The First Amendment, Korans, and personal responsibility

posted at 10:12 am on April 6, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Until now, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to weigh in on Lindsey Graham’s gee-I’d-like-to-ban-Koran-burning-but-I-probably-can’t pas de deux from this weekend.  Allahpundit has done a good job of analyzing the issue, and I thought that the point was self-evident enough that few would seriously argue for government intervention aimed at obscure preachers to silence political protest.  Conversations I have had in the meantime with others convinced me that apparently the need to defend free speech isn’t self-evident, and when a high-ranking politician stokes those passions, it requires more effort.

My column at The Week addresses Graham’s construct, which he posits as both a need to save lives and to somehow honor David Petraeus, but in order to buy either argument, one would have to believe in remote mind control and throw out the concepts of free will and personal responsibility.  That would undermine the argument for freedom entirely:

If Sen. Graham wants to condemn burning the Koran, he’s welcome to do so. If he wants to propose a resolution in the Senate condemning the Florida preacher’s actions, he is welcome to do that as well. Such a resolution is an equally valid form of protest, but otherwise legally meaningless.   When Graham purports to support a ban on burning the Koran, however, that crosses the line – actually, several lines. Not only would it ban free political speech as it has been defined for at least decades in this country, but also property rights as well, since Jones owned the book. It would also create, in effect, a protected class for the Koran, which would also violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Even if the ban was expanded to other religious texts, it would still cross establishment-clause lines, as well as prompt questions about what qualifies as a religious text or not. Does Dianetics get federal protection? How about the Bhagavad Gita? The Book of Shadows? The Silmarillion? One suspects that in theory the legal class would extend infinitely, but in practice, the government would only take interest in restraining protests involving the Koran due to the perceived security issues – again making [Islam] a protected class.

We would soon find that such a ban does nothing to improve security at home or abroad. The people who murdered the aid workers did not get magically transformed into murderers from peaceful pacifists by Jones’ remote and obscure protest from halfway around the world. The murders took place because the extremists involved decided to kill, and the responsibility is theirs. To believe otherwise is to reject entirely the legal and moral principles of responsibility and free will, which are the very basis of liberty. Without those principles, the constitution wouldn’t apply at all to any human endeavor, whether in wartime or not.

Whatever anyone else thinks of Terry Jones, he’s not an omnipotent demigod able to control people and rob them of free will.  There is no connection between the act of setting one’s own copy of a book on fire in Florida and a series of murders in Afghanistan.  To argue that they’re connected at all in any legal or moral sense, both of which Graham argued in theory this weekend, is to instantly stratify humanity into those capable of self-control and those incapable of it.

For the latter, law then could not apply to any of their actions.  Criminal responsibility in a free society lies in large part on the concept on mens rea, the intent to act in a criminal matter, and more basically on the ability to form it.  If certain kinds of people are incapable of forming intent, then they cannot be held responsible for their actions.  That kind of construct gives governments every excuse to ignore basic and natural human rights in the interests of “safety,” “security,” and for the purported good of the benighted folk that fall under that rubric.  It’s a dangerous human impulse to make that assumption, and when governments begin applying those assumptions into law, all manner of mischief can and will get official sanction.

The only people responsible for the murders in Afghanistan are the murderers and those who specifically incited them to commit violence, not critics of Islam, society, or the disappearing ozone layer.  We do not need to silence our citizens on the off chance that lunatics might respond to the stimuli; such a standard would silence all speech and especially political and religious debate.  Free people should understand this and defend against government intrusion even against silly and offensive speech, and those elected to uphold the Constitution that bars the government from infringing on that right should understand it best of all.


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My column at The Week addresses Graham’s construct, which he posits as both a need to save lives and to somehow honor David Petraeus, but in order to buy either argument, one would have to believe in remote mind control and throw out the concepts of free will and personal responsibility.

Isn’t that how Sarah Palin made Jared Loughner shoot Gabby Giffords and all those other folks in Tuscon?

Doughboy on April 6, 2011 at 10:19 AM

Well said.

mwdiver on April 6, 2011 at 10:19 AM

Look, elections are a great idea, but those voters in South Carolina have to be held responsible for their actions…

myrenovations on April 6, 2011 at 10:20 AM

To argue that they’re connected at all in any legal or moral sense, both of which Graham argued in theory this weekend, is to instantly stratify humanity into those capable of self-control and those incapable of it.

+1

I have several questions to throw out there.

1) I would suspect that most people in the Graham camp (small as it might be) would vehemently oppose Ron Paul (especially his beliefs on how US foreign policy lead to terrorism). Isn’t that hypocritical? Slamming Paul for believing US actions lead to terrorism, yet believing to protect lives, we need to censor Jones seems like a huge contradiction.

2) Muslims also complain about Westerners “imposing” our infidel ways and such. Think of the sinful pop stars whose music we export. If Graham doesn’t want to give fuel for the terrorists, is he going to start banning Madonna? Gay pride rallies? Promiscuity?

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Exactly!!!

How many korans were burned to incite the violence of flying jets into the World Trade Center buildings, or a field in Pennsylvania, or the Pentagon? Hmmmmmmm. Were any of those people on those planes, or in those buildings responsible for the violent actions of those muslims that perpetrated that crime? Or any prior or since violent actions?

Radicals don’t need an excuse, just opportunity. The unions have shown us that.

capejasmine on April 6, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Such a resolution is an equally valid form of protest, but otherwise legally meaningless.

great point, Ed. great column. ++

ted c on April 6, 2011 at 10:23 AM

Graham’s attitude shows the mindset of someone who is comfortable with the idea of a controlling government when he needs it. Lindsay may have fewer areas than your average liberal Democrat where he sees the need for government to be able to limit individual liberties, but it’s only a disagreement in degree of government intervention, not on the idea that the government doesn’t have the right to intervene (i.e. — Graham would take the concept of not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater an expand it to the point of not shouting “fire” anywhere if he had his way).

jon1979 on April 6, 2011 at 10:23 AM

Whatever anyone else thinks of Terry Jones, he’s not an omnipotent demigod able to control people and rob them of free will. There is no connection between the act of setting one’s own copy of a book on fire in Florida and a series of murders in Afghanistan. To argue that they’re connected at all in any legal or moral sense, both of which Graham argued in theory this weekend, is to instantly stratify humanity into those capable of self-control and those incapable of it.

That some lack self-control is a matter of human nature, as both Mr. Jones, the Muslim extremists, and a whole bunch of drug abusers have shown. Deny it at the cost of one’s life.

unclesmrgol on April 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Wonder how much mullah money has found it’s way into linzzys pocket

ride him out on a rail!

Sonosam on April 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Graham should worry less about banning Koran “defacements”, but rather introduce legislation to outlaw late-term abortions (for starters).

I swear I can’t wait to work to oust this mashed piece of jello in the primary here in South Carolina in 2014.

SouthernGent on April 6, 2011 at 10:26 AM

(i.e. — Graham would take the concept of not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater an expand it to the point of not shouting “fire” anywhere if he had his way).

jon1979 on April 6, 2011 at 10:23 AM

No. Graham, Lieberman, McCain, Kerry, &c would set up panels that would annually decide on what types of settings one could scream “fire.” They would then call for a new cabinet position to oversee this panel.

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 10:26 AM

The only people responsible for the murders in Afghanistan are the murderers and those who specifically incited them to commit violence,…

Namely Hamid Karzai.

cartooner on April 6, 2011 at 10:27 AM

Much better than what I heard from BOR.

fourdeucer on April 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM

Some unknown fud in Florida burns a Koran, and this causes savages on the other side of the globe to slaughter Norwegian aid workers.

So the answer is for all of us to try and figure out what causes savages to go postal and not do it, like drawing cartoons, burning a book, wearing certain types of clothing, etc.

Bishop on April 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM

The Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia. So if you go there as a tourist, and their version of TSA searches your belongings and finds your Bible, I believe they will confiscate it. So what does the Saudi TSA do with that Bible? Treat it with reverence, in a reciprocal gesture of respect for another religion, or throw it in the trash?

To say nothing of how they treat those who convert away from Islam.

rbj on April 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

So the answer is for all of us to try and figure out what causes savages to go postal and not do it, like drawing cartoons, burning a book, wearing certain types of clothing, etc.being alive

Vera on April 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

Which SCOTUS justice was it that said, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact”? Anyway, accepting that statement as a valid legal doctrine, doesn’t it then follow that Islam should be banned/made illegal since it combines a religion and political system all in one that is diametrically opposed to our established system? If we are to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, doesn’t Islam with its Sharia Law and fundamental precepts against free speech, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the establishment of religion etc violate the Constitution? I haven’t thought this through completely, but it seems to me that it does. What do others of you think?

JimP on April 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

The Silmarillion?

Heh. A bit surprised you didn’t include the Left’s Holy Trinity of religious texts–Das Kapital, Mao’s Little Red Book, and Dreams of My Father.

Christien on April 6, 2011 at 10:32 AM

Isn’t that how Sarah Palin made Jared Loughner shoot Gabby Giffords and all those other folks in Tuscon?

Doughboy on April 6, 2011 at 10:19 AM

She’s also a book burner. I read it on the internet.

a capella on April 6, 2011 at 10:33 AM

The Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia. So if you go there as a tourist, and their version of TSA searches your belongings and finds your Bible, I believe they will confiscate it. So what does the Saudi TSA do with that Bible? Treat it with reverence, in a reciprocal gesture of respect for another religion, or throw it in the trash?
To say nothing of how they treat those who convert away from Islam.
rbj on April 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

though you may be right and I wouldn’t doubt it about bringing a bible to sheet ville Saudi Arabia, it isn’t as a tourist since they don’t allow it

Sonosam on April 6, 2011 at 10:35 AM

What do others of you think?

JimP on April 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

I think you nailed it. Now if the city of Dearbornistan would try and come to the same conclusion!

fourdeucer on April 6, 2011 at 10:36 AM

Ann Barnhardt has some VERY pointed words for Senator Graham, over at American Thinker. She also has a Koran. And a lighter.

Pablo on April 6, 2011 at 10:36 AM

The murders took place because the extremists involved decided to kill, and the responsibility is theirs.

In all sincerity, I don’t believe such Afghanis understand our political system. We have a population of 300,000,000. If one person burns a Koran — and one will, trust me — the law protects him from any action. That’s our freedom of speech as granted in the 1st amendment to the Constitution. The government has no control over this man. And I truly believe many in Afghanistan don’t understand this.

The American spirit involves “I may disagree in the strongest possible terms with what you say, but I’ll defend to my death your right to say it”. We shouldn’t be ashamed or apologetic over what Terry Jones did. We should be rejoicing in this demonstration of freedom. This should be a watershed moment where we explain to the rest of the world the nature of our law of Freedom of Speech for All, and how that freedom is a light to the rest of the world. A freedom not even enjoyed in Canada, England, France, or Germany, or any other country on earth that I know of.

Petraeus and Graham shouldn’t be beating themselves up over this. Quite the opposite. This should be our proudest moment. What a twisted, upside down time we live in.

Paul-Cincy on April 6, 2011 at 10:36 AM

To say nothing of how they treat those who convert away from Islam.

rbj on April 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

We must be respectful of other cultures. Don’t you remember General Casey’s first concerns after the Fort Hood shootings?

a capella on April 6, 2011 at 10:36 AM

The 1st amendment in the Bill of Ideas also contains freedom of the press. It would be easier to police the media for giving Jones publicity than 300 million people’s speech. Ah, but politicians wouldn’t want bad publicity, would they? And the press don’t seem to worked up over individual speech…hmmm…

cartooner on April 6, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Such a resolution is an equally valid form of protest, but otherwise legally meaningless.

I disagree. I don’t want my government targeting individuals for criticism. As an individual, Lindsey Graham may support or oppose this the way any citizen can, but to propose a resolution is to throw the weight of the federal government behind that opposition. That is not the purpose of our government; they need to do their Constitutionally mandated duties, then go home.

DrMagnolias on April 6, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Back off, Lindsey! I have a Koran and a toilet and I know how to flush it!

cartooner on April 6, 2011 at 10:40 AM

The Bible is banned in Saudi Arabia. So if you go there as a tourist, and their version of TSA searches your belongings and finds your Bible, I believe they will confiscate it. So what does the Saudi TSA do with that Bible? Treat it with reverence, in a reciprocal gesture of respect for another religion, or throw it in the trash?

To say nothing of how they treat those who convert away from Islam.

rbj on April 6, 2011 at 10:30 AM

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/05/bibles-destroye.html

1) Muzzies world wide were so outraged… they continued their cult of death

2) Lindsey Graham was heard saying, “Can’t be! The military would never destroy a holy book! And I love my country more than you!”

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Back off, Lindsey! I have a Koran and a toilet and I know how to flush it!

cartooner on April 6, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Lindsey will back off the day you show him how the Koran can be used as an enema.

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 10:42 AM

The 1st amendment in the Bill of Ideas also contains freedom of the press. It would be easier to police the media for giving Jones publicity than 300 million people’s speech. Ah, but politicians wouldn’t want bad publicity, would they? And the press don’t seem to worked up over individual speech…hmmm…

cartooner on April 6, 2011 at 10:37 AM

Bill of Ideas? I thought it was the Bill of Suggestions.

/obama

fossten on April 6, 2011 at 10:42 AM

Bill of Ideas? I thought it was the Bill of Suggestions.

/obama

fossten on April 6, 2011 at 10:42 AM

Bill of Beginnings…

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 10:45 AM

Graham wants a law against burning the Koran? So do the Islamists. That’s two. Anyone else?

Paul-Cincy on April 6, 2011 at 10:47 AM

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 10:41 AM

Our own chaplins burned the Bibles? Oy.

rbj on April 6, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Sad, isn’t it?

This late in the game and we still have to educate our citizens and our leaders as to what God-given Rights are.

It is our Right to free speech freely exercised that makes Islam hate us. it is our Right to assemble freely that enrages the mullahs. It is our Right to pursue that which makes us fulfilled, successful, happy and pass that one to our kids and their kids that causes Islam to detest us. it is our Right to seek our own covenant with our God as we understand God, or not enjoy a relationship with God at all, that causes them to spittle all over themselves in petulant peevishness.

And Graham would have that Right, among others, curtailed by government or some sort of self-censorshjip to satisfy those who hate us, have hated us, and will hate us forever unless we submit to them?

Islam is submission. That is the definition of the word.

And if you submit on the little things, what is left but to submit on the larget things? There is no such thing as being a little bit pregnant.

Islam requires submission, allegedly to God, but in reality since the year 622, it is and has been submission to a coterie of imams, clerics and approved committees, in order to control the masses, nothing less.

Take away the prayer rugs, the mosques, that whole Koran thingy, and show me one difference in operational characteristics between “islam” (intentional small letters) and national socialism, fascism, progressive socialism and soviet-style socialist communism?

From the richest neighborhoods of Saudi Arabia to the poorest quarters of Peshawar not a soul exists without threat without total submission to the local clerics and imams. It is easy to be called an apostate for merely disagreeing with a cleric…and death is the punishment for apostasy.

Spent a bit of time in that part of the world, long before 9-11, too, and that is how things operated.

And Graham still doesn’t get it. And way too many Americans and most of the Euros, cannot grasp this essential truth, either. Nor Dave Petraeus. For that, I am deeply disappointed.

The Koran is just a book, printed on paper, bound with cloth, and if you like obscure and demented poetry, read one. But Holy? C’mon. Let’s deal with realities here.

coldwarrior on April 6, 2011 at 10:49 AM

If Muslims had no oil do you suppose anyone would care about burning Qur’ans?

BL@KBIRD on April 6, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Where’s all the commenters from last week saying the murders were Jones’ fault?

catmman on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Sorry, Ed, but with freedom comes responsibility. If I wrote out the “N” word on this blog I’m sure my post would be deleted and my account disabled.

True?

NickDeringer on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

I would not have burned a Koran, and neither would most of you. However, to blame any deaths on the burning of a Koran, is to negate any personal responsibility by Muslim Fanatics for the murders that they have committed.

kingsjester on April 6, 2011 at 10:54 AM

True?

NickDeringer on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

But, nobody would be killed over it.

kingsjester on April 6, 2011 at 10:54 AM

I thought that the point was self-evident enough that few would seriously argue for government intervention aimed at obscure preachers to silence political protest.

As you say, your first mistake. Nothing is self-evident anymore. Everything must be defended. Nothing can be taked for granted. The default (if unspoken) position now among the psychotic elites and Constitutional ignorami who rule us is that ALL freedoms are inherently problematic.

rrpjr on April 6, 2011 at 10:55 AM

Sorry, Ed, but with freedom comes responsibility. If I wrote out the “N” word on this blog I’m sure my post would be deleted and my account disabled.

True?

Hot Air is private property and Ed is not the government. You have no rights here beyond those the hosts choose to grant you. If they don’t like you, you’re gone.

Pablo on April 6, 2011 at 10:55 AM

True?

NickDeringer on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Yes, but this isn’t your blog, and it wouldn’t be the government doing it. If you wrote the N word on your own blog, the government wouldn’t shut it down or silence you on the off chance it would cause violence.

You have the right to free speech. You don’t have a right to publication. You can do what you want with your property, but not with that of others. It’s not difficult to see the difference.

Ed Morrissey on April 6, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Nicely done, Ed.

Robert17 on April 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM

While I think most of us would agree that Jones is a horse’s patoot, why wouldn’t our beloved senators, protectors of the constitution, point out that Jones is one man in a population of over 311 million? Instead of giving perspective, it was easier to grovel and spout rhetoric about punishing everyone. These people are not smart enough to get out their own way, let alone determine our lives.

Cindy Munford on April 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM

Good job Ed.

Freedom’s principles don’t come here from elsewhere, we export them, loudly, proudly.

Death for blasphemy is barbaric, that’s what’s intolerable.

Speakup on April 6, 2011 at 10:58 AM

Where’s all the commenters from last week saying the murders were Jones’ fault?

catmman on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

As I followed the arguments, it seemed that Jones’s motives were being questioned, rather than his right to free speech.

a capella on April 6, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Our own chaplins burned the Bibles? Oy.

rbj on April 6, 2011 at 10:48 AM

Our own gov’t that claims to stay out of religious matters…

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Sorry, Ed, but with freedom comes responsibility. If I wrote out the “N” word on this blog I’m sure my post would be deleted and my account disabled.

True?

NickDeringer on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

If Jones had burned the libraries copy of the Koran, you might have a point…

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 11:16 AM

library’s************

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Where’s all the commenters from last week saying the murders were Jones’ fault?

catmman on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

JetBoy is too busy writing legislation to ban hillbillydom

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Hey Lindsey anything to say about dead Christians?
Koran burning not related to violence….you RINO.

lilium on April 6, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Graham is an idiot. Isn’t he up for reelection? We need to make sure he’s voted out.

mizflame98 on April 6, 2011 at 11:37 AM

Graham should do penance by filing an NEA grant petition to finance Jones’ performance art.

Terp Mole on April 6, 2011 at 11:42 AM

I think Graham was wrong given the nature of modern American political culture, but I’m not sure I’d infer a universal principle. If genuine moderates magically took over Saudi Arabia and heavily restricted jihadi speech and assembly would we jump to denounce it? Post-war Germany criminalized Nazi self-expression for more than reasons of guilt and public relations – Hitler really did convince many if not most Germans that he was their messiah, without terrorizing them, and despite some ferocious opposition in the as yet relatively free pre-1933 anti-Nazi press. It is still illegal in some US localities to wear masks at public political events – the legacy of the Klan. We can afford a relaxed approach to “robust debate” here because people aren’t regularly murdered in foreseeable proximity. Holmes’s famous fatalism notwithstanding, I wouldn’t like it if the First Amendment actually made extremists’ job easier.

Seth Halpern on April 6, 2011 at 11:48 AM

If Graham doesn’t want to give fuel for the terrorists, is he going to start banning Madonna? Gay pride rallies?

MeatHeadinCA on April 6, 2011 at 10:22 AM

Why, no, of course not! What would Lindsey do for entertainment?

OhioCoastie on April 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Way to defend our Constitutional rights, Lindsey!

I guess there’s no oath to uphold it for senators?

Didn’t Obama swear some kind of similar oath?

Or did he think it was oaf?

The Koran burns all who believe in its malignancies.

As the 19th centruy writer Ernest Renan put it: “Muslims are the first victims of Islam.”

profitsbeard on April 6, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Wait, you mean this isn’t covered under the commerce clause!?!?!!

PatriotPete on April 6, 2011 at 12:03 PM

I think Graham was wrong given the nature of modern American political culture, but I’m not sure I’d infer a universal principle.
Seth Halpern on April 6, 2011 at 11:48 AM

You don’t have to, and no one’s asking you to. This is about the uniquely American First Amendment.

rrpjr on April 6, 2011 at 12:04 PM

The only people responsible for the murders in Afghanistan are the murderers and those who specifically incited them to commit violence, not critics of Islam, society, or the disappearing ozone layer.

Nice illustration to drive the point home. And props for the mention of The Silmarillion.

miConsevative on April 6, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Much better than what I heard from BOR.

fourdeucer on April 6, 2011 at 10:28 AM

The same comment could be made about the ideas of most 8-year olds.

bw222 on April 6, 2011 at 12:12 PM

True?

NickDeringer on April 6, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Yes, but this isn’t your blog, and it wouldn’t be the government doing it. If you wrote the N word on your own blog, the government wouldn’t shut it down or silence you on the off chance it would cause violence.

You have the right to free speech. You don’t have a right to publication. You can do what you want with your property, but not with that of others. It’s not difficult to see the difference.

Ed Morrissey on April 6, 2011 at 10:56 AM

Ed, you need to get Palin on your show to debate this :)

lexhamfox on April 6, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Ed, you need to get Palin on your show to debate this :)

lexhamfox on April 6, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Has she suggested legislation to ban free speech?

sharrukin on April 6, 2011 at 12:24 PM

I was impressed by AP’s post and now I’m impressed by Ed’s post. Absolustely spot on target.

aengus on April 6, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Whatever anyone else thinks of Terry Jones, he’s not an omnipotent demigod able to control people and rob them of free will.

This is a job description for superma….er…the messiah in the White House?

Don L on April 6, 2011 at 12:38 PM

Ed, you need to get Palin on your show to debate this :)

lexhamfox on April 6, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Has she suggested legislation to ban free speech?

sharrukin on April 6, 2011 at 12:24 PM

I’m referring to her various tweets on the first.

lexhamfox on April 6, 2011 at 12:41 PM

I’m referring to her various tweets on the first.

lexhamfox on April 6, 2011 at 12:41 PM

So you mean she disagrees with the pastor burning Koran’s and that is the same as what Graham has said?

I doubt Ed is a fan of burning Koran’s either, and since neither Ed or Palin support any restriction on the pastor’s right to do so, what do you think they would debate?

sharrukin on April 6, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Whatever anyone else thinks of Terry Jones, he’s not an omnipotent demigod able to control people and rob them of free will. There is no connection between the act of setting one’s own copy of a book on fire in Florida and a series of murders in Afghanistan. To argue that they’re connected at all in any legal or moral sense, both of which Graham argued in theory this weekend, is to instantly stratify humanity into those capable of self-control and those incapable of it.

That some lack self-control is a matter of human nature, as both Mr. Jones, the Muslim extremists, and a whole bunch of drug abusers have shown. Deny it at the cost of one’s life.

unclesmrgol on April 6, 2011 at 10:24 AM

And that is their own fault. No one is responsible for accommodating someone else’s lack of control.

tom on April 6, 2011 at 1:55 PM

@rrpjr: Somebody on this thread pronounced, “the remedy for bad speech is more speech.” I didn’t hear, “in 21st Century America.” The Declaration of Independence invoked universal principles, not particularistic ones. If the right to free speech is not a self-evident universal principle, perhaps Jefferson & friends overreached.

Seth Halpern on April 6, 2011 at 2:34 PM

Free people should understand this and defend against government intrusion even against silly and offensive speech, and those elected to uphold the Constitution that bars the government from infringing on that right should understand it best of all.

Proving that Dave Rywall doesn’t believe in freedom.

Schadenfreude on April 6, 2011 at 2:44 PM

Seth Halpern on April 6, 2011 at 2:34 PM

If it was determined to be a self-evident universalism by the Founders, it was also memorialized in the First Amendment. To my knowledge, no other country in the world has done the same. So obviously not everybody agrees. It doesn’t matter. We’re talking about free speech in America. Adn yes, the answer to bad speech is more speech. In America. Does this statement have to be qualified as to worldwide applicability? But maybe, with our good example, more countries will open their minds to the self-evident universality of the right. But whether they do or don’t, the matter is settled here, and Lyndsey Graham is still a morally hazardous idiot.

rrpjr on April 6, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Once again Grahamnesty steps on his skirt and Ed has to straighten it for him.

chickasaw42 on April 6, 2011 at 4:22 PM

I’m referring to her various tweets on the first.

lexhamfox on April 6, 2011 at 12:41 PM

So you mean she disagrees with the pastor burning Koran’s and that is the same as what Graham has said?

I doubt Ed is a fan of burning Koran’s either, and since neither Ed or Palin support any restriction on the pastor’s right to do so, what do you think they would debate?

sharrukin on April 6, 2011 at 12:47 PM

I think Ed would know what I meant and the context.

lexhamfox on April 6, 2011 at 5:05 PM

Lindsey the dhimmi.

AshleyTKing on April 6, 2011 at 8:55 PM

Ed, I can wish we could ban a lot of “expression” at the same time I realize that doing so would be the death of honest to God free speech.

I presume that with freedom of speech I am still permitted to express such opinions. I hope I am right rather than rash. I’d hate to have to express this opinion to you and then stick out my tongue, “Nyah!”. But that IS a legitimate exercise of freedom of speech.

There is no (enforceable) law against being a jerk. But there is a law against killing a jerk. (Sadly?) you must find a better way to deal with jerks.

{^_-}

herself on April 7, 2011 at 4:26 AM