6th Circuit Allows Heckler’s Veto in Dearborn

I‘ve written many times about the free speech problems in Dearborn, Michigan, where Christian evangelists have been arrested multiple times for proselytizing at the International Arab Festival, attended predominately by Muslims. Unfortunately, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the arrests in one case.

Police didn’t violate the First Amendment when they threatened to ticket Christian evangelists at an Arab-American street festival in Dearborn, an appeals court said Wednesday in a 2-1 decision that drew dissent from a judge who called it a “blueprint” to stifle speech.

Members of a group called Bible Believers were pelted with water bottles and rocks while carrying a pig’s head and telling Muslims they were “sick” and would “burn in hell” for their beliefs.

Wayne County authorities said they were concerned about unrest and threatened to ticket the evangelists unless they left the fair in June 2012. They walked away but were subsequently ticketed for traveling in a van without a license plate.

“The video from the 2012 festival demonstrates that (evangelists’) speech and conduct intended to incite the crowd to turn violent. … Although robustly guarded by the First Amendment, religious conduct remains subject to regulation for the protection of society,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

The sheriff’s office was “regulating the safety of the festival attendees,” not “religious conduct,” Judges Bernice Donald and Samuel Mays Jr. said in affirming the dismissal of a lawsuit against county authorities.

But Judge Eric Clay is right in his dissent when he says:

This is a clear heckler’s veto, breaching the principle that “hostile public reaction does not cause the forfeiture of the constitutional protection afforded a speaker’s message so long as the speaker does not go beyond mere persuasion and advocacy of ideas [but rather] attempts to incite to riot.”

If you think this decision is correct, imagine for a moment that the speakers were atheist rather than Christian and those atheists were telling people that the Quran preaches violence and hatred, garnering a similar hostile response. Would you think the same thing then? Or does your view of the case change when it involves Christians rather than atheists? Because the legal principle is exactly the same. Judge Clay is right, this is a classic heckler’s veto — all you have to do to get someone’s free speech rights taken away is to react violently to that speech.

What should have happened here is that those who were threatening violence and throwing objects at the Christians should have been arrested and the Christians should have been protected by the police. That is the job of the government, to protect those exercising their rights against those who would use violence to shut them down.

Follow Us!
POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • helenaconstantine

    Carrying the pig’s head was done for no reason except to provoke a violent reaction. it would be just as wrong if done by Atheists.

  • John Pieret

    Carrying the pig’s head was over the top and the cops would have been justified, I think, in telling them to get rid of it. But the only people who should have been arrested or ejected from the fair were the people throwing water bottles and rocks.

  • tsig

    Helen and John, then my rights stop when you get offended?

  • John Pieret

    tsig:

    Nope. You can wear a white sheet and burn a cross in front of a black person’s home. … Oh, wait! You can’t!

    I’m sure that there is some health regulation that would cover carrying a dead pig’s head around a fair where food is being served. They can still carry signs and say stupid things and the cops should protect them.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Religious people fighting and arguing! Has that ever happened before?

  • peterh

    @ Grumpy:

    People claiming to be religious fighting & arguing . . . .

    Does that scan any better?

  • http://thebronzeblog.wordpress.com/ Bronze Dog

    @1: Really? No reason except to provoke a violent reaction?

    I’ve been deliberately provoked into the emotional states of anger, shock, and offense quite often, but if I got violent in response, I’d expect to be the one arrested. If I got violent, I’d be the danger to the community that needs to be brought under control, not the person who offended me. I’m an autonomous individual who is responsible for my actions and I am expected to have self-control in order to participate in society. I am not some mindless beast who reacts purely on instinct and raw emotion.

    It doesn’t matter if the people who do the provoking are vicious jerks, either. There’s no shortage of good-intentioned people who get labeled as such and subsequently get blamed when other people turn violent in response to their speech. I’d rather not make it easy for governments to crack down on the oppressed for fear of offending people who choose violence at the drop of a hat.

  • gshelley

    Assuming it is appealed, how will is it likely to go at the Supreme Court? I have seen before statistics that show that the justices are more in favour of free speech when it is the type they like, but don’t know how this would appeal to them.

  • John Pieret

    The worst part of this is that the Arab Fair has been canceled for two years in a row because of “higher liability insurance costs because of growing tensions with some Christian missionaries that had resulted in arrests, accusations of harassment and lawsuits.” In some ways, the Muslims have exercised a hecklers veto on themselves.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20140429/NEWS02/304290181/arab-festival-dearborn-canceled

  • Abby Normal

    Carrying the pig’s head was done for no reason except to provoke a violent reaction. it would be just as wrong if done by Atheists.

    By wrong do you mean illegal? I’m fine with calling it wrong from an ethical perspective. But if you’re saying it’s illegal just because some people might react violently then I couldn’t disagree more. And I will riot if anyone argues with me.

  • eric

    Helena:

    Carrying the pig’s head was done for no reason except to provoke a violent reaction.

    I don’t see it. It was clearly meant to cause offense – the message here seems to be “I know you think this is unclean, so I’m going to bring it into your presence in order to upset you.” But I don’t see how carrying a pig’s head messages “go on, throw that bottle.” IMO “inciting speech” should be limited to pretty clear and direct encouragement to do something violent. I think poop is unclean, but if someone carries around poop on a stick, that isn’t the same as the carrier saying “c’mon, hit me, I dare you to!”

    John Pieret:

    Nope. You can wear a white sheet and burn a cross in front of a black person’s home. … Oh, wait! You can’t!

    They’re not at all analogous. The cross-burning is recognized as an implied threat of violence by the burners to the audience. Carrying a pig’s head has no such historic implication, and in fact nobody at the scene including the police thought it meant that the christian protestors were about to attack the muslims. Quite the opposite, in fact – they thought it would cause the muslims to attack the protestors.

    I agree with your second statement, that there may be relevant health or food regulations that make carrying pig’s heads around on sticks illegal. But I disagree with Helena and possibly you (if you’re saying something similar) that the symbolic speech represented by the pig’s head is enough to make carrying it illegal.

  • Taz

    The pig’s head is problematic to me. Forget religious sensitivities, this is a carnival with a lot young children in attendance, and you’re walking around with a severed pig’s head?

  • https://www.facebook.com/kalli.procopio Kalli Procopio

    Imagine if the fair was christian and the protestors were muslim. It would be all over the press that muslim terrorists were persecuting christians. But the people who did this, were enjoying their christian privilege. And while limiting free speech is not good, the police do have a need to keep public order. Further the exercise of free speech is mainly targeted at speaking to the government, not intentionally offending other people. If you go into a biker bar and start bad mouthing harley riders, don’t be surprised when you end up in the alley with a busted head. I would state that you don’t have a right to intentionally provoke people any more than you have the right commit libel or slander.

  • John Pieret

    eric @ 11:

    They’re not at all analogous. The cross-burning is recognized as an implied threat of violence by the burners to the audience.

    I was merely pointing out that questions of free speech restrictions are not simply about “offense.”

    But I disagree … that the symbolic speech represented by the pig’s head is enough to make carrying it illegal.

    Don’t mistake being told that “you can’t do that here and now” with “illegal.” I can stand on the public sidewalk outside you house and give a speech … but not at 2 am using a bullhorn.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ Kalli Procopio : “Intentioanlly provocative” raises a hellof a lot of questions and opens one hellof a bigcan of worms.

    Some people are really easily and absurdly provoked to extreme amounts of violence by the slightest thing such as a cartoon, a book, a beauty pagent, someone wearing fur, someone eating meat, etc ..

    PS. I got a pigs head for Xmas once. It was a classic pressie!

    @12. Taz : Severed pigs head? Some places that’s a delicacy! Depending on how exactly it was done, shouldn’t be that offensive really. Certainly no more than any other animals – and considering we are talking about a religion that has recently made a habit of chopping human heads off and displaying them as trophies .. incl. having kids hold severed human heads of Syrian soldiers ..

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @John Pieret : “I can stand on the public sidewalk outside you house and give a speech … but not at 2 am using a bullhorn.”

    Technically speaking you actually could do that – its just that you’d probably be arrested and charged with a crime for it.

  • eric

    And while limiting free speech is not good, the police do have a need to keep public order.

    The way they do that is, as Ed says, to arrest the people throwing bottles. You don’t arrest the people who are getting bottles thrown at them.

    Further the exercise of free speech is mainly targeted at speaking to the government, not intentionally offending other people.

    No, incorrect. Even in the early 1800s, the first amendment was being used to decide cases of slander etc…

    If you go into a biker bar and start bad mouthing harley riders, don’t be surprised when you end up in the alley with a busted head.

    It might be likely that they will assault you, but it’s still their assault, their legal fault. Let’s change the scenario just a bit – imagine there’s an on-duty policeman in that bar, walking around in uniform. Do you still think the bikers will bust the bad mouther’s head? No, right? And why not? Because if they try, the police are going to stop them…because they do not have a legal right to bust the guy’s head in response to his words.

    I would state that you don’t have a right to intentionally provoke people any more than you have the right commit libel or slander.

    You don’t have a right to incite people to violence, but offensive speech /= inciteful speech. Incite means telling or encouraging them to do some violent act. Speech equivalent to “Your mother was a hamster” does not tell or encourage the person to do anything.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Wow. Babe: Pig in the City sure took a dark turn.

  • Drew

    I just keep thinking about “fighting words” and “inciting violence”.

    According to the SCOTUS in Brandenburg*. Speech is impermissible if it: “[I]s directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

    So does the act of carrying a severed pig’s head through a festival of people who believe that beast an abomination meet these criteria?

    Was the action designed to produce imminent lawless action on the part of the festival goers (i.e. was it designed to provoke the festival goers into a fight right there on the spot)? Probably yes, in fact it seems to serve no other purpose.

    Was it likely to produce that action? That’s a good question. It’s easy to allow stereotypes to impair one’s thinking and many tend to view Muslims as barely restrained barbarians, but it seems like that is a question for a judge or a jury to decide.

    *It must be said that Brandenburg seems to most often be applied to people trying to incite their followers but it seems like it could be equally applied to someone riling up their opponents.

  • Drew

    *caveat: That is not to say that the people who were assaulting/battering them with rocks and bottles do not carry responsibility for their actions. But the issue at hand is whether the police acted lawfully in asking the ‘protesters’ to leave the area.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    A religion that makes a practice of chopping people’s heads off and proudly displaying publicly has lost the (never actually existent) “right to be offended” by pigs heads and pretty much anything else – *it* is what should be considered offensive by everyone else on the planet.

    See here :

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/taslima/2014/08/23/they-can-kill-millions-of-people-for-allah/

    Or listen / watch / read the news. Muslims – “Islamic State” – murdered another innocent, unarmed journalist Steve Sotloff today. They are threatening to kill another one tomorrow – or whenever. But of course they hate the West, esp. the US of A & Israel so that makes them all hunky-dory to some here yeah?

  • Chiroptera

    The comments are starting to sound similar to the ones on the recent Bible burning thread. To repeat the ideas of some comments but restated to make them relevant here:

    Surely there are laws against walking around in public carrying dead things that you aren’t currently eating?

  • eric

    John Pieret:

    [eric] But I disagree … that the symbolic speech represented by the pig’s head is enough to make carrying it illegal.

    [John] Don’t mistake being told that “you can’t do that here and now” with “illegal.” I can stand on the public sidewalk outside you house and give a speech … but not at 2 am using a bullhorn.

    Another bad analogy, because the typical reason you can’t do your example is because it breaks noise ordinances…IOW, it’s illegal. If it was legal, the police wouldn’t stop it. I’ve had direct experience with this exact scenario – we used to get regular noise complaints by a cranky neighbor. The police would come, measure the decibel level at the street/property line, and if we weren’t over the legal limit, they didn’t do anything. They didn’t even come to the door and ask us to keep it down. In the US, AFAIK, there is no police “you can’t do that here and now” option for legal behavior. A speech may be illegal due to time/place/manner restrictions, but if it isn’t illegal, you can speak it. Yes, I can make bullhorn speeches at night, so long as the decibel level at the property line doesn’t exceed local ordinance restrictions.

    ***

    John, I’m still a bit confused about whether you’re defending the idea that the police can stop the speech because the pig’s head was offensive, or just defending the idea that the police can stop the speech because the pig’s head violated some non-speech ordinance (like a health code violation). If the former, I disagree with you. If the latter, I’d tentatively agree with you – I know nothing about MI health codes, but would think it reasonable that they had rules about carrying around dismembered animal parts.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Oh & don’t tell me that “Islamic State” aren’t Muslim – they sure think they are and base all they do on their overgrown death cult.

    So do Hamas, Al Quaida, the Taliban, etc ..

    Islam has a terrorism problem, most Muslims aren’t terrorists but most terrorists are Muslims and are committing their atrocities in the name of Allah and his pedophile, murdering, thieving, raping deluded Dark Age warlord “prophet”. That’s just reality whether some folks accept it or not.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @22. Chiroptera :“Surely there are laws against walking around in public carrying dead things that you aren’t currently eating?”

    Er, nope, don’t think so. Why would there be?

  • Childermass

    Yes the people who throw things at the jerks should have been cited by the cops. But I have no problem with the cops telling the jerks to go away and leave the people trying to enjoy a festival in peace.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Carrying bones for dogs, hell, shifting and burying dead dogs that were hit by cars, carrying bodies in hearses, fossils for museums, cadavers for medical teachers & forensic understanding (ever heard o’The Body Farmeh?), et ctera ..carrying X Y and flippin Z … sure we can all think of plenty more examples…

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @26. Childermass : What if the festival was for and by jerks? Jerks who other reasonable people find offensive because of what they do and say and support?

  • eric

    Was the action designed to produce imminent lawless action on the part of the festival goers (i.e. was it designed to provoke the festival goers into a fight right there on the spot)? Probably yes, in fact it seems to serve no other purpose.

    I disagree. The purpose is very clear, obvious, and stated right in the article – communicate to the muslims that the protestors think they are sick and going to hell. But saying “you are sick and going to hell” with the add-on of a highly offensive symbol is not a call to violence. It’s not the same as saying “throw that tomato! Do it! DOOO IT! C’mon, I dare you!”

    Seems very obvious to me that the pig’s head belongs in the same category as burning someone in effigy, or burning a flag, or burning a book. None of which count as inciteful in the legal sense, though they certainly are in the vernacular sense.

  • whheydt

    I will admit to mixed feelings about this decision.

    Ed’s excerpts read like the court is trying for a “no shouting ‘Fire!’ in a theater” sort of decision.

    It appears that the Christians were actively trying to provoke a violent response, and they got one. That doesn’t make either side right, though the Christian side appears to have been calculated to be *legal*…just barely. The Moslem response was clearly illegal and wrong, but understandable.

    There is one amusing point to it all, though. That is the Christians being ticketed for using a vehicle with no license plate. That was just dumb (though, one suspects, possibly deliberate to avoid having the vehicle owner being identified through a license plate search). The Christians should have realized that, having stirred things up, regardless of the outcome, the cops would seize any opportunity presented to grief those that started the confrontation.

  • eric

    I have no problem with the cops telling the jerks to go away and leave the people trying to enjoy a festival in peace.

    Do you have no problem with the cops telling us regular folk to go away and leave the KKK to enjoy their march in peace? Do you have no problem with the cops telling liberals to go away and leave the people trying to enjoy the RNC in peace? Do you have no problem with the cops telling protestors to go away and leave the people trying to enjoy the G8 summit in peace? It’s all the same. As long as the protestors obey traffic and public land use laws (i.e., they stay on public sidewalks, don’t block access, etc…), they have every right to voice their disagreement/rejection of this event – just as you have every right to voice your disagreement/rejection of events that you find offensive.

  • Taz

    StevoR –

    Severed pigs head? Some places that’s a delicacy! Depending on how exactly it was done, shouldn’t be that offensive really. Certainly no more than any other animals

    Like a dog’s or a cat’s? The point is, walking around a carnival with a severed animal head could certainly be offensive to a lot of people without any need to resort to “religious sensitivities”. And it could very well be justifiable for the cops to step in. “My free speech trumps your right not to be offended” has limits.

  • John Pieret

    eric @ 23:

    IOW, it’s illegal.

    No, the point is that the speech is not illegal, it is when and where and how you do it that is illegal.

    John, I’m still a bit confused about whether you’re defending the idea that the police can stop the speech because the pig’s head was offensive, or just defending the idea that the police can stop the speech because the pig’s head violated some non-speech ordinance

    It is mostly the latter but I couldn’t say I’d be all that upset under this particular set of circumstances if the cops just told them to get the pig’s head out of the fair grounds, even without a specific health regulation, and let them continue their protest otherwise.

  • Taz

    eric –

    Seems very obvious to me that the pig’s head belongs in the same category as burning someone in effigy, or burning a flag, or burning a book.

    The difference is that a severed animal head can be offensive in and of itself, and not just as a symbol. In an earlier comment you compared it to poop on a stick. Guess what? If you’re walking around a public place with poop on a stick I fully support the cops removing you from the premises.

  • Alverant

    Ed, didn’t recently you blogged about a supposed Atheist who set a bible on fire and support his being arrested?

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2014/09/02/exactly-what-atheists-dont-need-to-be-doing/

    Why is it OK for christians to act like assholes but not Atheists?

  • Alverant

    OK nevermind that last post. I reread that blog entry.

    My bad.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! “What if the festival was for and by jerks?”

    Why would they be at the you convention?*

     

    * Zing!

  • Drew

    I disagree. The purpose is very clear, obvious, and stated right in the article – communicate to the muslims that the protestors think they are sick and going to hell. But saying “you are sick and going to hell” with the add-on of a highly offensive symbol is not a call to violence. It’s not the same as saying “throw that tomato! Do it! DOOO IT! C’mon, I dare you!”

    Seems very obvious to me that the pig’s head belongs in the same category as burning someone in effigy, or burning a flag, or burning a book. None of which count as inciteful in the legal sense, though they certainly are in the vernacular sense.

    Whether those things were considered incitement in the legal sense would hinge very greatly upon the context in which they were carried out. For example burning Obama in effigy at a Tea Party rally would be unlikely to meet the criteria, however burning Obama in effigy at a Juneteenth celebration probably would.

  • Abby Normal

    Regarding the cross burning argument, the Supreme Court has in the past ruled that, unless the state can show intent intimidate, it is simple vandalism. It’s no more actionable than burning a smiley face. The vandalism is punishable. The message is not. It has come up a number of times, most recently in Virginia v. Black 2003.

    Given the history of the cross burning as a precursor to imminent violence, intent to intimidate is going to be fairly easy to demonstrate. But it’s hard to imagine that carrying a pig head is a sign that the Christians are about to start physically attacking the Muslims all around them.

  • eric

    Taz –

    The difference is that a severed animal head can be offensive in and of itself, and not just as a symbol. In an earlier comment you compared it to poop on a stick. Guess what? If you’re walking around a public place with poop on a stick I fully support the cops removing you from the premises.

    You’re still eliminating speech based on offensiveness, which is unconstitutional. Time, place, manner restrictions are okay. Preventing incitement is okay. Content-neutral non-speech laws that incidentally affect speech (like “do not block the sidewalk” or “all animal parts must be bagged for transport”) are okay. Restricting speech because you find its content offensive generally is not. And it shouldn’t be (IMO).

  • eric

    John Pieret:

    I couldn’t say I’d be all that upset under this particular set of circumstances if the cops just told them to get the pig’s head out of the fair grounds, even without a specific health regulation, and let them continue their protest otherwise.

    That seems like rank exceptionalism and unfair treatment to me. Judging whether speech should be allowed based on whether it offends John Pieret. Not exactly things I want in our understanding of the first amendment.

    Also, don’t know if this makes a difference, but AIUI they weren’t on the fair grounds, they were outside of it in an area predetermined to be a place they could legally protest.

  • John Pieret

    eric:

    That seems like rank exceptionalism and unfair treatment to me.

    No, stating my level of upset at a particular violation doesn’t legally change anything.

    Also, don’t know if this makes a difference, but AIUI they weren’t on the fair grounds, they were outside of it in an area predetermined to be a place they could legally protest.

    It certainly would make a difference to me. If they aren’t on the fair grounds but in an area designated for them to protest, then they should be allowed any symbolic speech they want. If they were on the fair grounds there are not only health issues but it increases the risk of the pig’s head, accidentally or intentionally, coming into contact with a Muslim (some of whom consider it “defilement” and I consider more of an assault and battery). But in a separate protest area only Muslims who intentionally decide to interact with them run that risk.

  • Taz

    Eric,

    You’re still eliminating speech based on offensiveness, which is unconstitutional. Time, place, manner restrictions are okay.

    And I’m saying no severed animal heads at the carnival is a reasonable time, place, manner restriction. (Not to mention “no poop on a stick”.)

  • bmiller

    SteveO: In your righteous rage and broad brush damning, have you ever stepped back and asked yourself which country and religion is REALLY responsible for the most death and destruction in the world. heck, ISIS are pikers compared to what the U.S. army did in Iraq. Or…right now, look at the results of Hope N’ Changes little North African Adventure in Libya.

    So…pot…meet kettle. Because the most destructive “religion” in the world right now is not Islam (as much as I despise its basic premises) but good ol’ American MAMMONISM. Which, Constitutional protestations aside, is the State religion in these United States…and always has been. :)

  • moarscienceplz

    I think the pig head was solely and obviously an attempt to offend, so it is anti-neighborly and therefore wrong. However, the way to deal with it would be to hold a counter-demonstration. People are often too quick to invoke the machinery of the law to settle disputes, which can lead to unintended consequences.

  • http://cheapsignals.blogspot.com Gretchen

    “My free speech trumps your right not to be offended” has limits.

    Legally? No, it does not. If you have the right to say something, you have the right to say it no matter how apoplectic it might make someone.

    Morally, it’s irrelevant. Having the right to say something is no moral justification for saying it.

  • Taz

    Legally? No, it does not. If you have the right to say something, you have the right to say it no matter how apoplectic it might make someone.

    I disagree. There are plenty of disturbing the peace and obscenity laws on the books. Claiming that you’re making a statement by strolling naked through the mall is not going to get you off the hook.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1246980039 caseyboucher

    Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. It doesn’t matter how anybody chooses to respond to it. Yes, the group in question was going out of their way to try to provoke a reaction out of the predominantly Muslim crowd, but it is their right to do it.

    I agree entirely with Ed on this one. Protected speech is protected speech, no matter how inflammatory.

  • eric

    John Pieret:

    [eric] Also, don’t know if this makes a difference, but AIUI they weren’t on the fair grounds, they were outside of it in an area predetermined to be a place they could legally protest.

    [John] It certainly would make a difference to me. If they aren’t on the fair grounds but in an area designated for them to protest, then they should be allowed any symbolic speech they want.

    I tried to look up this particular incident but didn’t find anything specific. However, my understand from past articles on various protests against the Dearborn festival is that the protestors generally set themselves up near the entrance, on publicly accesssible land and sidewalks, so that anyone going into the fesitval has to walk by them (but isn’t impeded). Just like liberals might do at a KKK march, or the Westboro Baptist folks do with funerals – sit on the clostest legally available spot, so that particpants hear the message but nobody can accuse them of illegally disrupting the event itself. The protestors do not go into the event. Though I expect some of the less disruptive “singletons” may in fact do that too.

    My undestanding from past

  • D. C. Sessions

    I just keep remembering the Westboro Baptist Church when I read about this.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @helenaconstantine

    Carrying the pig’s head was done for no reason except to provoke a violent reaction. it would be just as wrong if done by Atheists.

    Correct. It would not be wrong at all. I actually applaud their effort, and I wish more people did so to Muslims. And to Christians, Jews, and atheists. To everyone, actually. It’s good to remind people that others have a right to offend them.

    Generally I’m against people being asshats for no particular reason. However, I fully endorse those people who behave like asshats for the expressed purpose to raise consciousness about the legality of their actions as a way to fight against fascism. It is good to remind people from time to time that one does not have the right to not be offended.

    @John Pieret

    Carrying the pig’s head was over the top and the cops would have been justified, I think, in telling them to get rid of it.

    Fascist.

    @John Pieret

    Nope. You can wear a white sheet and burn a cross in front of a black person’s home. … Oh, wait! You can’t!

    Actually… About that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_v._Black

    It’s illegal for a variety of reasons: public safety (creating a fire), damage to property (the lawn), trespassing. It’s also possibly illegal as a “true threat” or an attempt to intimidate someone against using their civil liberties. What’s not illegal about it? This: Burning a cross merely as a demonstration that you don’t like “uppity black people”. (Of course, the difference between a mere demonstration and intimidate in this particular case is not clear cut, and I don’t have a strong stance on this particular issue.)

    @John Pieret

    I’m sure that there is some health regulation that would cover carrying a dead pig’s head around a fair where food is being served.

    You’re an asshole, and now you’re a liar to boot. You clearly want to ban the dead pig’s head because it’s too offensive. Then, you go muck around for a law in order to justify your immoral and illegal preferences. Authoritarian states are made on that. I’ll go with what I said above – fascist.

    @John Pieret

    but in an area designated for them to protest, then

    One of the most heinous violations of the first amendment upheld by SCOTUS in recent years. So called “free speech zones”.

    @John Pieret

    coming into contact with a Muslim (some of whom consider it “defilement” and I consider more of an assault and battery).

    I don’t care if they consider it defilement any more than I would care if they consider it defilement that I’m outside holding hands with my girlfriend when she has no male relative in attendance. (Not that all Muslims think that – but just for example.)

    Also: “Battery”. You’re insane. Battery? Really!? You use that word, but I do not think you know what it means. It’s not even assault, which requires the apprehension of an imminent battery.

    @Taz

    I disagree. There are plenty of disturbing the peace and obscenity laws on the books. Claiming that you’re making a statement by strolling naked through the mall is not going to get you off the hook.

    That’s nice. Why don’t you move to a fascist country where the government can protect you from things you don’t like to see.

    Public nudity laws are an outlier. Just “TRADITION!”. I have a knee jerk reaction whenever I hear “tradition” as a justification. My knee jerk reaction is to reverse whatever the speaker just said.

    Obscenity laws are themselves obscene and should be done away with. They largely are. Every once and a while, they’re invoked to ban a porn film or so, but the courts have slowly been whittling them down. Thank goodness for that.

    Did you know it used to be illegal because obscene to send sex ed information in the United States mail?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comstock_laws

    So much fascism in this thread. So much. And I’m not misusing the word either.

  • Taz

    So much fascism in this thread. So much. And I’m not misusing the word either.

    Yes, you are. You’re also an idiot. And I’m definitely not misusing the word.

  • Chiroptera

    Taz, #52:

    Uh oh. Now you’re persecuting him.

  • John Pieret

    EnlightenmentLiberal

    Ohh! This should be fun to see …

    Carrying the pig’s head was over the top and the cops would have been justified, I think, in telling them to get rid of it.

    Fascist.

    Damn!! I didn’t know that that questioning of carrying around the dead heads of farm animals in public open air places where food was being served was radical authoritarian nationalism!

    (Note: later posts indicate that might not been the case but that was what I understood at the time.)

    Nope. You can wear a white sheet and burn a cross in front of a black person’s home. … Oh, wait! You can’t!

    It’s illegal for a variety of reasons

    Well, Doh! I already explained the I was pointing out that legitimate restrictions on free speech have to consider other things.

    I suppose you have a glimmer of what reductio ad absurdum means … oh, maybe not!

    I guess we have to assume that you haven’t (or are incapable) of reading the rest of the thread.

    I’m sure that there is some health regulation that would cover carrying a dead pig’s head around a fair where food is being served.

    You’re an asshole, and now you’re a liar to boot. You clearly want to ban the dead pig’s head because it’s too offensive. Then, you go muck around for a law in order to justify your immoral and illegal preferences. Authoritarian states are made on that. I’ll go with what I said above – fascist.

    Ah! Again, I was unaware that authoritarian states were built on prohibiting people from carrying dead animal parts in public places! Human beings are animals too. I suppose it would be fascist of us to say that ISIS couldn’t carry the heads of people they’ve killed down 5th Avenue in New York, right? I try to be charitable … but sometimes it’s hard with morons.

    I don’t care if they consider it defilement …

    Ah! So if a woman feels “defiled” by being groped by some man, that’s ok because some people don’t consider it :defilement”? Before you start to sputter that that’s somehow different, try thinking!

    Also: “Battery”. You’re insane. Battery? Really!? You use that word, but I do not think you know what it means. It’s not even assault, which requires the apprehension of an imminent battery.

    Actually, I am a lawyer and precisely know the meaning of the words. Assault is offering to unlawfully touch/ harm someone and battery is actually touching/harming someone. The law does not define the level of “harm” is required . If you hit a Muslim with a pig’s head, it doesn’t matter if you consider it harmless!

    But feel free to continue to make secularist look like idiots! It is so helpful to our cause!

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @John Pieret

    If you hit a Muslim with a pig’s head, it doesn’t matter if you consider it harmless!

    That’s some pretty brazen dishonesty. This is a strawman. No one was ever talking about going around and touching people with the pig’s head. This is a fiction of your own imagination in a desperate attempt to justify your complete misuse of legal jargon and/or fascism.

    Actually, I am a lawyer and precisely know the meaning of the words.

    I do not believe you.

    @Chiroptera

    Uh oh. Now you’re persecuting him [EL].

    My ass. Did you not read a damn thing I wrote? Where I just wrote a vehement defense of the right to criticize? And you expect me to say that it’s persecution when I’m being criticized? Please. I’m not that much of a hypocrite. Again, “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it”. What’s so hard to understand about that? Jese.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    Err, to continue: What would be actual persecution is if John Pieret stated that my speech amounted to assault and battery, or if John Pieret looked up some other obscure law in order to charge me with something. He didn’t do that to me, yet, so no persecution. An example of actual persecution is when John Pieret stated that having a pig’s head in public is assault and battery, aka advocating that some particular speech should be criminalized because it’s so offensive and willing to abuse the law to do so.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    And now I must apologize after having re-read the thread.

    If they were on the fair grounds there are not only health issues but it increases the risk of the pig’s head, accidentally or intentionally, coming into contact with a Muslim (some of whom consider it “defilement” and I consider more of an assault and battery).

    I wasn’t properly responding.

    Starting afresh.

    Damn!! I didn’t know that that questioning of carrying around the dead heads of farm animals in public open air places where food was being served was radical authoritarian nationalism!

    It is radical authoritarianism. You are kow-towing to the completely unreasonable demand that because it violates their religious sensibilities, someone shouldn’t be allowed to do X in public, when it’s otherwise not a crime.

    So, let me get this straight. Your original argument is that having a pig’s head in public may happen to touch someone else, causing no “secular” damages, but it may cause extreme emotional distress, and thus we should ban that object in public? Is that your argument? I hope that’s your argument rather than specifically kow-towing to religious sensibilities. Again, you’re handing out a heckler’s veto. With just a modicum of inspection, you realize it’s ridiculous on its face to allow this kind of emotional distress to set legal damages. Yes, I know that sometimes it happens in real cases in the US, but I generally despise such things. It leads to ludicrous situations where people are defending the right of other people to not feel “defiled”. That’s what I originally meant – sorry. I didn’t meant to defend actual battery. I did very clearly mean to defend defiling someone without battery, both legally and morally. As long as there are people who want to criminalize defiling someone (sans battery or other actual crimes), then I fully support defiling everyone.

    Well, Doh! I already explained the I was pointing out that legitimate restrictions on free speech have to consider other things.

    And I’m pointing out that offense, outrage, and “defilement” are never justifications for restrictions on free speech. Ever. Sorry – I did not intend to justify assault. My bad there.

  • dingojack

    Stevo (#115) = “PS. I got a pigs head for Xmas once. It was a classic pressie! ”

    First — take me off your Xmas present list (you irredeemable bogan). :)

    Second — what are you hoping for this year, a horse’s head in your bed on Xmas morning?

    (Third — have you ever considered perhaps your family is trying to send a you a message?)

    Dingo

  • dingojack

    I thought that, legally, the intentions of the perpetrator(s) aren’t the issue, it’s the effect on the victim(s) that matters.

    Dingo

  • abb3w

    The pig’s head might easily be possible to restrict, as others suggest; Michigan law does regulate animal carcasses (presuming the pig’s head was not inspected and labeled for human consumption), and the Muslim audience might well be able to argue that there is an unlawful threat implied, akin to a severed horse’s head.

    That said, I’m inclined to agree with Ed; those who reacted violently absolutely should have been arrested and prosecuted for assault and battery. If the violent among the festival crowd were too numerous for the police to control, the Festival organizers should first receive a warning that they needed to help control the attendees; and if the organizers failed to provide sufficient aid to reduce the disturbance to a level where the police were able to arrest the residual assaulters, informed that the gathering was no longer lawful and permitted. (Ideally, with the police getting a judge on the phone to formally pull the permit; but that might be a luxury that time would not allow.)

    @13, Kalli Procopio:

    I would state that you don’t have a right to intentionally provoke people any more than you have the right commit libel or slander.

    The legal line from the Chaplinsky case appears to be at incitement — not merely provocation, but advocacy of unlawful activity in a way likely to immediately trigger same. The law might also not require speaker’s intent, but merely negligence or recklessness in disregard; however, that’s would be unusual for speech.

    @54, John Pieret

    Actually, I am a lawyer and precisely know the meaning of the words.

    @55, EnlightenmentLiberal:

    I do not believe you.

    Did you even bother to check whether there might be confirmatory evidence to contradict your belief? Google turns up a John Pieret with the firm of Burns, Russo, Tamigi & Reardon on Long Island in New York. Whether or not it is this John Pieret, I can’t say; but that does seem to increase the Bayesian likelihood considerably.

    @57, EnlightenmentLiberal:

    It is radical authoritarianism. You are kow-towing to the completely unreasonable demand that because it violates their religious sensibilities, someone shouldn’t be allowed to do X in public, when it’s otherwise not a crime.

    Except, it looks like it may be a crime regardless of religious sensibilities, as a matter of public hygiene. Even without considering whether there is a threat implied in the severed head (which would also violate the “Ethnic intimidation” statute), or whether shaking it could be considered assault (in the same way that shaking a fist at someone can be), it looks likely to be violating Michigan’s “Bodies of Dead Animals Act”, a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $300+ and/or imprisonment for 30+ days.

    @59,

    I thought that, legally, the intentions of the perpetrator(s) aren’t the issue, it’s the effect on the victim(s) that matters.

    Depends on the crime. The legal term of art is mens rea, roughly meaning “state of mind”. Some (“strict liability”) crimes are entirely independent of it, such as statutory rape; for others, the intent of the perpetrator is essential to defining the crime — EG, in distinguishing Murder from Manslaughter.

  • dingojack

    “Purposefully” comes to mind here.

    Prosecutor: Do you normally take a severed head of a pig when peacefully protesting a Muslim Cultural Festival?

    Prosecutor: So why exactly did you take the severed head of pig to this protest? Remember you are under oath.

    Dingo

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    The pig’s head is problematic to me. Forget religious sensitivities, this is a carnival with a lot young children in attendance, and you’re walking around with a severed pig’s head?

    Which, depending on where one lives, can be found in the meat section of one’s neighborhood grocery store. I’d be willing to bet that’s where they got it. At worst, they had to go to an actual butcher. It’s like it’s that uncommon.

    I have to agree that were the situation reversed, this would have been all over the press, and the Bryan Fischer’s of the world would be screaming about persectution. Of course, the right wing rage machine will probably put out a few press releases when it gets around to it…..

  • dingojack

    I doubt you could buy a pig’s head (it seems, in SF it’s nearly impossible to buy a pig’s stomachs).

    Dingo

  • John Pieret

    abb3w:

    Google turns up a John Pieret with the firm of …

    [Cough] Guilty as charged.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @abb3w

    and the Muslim audience might well be able to argue that there is an unlawful threat implied, akin to a severed horse’s head.

    Only if one is dishonest can one say this.

    Also, severed horse head. You lose me. Is this some arcane way of threatening someone? Google informs me it comes from a scene from the movie The Godfather. Because it was in a movie once, where it was left on someone’s bed to scare the bejesus out of them, and also to carry a threat, that means any and all horse-heads in any and all contexts are now threats? No court would convict on this rational. They might say so in this case, but only because they are lying and actually convicting to uphold religious sensibilities. There is no threat here, and I cannot take anyone seriously who says there is a threat. Similarly, I cannot take that lawyer seriously when he more or less implies that carrying the pig’s head represents negligence because it might accidentally touch someone. You are not arguing in good faith.

  • John Pieret

    I cannot take that lawyer seriously when he more or less implies that carrying the pig’s head represents negligence because it might accidentally touch someone.

    Then you know fuck-all about the law.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @John Pieret

    I sincerely hope that you are wrong. Your reasoning would lead to absurd conclusions, and reductio ad absurdum, I have to reject it. What’s next? I can’t eat meat in public because I might accidentally have it spill on a vegan? I can’t wear clothes with blasphemy on it because I might accidentally touch a believer? Your position is ridiculous. Again, it gives a heckler’s veto to anyone who claims sufficient outrage. The first amendment teaches us to never allow such things. That is the entire point of the first amendment, and dare I say free speech Enlightenment philosophy at large. I’ll continue to go with what I said before – authoritarian fascist.

  • abb3w

    @64, John Pieret

    [Cough] Guilty as charged.

    Hah. Of course, you are not our lawyer, and none of this is legal advice….

    @65, EnlightenmentLiberal

    Only if one is dishonest can one say this.

    I disagree. Slabs of bacon and pork loins are far more easily available for putting on a stick, if the point is merely to be offensive; which would imply that there’s an additional message to using a more exotic pork product.

    @65, EnlightenmentLiberal

    Also, severed horse head. You lose me. Is this some arcane way of threatening someone? Google informs me it comes from a scene from the movie The Godfather. Because it was in a movie once, where it was left on someone’s bed to scare the bejesus out of them, and also to carry a threat, that means any and all horse-heads in any and all contexts are now threats?

    That was when that association entered the wider culture; general Google search turns up more than a few references since, including of idiot Mafia copycats using a donkey’s head; and a Google scholar search turns up an incident from Federal case law.

    @65, EnlightenmentLiberal

    No court would convict on this rational.

    As happens, that federal case I mentioned resulted in an acquittal — but only because the charge was a form of assault, and the object of the threat was not actually present at the time. The court noted that “a charge of threatening (rather than assaulting) a federal official might have been closer to the mark”, implying that might have yielded a conviction.

    It is thus clear that there is at least the potential for a severed animal head to serve as a threat. The question of whether this pig’s head was so intended would thus seem a question of fact that a prosecutor could put before a jury.

    I suppose the protestors could try basing a defense from being a more direct reference to Lord of the Flies, but that seems a highly unproductive line….

    @66, John Pieret

    Then you know fuck-all about the law.

    @67, EnlightenmentLiberal

    I sincerely hope that you are wrong.

    You can hope. However, one of the things that sovereign citizens routinely seem to fail to grasp is that just because you like an legal argument doesn’t make it sound, and that you dislike it doesn’t make it wrong. While you can learn a lot about the law by arguing with lawyers on the internet, you should bear in mind that even 20 years of doing so falls far short of being equivalent to three years of law school and a bar exam.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    @abb3w

    “X on a stick” is not automatically a true threat. “An animal’s head on a stick” is similarly not automatically a true threat. Context can make it a true threat, but context can make many, many more things a true threat as well.

    In all 3 cases from fiction and the real world involving true threats, it involves sending a dead animal’s head to the recipient serendipitously. Breaking and entering to leave it on their bed, or seemingly(?) mailing to the target, or breaking and entering to leave it in the trunk of a car.

    Note even your own sources work against you. It’s generally a good idea to read your sources before posting, lest they actually argue against you, like this one does:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/3252071/Mafia-gang-send-donkey-head-as-threat.html

    In Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film, mafia boss Don Corleone uses the “gift” of a severed horse’s head to intimate film producer Jack Woltz into giving his godson a part.

    Woltz woke up one morning to find the bloody head lying next to him in his bed, and immediately consented to the request made by the Don, played by Marlon Brando.

    But while that threat made sense – the head was of Woltz’s prized thoroughbred stallion – there was no such context for the donkey.

    “The man didn’t know the donkey, he didn’t own the donkey, he doesn’t care about donkeys. It didn’t make sense. It was the work of idiots,” a police spokesman in Villafranca Padovana, northern Italy, said.

    Further, none of these three cases (1 fictional, 2 real) have any similarity to the case under discussion where people in public, faces fully exposed, taking no time to hide their identities, are merely carrying animal heads on sticks. There is no threat implied at all, except what may be inferred from “We are protesting you. We don’t like you.”, which last I checked will and should fail the “reasonable person” test. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous.

    Further, note that my insults directed towards our incompetent and authoritarian lawyer were about another argument, not this one. The lawyer made the argument AFAICT that merely possessing pig meat in public should be outlawed under a the premise that doing so is negligence because you might accidentally touch the meat to a Muslim, and that constitutes such grave harm as to justify outlaw public carrying of pig meat.

    First, I would note that this rationale makes no distinction between an identifiable pig’s head and pig meat labelled as such. It would also apply equally to someone eating a ham sandwich easily identified as such. Thus the reasoning is ridiculous on its face. Simply carrying some substance in public, which other people do not want to touch, is not a rationale to ban carrying it in public. The lawyer’s arguments here are worse than ridiculous.

    When I said that ‘I hope he is wrong’, I was being too generous and polite. I know he is wrong. I may not be a professional, but I can read case law. I might lose in lower courts, but that’s nothing new, but if I appeal high enough, the appeal would be accepted and I would win. Virginia v. Black makes that exceedingly clear. If you cannot see how “burning a cross is not automatically a true threat without further context” does not entail “carrying a pig’s head in public is not automatically a true threat without further context”, then you should not be talking about law. Further, nothing in the context entails a true threat either. Mere statements “I don’t like you” and “Your beliefs are odious” come nowhere close to supplying sufficient context to construe a true threat.