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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Huh, It's Long Past Time To Catch Up With Blogs

Update: According to Volokh, this guy lifted the Korans from the university. So that's theft and vandalism. But is it a hate crime? End update.

Dr. Melissa Couthier writes about Dr Sanity's reaction to the totally strange story of an arrest for hate crimes for multiple Koran-flushing incidents at Pace University.

This has got to end. Yes, it's offensive, but the price of having the freedom to think, speak and worship as you choose (i.e., of living in a free society) is that you will inevitably be offended by some of the choices of others. People who aren't willing to live here under the Constitution need to go. I don't care whether they are atheists, Christians, Muslims or whatever, they don't belong here.

I have become more and more opposed to hate crime (which are always really hate speech) laws. It's clear we can't handle them. Darn it all, if burning the flag is constitutional free speech, so is tearing up the Bible or flushing the Koran. It's not legal to steal someone else's Koran to flush, or to break into a mosque, but in public spaces anyone should have the right to burn, stamp, flush, mock, criticize, rant and generally make a fool out of him- or herself as long as the individual is using their own property to do so.

There is no way to retain freedom of speech and conscience while protecting individuals from being offended. Now the way things are going, when I advocate this I am advocating a continuation of the truly over-the-top demonstrations, etc, against my own religion. So it's hardly a result of prejudice.

The extremely disturbing factor in this case is that neither the administration of Pace University and the NYC police understands or approves of the Constitution. Unless the book was stolen from someone else, this is idiotic. I would have bet that almost nothing would have made me ever consider jumping up and down on someone else's holy book or symbol in public, but now I am facing the ugly issue of taking a stand. The aggravation of the public peace here was committed by Pace and the NYC police. I wonder how many other people are reacting exactly the way I am? Many, I'd guess.

This ex-student wasn't charged with hate crimes because he stole two Qur'ans, dropped them in the toilet and defacated on them - he got the hate crime specifications because he gave a sworn confession to the police that the only reason he did it was to intimidate Muslim students on campus.

He would have been protected from arrest by freedom of speech if he has used his own Qur'ans, and dropped them in his own toilet just because he didn't like the Qur'an, or if he had even done this on a public square as part of a speech or art exhibit or something, anything, that was not done for the sole motive of racial intimidation.

The government doesn't regulate speech (with a few exceptions) but they can and do regulate the effects of speech. Extortion, blackmail, incitement to riot, solicitation of murder, all of those (and a few more) are criminal offenses based on the effects of speech. So is racial intimidation. Even then, hate speech in and of itself is not charged as a crime, it is just a specification (an add-on) to the base crime, that is considered in sentencing, because as with any other motive that is considered heinous, it can elevate the sentence given for the base crime.
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