When First Amendment rights are tested
The passing of U.S. Ambassador of Libya Chris Stevens has rattled the entire nation. While most blame the Muslim extremists, some of the blame is also being placed on Terry Jones, a Florida-based pastor who sparked the attack with his film “International Judge Mohammad Day.”
The film portrays Muhammad, the Muslims’ most honored prophet, in a satirical light. Jones released trailers on YouTube for the anti-Islamic film on Sept. 11.
This is not the first incident in which Jones has caused uproar in the Muslim community. On Sept. 11, 2010, he launched a campaign to burn 200 copies of the Koran, the holy book of Muslims. Although this campaign did not go through, protests occurred in the Middle East and Asia.
These actions call into question the First Amendment Rights of Americans. The Colonnade held its First Amendment Free Food Festival on Thursday, Sept. 20 where it celebrated and taught others a more in-depth explanation about their First Amendment rights.
One of the rights protected is the freedom of expression. The most basic component of this is freedom of speech, which allows expression without interference from the government. According to the Cornell Institute of Law, the government may prohibit any form of speech that causes violence or a breach of peace.
As student journalists, staffers at The Colonnade advocate a person’s right to freedom of speech. However, when expression disrupts the peace or has the potential to threaten others, these rights are called into question. Did Jones overstep the boundaries of his freedom of speech?
It can be argued that because of the attacks in Libya caused by the film, Jones is not protected by his First Amendment rights. The film angered many, including Muslim extremists in Libya. While Jones is not directly responsible for their actions, he could be found responsible for purposefully enticing these riots.
However, it is difficult to prove whether or not he intended to cause the riots. Without the ability to prove his intent, Jones could argue he was simply utilizing his freedom of speech to express his animosity toward the Muslim community.
It is doubtful that Jones will be tried or even arrested, although Egypt is pursuing arrest warrants for the pastor. This situation should remind us of our rights and the limited boundaries surrounding them. While we are free to express ourselves in almost any way we please, we should be aware of what we say and how we act around others because you never know when you cross the line from freedom of expression to enticing violent behavior.