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Cal Thomas: Bad decision in Dearborn

The RINO (reverend in name only) Terry Jones is like his fellow RINO, Fred Phelps, but in political drag.
Jones, the ěpastorî (PINO?) of the tiny and inconsequential Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., was jailed last week in Dearborn, Mich., ěfollowing a jury trial that found he was likely to create a ëbreach of the peaceí for plans to protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn,î according to the Detroit News. Jones and his associate Wayne Sapp were taken into custody after they refused to post a $1 ěpeace bond.î A judge then barred Jones and Sapp from entering the property of the Islamic Center óthe largest mosque in the U.S. ó for three years. The two posted bond and were released, but they promised to return on Friday.
Last month, Jones burned a Koran, which led to demonstrations and deaths in the Middle East.
Letís get the obligatory and obvious out of the way before moving to the central issue in this case. Jones is a publicity hound and an offense to the One he claims to follow.
Having said that, what about Jonesí First Amendment rights? In 1977, the Illinois Supreme Court, after instruction from the U.S. Supreme Court, allowed the National Socialist Party of America to march through Skokie, Ill., home of many Holocaust survivors. The Illinois Supreme Court even ruled that the hated swastika was a form of free speech and thus entitled to First Amendment protection. So, though neo-Naziís marching through a predominantly Jewish town wearing swastikas might be considered offensive, the court ruled, it was not illegal.
In the case of Fred Phelps and his family, all members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who carry outrageous ěThank God for dead soldiersî signs and claim America is being punished because of its growing tolerance for homosexuals, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 8-1 majority: ěSpeech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and ó as it did here ó inflict great pain. On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.î
Speech with which one agrees is easy to defend. Most would defend political speech with which they disagree, although a minority would censor it. The strength and uniqueness of the First Amendment is that it defends even hate speech. The response to speech we donít like is not less speech, but more. In Skokie, some Holocaust survivors created a museum to commemorate those who were murdered by the Nazis. Thatís the correct reaction. Overcome darkness with light. Overcome speech you donít like with speech you do like.
In the Jones case, what are the Dearborn authorities thinking? Isnít Islam a ěreligion of peaceî? President Obama ó and George W. Bush before him ó said it is. If lawful speech and assembly brings an unlawful act of violence, shouldnít the lawbreakers be the ones punished?
This is America, and public sidewalks should be for the use of the public to practice even offensive speech and peaceful assembly. That some ěfearî violence is no excuse for prior restraint of speech and assembly. From whom is the violence feared?
What the Muslims in Dearborn and elsewhere in the country should be told is that in America, we do things differently than in countries where Muslims have political control. If you want to be tolerated, you have to tolerate others, including those whose beliefs you donít like. We donít conform to your religious laws; you conform to our secular laws. We are about freedom.
If you have an agenda, donít bring it here. In fact, if our ways are so offensive to you, why are you here? Why come to a land regarded by some Islamic leaders, and many followers, as ěthe Great Satanî? Why not stay in your home country, or, if you were born in America and embrace Islam, why not live in countries where Islam is the dominant religion? Or do you wish to dominate and subjugate the rest of us to your Sharia law?
If that is your goal, we will oppose you and even demonstrate against it. Except, apparently, in Dearborn, Mich.

Contact Cal Thomas via email at tmseditors@tribune.com.

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