buildings because we didn’t agree with the liberals that called for surrender.

The responsibility of ones actions belong to the person who commits them…..not to some arbitrary perceived insult.

We should not shut down our rights because other parties don’t have any self control or choose violence to handle their problems.

Baxter Greene on September 14, 2010 at 6:38 PM

Are they going to admit the Koran is an evil document because we burned it? Are they going to be peaceful happy campers from here on out? Are they all lining up to convert to Christianity? What is the goal?

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 4:32 PM

The goal is to stand up to Islam and it’s evil like men and strong women, not to roll over like a scared dhimmi. Your name is that of a woman and yet you seem to hate other women, or at the very least have little regard for them.

HalJordan on September 14, 2010 at 6:51 PM

SteveMG on September 14, 2010 at 6:23 PM

Understood, but whatever Breyer’s abstract notions of “condoning” are with respect to Koran burning, they remain only that until a state action of some sort occurs, whereupon the free speech clause is asserted as a defense. That Breyer’s ruminations are troublesome, I do not dispute.

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 6:51 PM

I also don’t agree with all the idiots who marched against Bush/Cheney and our troops for 8 years but now have gone to the coffee shops.

Baxter Greene on September 14, 2010 at 6:38 PM

I believe they are called coffee parties.

unclesmrgol on September 14, 2010 at 6:53 PM

Baxter Greene on September 14, 2010 at 6:38 PM

So called ‘Liberals’, actually they hijacked the word as they are not liberal, are all for free speech, until they are against it. To them the only rights should be for leftists, and now it would appear for Muslims, as they think they are their statist allies. What they don’t realize in their tiny brains is that – in the end, there can be only one, and given their sissification, it won’t be them.

Luka on September 14, 2010 at 6:56 PM

So Breyer’s definition of the First Amendment would be:

You can say anything you want, unless it bothers someone who has violent tendencies.

hawksruleva on September 14, 2010 at 4:51 PM

Thus providing an incentive to have violent tendencies.

FloatingRock on September 14, 2010 at 7:05 PM

WTF??? How ’bout in the outhouse when I run out of Sears catalogs and corn cobs?

bannedbyhuffpo on September 14, 2010 at 7:23 PM

bannedbyhuffpo on September 14, 2010 at 7:23 PM

That should be OK, as long as it’s not crowded. But if you happen to start a fire, ferchrissakes keep it to yourself.

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 7:32 PM

Time to change the constitution.
no life time appoitments. Perhaps appointment for 10- 20 years or we get to vote if they get to stay in office.
The life time apt was a good idea when they died off early, but now that we live till 80+ , they live life in a insulated shell.
We need a constitutional ammendment.

ColdWarrior57 on September 14, 2010 at 7:32 PM

It doesn’t say we don’t have the right to burn the Koran specifically and it doesn’t say we can’t either. So it sounds like you want us to leave it up to you to decide for us.

Kissmygrits on September 14, 2010 at 7:38 PM

I see no real Christian reason to burn Korans. The only real purpose would be to stir up anger. And to what end?

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 4:32 PM

To cook sausage with, dumbass.

TexasJew on September 14, 2010 at 7:46 PM

sharrukin on September 14, 2010 at 1:45 PM

I don’t believe those are the words of jesus, those are the words of the king in the parable of the ten minas.

Fighton03 on September 14, 2010 at 7:46 PM

And you can’t order people to kill someone.

petunia on September 14, 2010 at 1:56 PM

A point of correction. You CAN if you are the Govt. And if all power comes from “The People”, then….

Mind whirs.

BierManVA on September 14, 2010 at 7:55 PM

To burn or not to burn

General Petraeus, President Obama and the entire administration have bent over backwards to accommodate the Afghan people, government and apparently, ‘repentant Taliban’ and all at the expense of American Warriors. The level of ‘restraint’ shown during engagements, while seemingly admirable, is doing little to bring about victory – a victory our Warriors should be able to expect for their efforts and sacrifices. There is evidence that tax payer dollars are being funneled into that country to rebuild/build Mosques. And this knowing that Islamists have never been ‘tolerant’ of any ideology or system of governance inconsistent with the Koran or Sharia. It has also been apparent for some time that the Strategy has become the goal and the security of the United States a forgotten concern.

Anyone who truly believes that Islam is ‘a religion of peace’ is smoking some very strong dope. Anyone who believes that burning a few Korans can transform otherwise rational and peaceful people into a murderous horde isn’t giving those ‘rational and peaceful people’ much credit for the ability to reason. Anyone who truly thinks the ‘true soldiers of Allah’ aren’t capable of using an otherwise mundane act as an excuse to incite violence and propaganda is a prisoner of his own inept mental faculty. Anyone who thinks violence in the streets is a perfectly normal and expected reaction to this kind of protest and doesn’t allow Christians or Jews the same latitude, is a bigot.

Luka on September 14, 2010 at 7:55 PM

He obviously thinks we’re in Europe (or Canada), where speech can be limited on grounds of racism, offense, or harming ‘social cohesion’. And frankly, I wish he was in Europe (or Canada), because then he wouldn’t be here.

Inkblots on September 14, 2010 at 1:07 PM
Please, we (Canucks) have enough and too many far-left Liberal (in)justices here.

cableguy615 on September 14, 2010 at 8:06 PM

So Breyer is insane?

Or incompetent?

Or a traitor?

It’s one of the three.

We are not allow to do or say things that might rile up hysterical psychopaths, eh, Mr. ‘Justice’?

Wouldn’t that include EVERYTHING you frikkin’ cheewhiz-for-brains?!?!?!

profitsbeard on September 14, 2010 at 8:31 PM

Hey!!!
Maybe we don’t even have the right to think about burning the Koran

Anybody for going to War with Islam now?

Observation on September 14, 2010 at 8:32 PM

Anyone who truly believes that Islam is ‘a religion of peace’ is smoking some very strong dope.

Luka on September 14, 2010 at 7:55 PM

And yet the Leftists, who nominally are atheists and agnostics, are suddenly pro-religion, but for this religion only-simply because we are speaking out against its extremists.

And they have lately been going thru extraordinary loops and circles and spins to rationalize their sudden love of a religion that they should abhor-one that doesn’t tolerate gays, one that treats women as unequals, etc.

I recently saw a Leftist try to claim that Muslims committed less than 1% of “terrorist attacks” on US soil over a certain period of time. They cited the FBI, an organization that the Left has reviled and mistrusted for decades. And this “analyst” selectively left out the fact that such statistics aren’t relevant without context.

Likewise, I saw another “study” done in Europe that reached similar conclusions-but this one also left out the context.

The vast majority of “terrorist attacks” both articles cited on US soil, and also those in Europe, killed or injured relatively few people. But it was the terrorists acting in the name of Islam who tried to take out as many civilians as possible. bin Laden was hoping for many times more than 3,000 fatalities at the WTC-under “ideal” conditions, many more times that number would have been killed.

The Democrat Left desperately wants us to forget the 9/11 attacks, because they know the longer we remember those attacks, the longer we will remember that they are the ones who let it happen. It’s not guilt they feel, because they are incapable of such an emotion. It’s self-preservation.

Del Dolemonte on September 14, 2010 at 8:34 PM

Is this even surprising? The singular feature of the Supreme Court for the past generation has been the premise that no rules are binding, even the Constitution itself, if you can come up with a good enough justification for it.

Those who can read the Constitution and claim that it requires allowing the killing of the unborn and same-sex marriage has already declared that they will accept no limits but their own opinions.

And just to be clear, the argument from the Supreme Court has never been that the Constitution doesn’t address either issue. The argument has always been that any law which restricts abortion, or does not put same-sex marriage on exactly equal footing with normal marriage, specifically violates the Constitution.

So if they think burning a Koran is too provocative, then of course they will find a way to outlaw it and cover themselves with the Constitution as a pretext.

Perhaps they’ll declare that anyone who burns a Koran is somehow acting as a vigilante, and is therefore acting as an officer of the government, and therefore is subject to the same restrictions as the government would be.

tom on September 14, 2010 at 8:54 PM

His analogy is stupid. Yell “fire” in a crowded theater and people feel compelled to run to the nearest exit because they fear for their lives. Burn a Koran and people may feel compelled to riot, but why? Certainly not because they fear for their lives. Running from fire is rational, rioting over an insult is not. Deliberately pissing people off, regardless of how crudely or provocatively done, is not akin to deliberately creating panic in the absense of an actual threat. At least not in the USA.

In Canada, on the other hand, “publicly inciting hatred” (that is, communicating statements–”statements” meaning words spoken, written or recorded, gestures, and signs or other visible representations–in a public place that incite hatred against an identifiable group in such a way that there will likely be a breach of the peace) is a crime. But, Canada has no First Amendment. Under the US criminal code, you must actually urge or instigate others to commit that breach of the peace. The mere advocacy of ideas or expression of beliefs, even if that expression includes burning a Koran, is not sufficient to constitute criminal behavior.

And, Justice Breyer, it’s not the Constitution’s function to “condone,” or not, the actions of citizens. It is its function to prevent government from abrogating those citizens’ rights. Whatta dope.

SukieTawdry on September 14, 2010 at 9:08 PM

I wonder how Breyer feels about this man’s rights? Okey dokey? He was fired from a gubmint job for burning a Koran.

Derek Fenton Fired.

PattyJ on September 14, 2010 at 9:40 PM

I wonder how Breyer feels about this man’s rights? Okey dokey? He was fired from a gubmint job for burning a Koran.

Derek Fenton Fired.

PattyJ on September 14, 2010 at 9:40 PM

I sent that in as a tip for a red meat section. Figure as a thread it would generate a few hundred hits.

Fighton03 on September 15, 2010 at 12:53 AM

Apparently, Justice Breyer failed to realize that using the “crowded theater” analogy to limit free speech in these cases means there are no limits to the reach of the federal government, as long as it can find some people, somewhere who will riot if we don’t follow their rules. Taken to its logical extreme his idea would convert America from a democracy into a theocracy. And not just any theocracy but one based on the thinking of the most irrational and violent mob.

Fred 2 on September 15, 2010 at 1:27 AM

Derek Fenton Fired.

PattyJ on September 14, 2010 at 9:40 PM

Here is some context to the terrormosque and 1st amendment rights of muslims in USA,
the same 1st amendment rights which non-muslims will not have anymore, in our own country

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/islam_center_eerie_echo_of_ancient_iRTMW6TprkULnaA1Nqi9xM

Knowledge is pwer.

macncheez on September 15, 2010 at 1:48 AM

Fred 2 on September 15, 2010 at 1:27 AM

ahhh, but Fred…that is why the founding fathers gave us a REPUBLIC…because democracies ALWAYS devolve into violent mob rule.

but Breyer apparently missed that part of history class.

Fighton03 on September 15, 2010 at 2:21 AM

Wow…..if this brief utterance from one of our robed Demi-gods can be so breathtaking, imagine the bovine excrement they speak in session behind closed doors?

olesparkie on September 15, 2010 at 7:09 AM

He should be on some sharia council then instead of the Supreme Court.

Disturb the Universe on September 15, 2010 at 8:22 AM

Sure you have the right to burn a Koran, but just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

*eyeroll*

You hypocrites.

Constant Parrhesia on September 15, 2010 at 8:33 AM

Yelling fire in a theater isn’t protected as free speech because its sole purpose is to cause panic and chaos. Panic is a natural reaction of anyone escaping lethal flames.

The purpose of any symbolic burning is to make a statement. Unless that burning is accompanied by an explicit threat of violence (such as a KKK mob planting a cross in someone’s yard), it should not create panic and chaos.

The ummah has a choice how it reacts to the burning, just as I have a choice how I will react to a flag burning.

Disturb the Universe on September 15, 2010 at 8:41 AM

Uh, that’s a random example. What are you up to this afternoon Badger?

Precedence that goes aginst the documents has led to the system of legalistic chaos we have now.

Badger40 on September 14, 2010 at 5:37 PM
“Precedence”? Indeed.

crr6 on September 14, 2010 at 5:42 PM

Just using part of the Const as an example of how cut & dry it is.
Why do I have to explain this to you?
Indeed? Indeed what?
Do you agree the Const is a static document or do you believe it is a dynamic document?
Obtuse much?

Badger40 on September 15, 2010 at 8:50 AM

Just using part of the Const as an example of how cut & dry it is.
Why do I have to explain this to you?
Indeed? Indeed what?

I was just laughing cause I think you meant: “precedents”. That’s all.

Do you agree the Const is a static document or do you believe it is a dynamic document?
Badger40 on September 15, 2010 at 8:50 AM

That’s not a particularly useful or meaningful question. It’s both, I guess. The ideas and concepts are static but their applications are dynamic.

crr6 on September 15, 2010 at 9:09 AM

There’s hope for you. The ‘living, breathing document’ description is very stupid. How can a document breathe (even figuratively)?

It is a stupid description. So is the right’s “static, original intent” formulation. They’re both completely meaningless in practice, which is why you’ll rarely see real judges or lawyers talk about them. Same with “activist judges”. It’s a political term, not a legal term.

But the application shouldn’t be dynamic.

Huh? It absolutely should be. For example, we routinely take static principles from the 4th amendment regarding privacy and reasonableness, and apply them to new technology. If we didn’t do so the amendment would be virtually meaningless in contemporary society.

Our supreme justices shouldn’t be so influenced on dynamic social stigmas.

blink on September 15, 2010 at 10:24 AM

Err…ok. Not sure what you mean by that.

crr6 on September 15, 2010 at 10:38 AM

(I hope the missing s/ wasn’t misconstrued).

Barnestormer on September 14, 2010 at 4:19 PM

No, it certainly wasn’t. I can’t imagine that statement being said sincerely.

Esthier on September 15, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Err…ok. Not sure what you mean by that.

crr6 on September 15, 2010 at 10:38 AM

Presumably that courts shouldn’t be relying on our changing definitions of “taboo” in order to decide what is and what is not Constitutional.

Esthier on September 15, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Presumably that courts shouldn’t be relying on our changing definitions of “taboo” in order to decide what is and what is not Constitutional.

Esthier on September 15, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Give specific examples.

crr6 on September 15, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Well, in that case, Westboro Phelps Gang needs to lose.

Parade on September 15, 2010 at 11:00 AM

Give specific examples.

crr6 on September 15, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Gay marriage. If it’s a right granted by the Constitution, then it’s a right even if gays are not accepted by society. If it’s not a right, their acceptance by society shouldn’t matter.

Esthier on September 15, 2010 at 11:53 AM

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