General Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If a person has a constitutional right to do something should they use it if it will purposely cause deep insult or harm as in the case of Pastor Terry Jones' stunt?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26783points) April 1st, 2011

Ok, pastor Terry Joins have a constitutional right to free speech and freedom of expression. I am sure he believes passionately about his ideas (I don’t know what they all are and they differ from mine and I don’t care to follow them) but should logic and decorum come into play if exercising your right will purposely be Boorish, rude or incendiary?

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26 Answers

CaptainHarley's avatar

Of course, but the Supreme Court has held that an individual’s freedom of speech must not be curtailed simply because we find that speech offensive or repulsive. If the truth be known, speech that we find offensive is the very sort of speech that must be protected… from us!

marinelife's avatar

He was very misguided.

CaptainHarley's avatar

He did not use good judgment, particularly after having been told that burning the Quran would have exactly the effects it did. Don’t forget. though, that the ultimate responsibility to NOT act lies with the muslims who rioted.

Nullo's avatar

If not, then why bother communicating at all? Perhaps his wasn’t the best possible decision, but he did send a message that I think we ought to be communicating.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Perhaps, but there are other ways of sending that particular message that don’t result in rioting and death.

cazzie's avatar

OK… I have some very person reasons for wanting this idiot held to justice.

This man incited violence. He betrayed his own country and is a traitor and should be tried as such. End of story. His actions were directly responsible for inciting hate crimes that resulted in the death of people who were trying to defend the principals this man threw to the wind and shat on, quite frankly.

flutherother's avatar

Freedom of speech doesn’t extend to setting fire to things. If Pastor Terry Jones or Pastor Wayne Sapp feel strongly about something why don’t they tell us what it is. They have a constitutional right to do so. Burning books is the act of barbarians and in this case was a deliberately provocative act.

jaytkay's avatar

I’m sure the self-described first amendment fans would have no problem with bible and flag burning, right?

The problem is not the West vs. Islam.

The problem is normal people vs people stuck in the Dark Ages. Terry Jones and the Taliban are on the same team.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Just because it is the right of anyone on US soil to stand up and say what they want, it doesn’t make the statement correct. What is shocking is that anyone with an ounce of decency and logic would support him.

Blonderaven's avatar

Ignoring the politics behind the specific example you mentioned, I see this question as simply: Does an act being legal make it right? The answer: No.

rooeytoo's avatar

He is a religious maniac and an aggitator, but so are those who rioted and used his behavior to excuse their own religious mania and ignorant behavior.

I don’t really see one as worse than the other, just typical “mine is bigger” behavior.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Setting fire to the American flag has been held to be protected freedom of speech by the US Supreme Court.

CaptainHarley's avatar


You are absolutely correct.

CaptainHarley's avatar


My personal preferences have nothing whatsoever to do with it. It has been held to be free speech, and that is thus the law.

ETpro's avatar

I have read enough of the teachings and life of Christ to know he would not teach, “Whatever you know will offend and outrage your brother, that do ye unto him.” That is as bass ackwards as you can get the message of Christ. So no if Jones is in any way trying to bring the teachings of Christ to the world around him, he shouldn’t have burned the Koran.

By the same token, if the Muslims who rioted were actually trying to model the teachings of Mohammed, they should not have attacked and killed people completely innocent of the act that outraged them—nor should they consider the Koran an idol needing to be defended like some false God.

CaptainHarley's avatar


You are exactly correct. : )

Nullo's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I fail to see how it’s illogical.
@cazzie How is this betrayal? And the koran-burning was indirectly responsible, since the knives and guns in question were in other peoples’ hands.

@CaptainHarley I don’t think that words are going to work. It has been established elsewhere that you cannot reason with a fanatic.

flutherother's avatar

@CaptainHarley You are right flag burning is not banned in the United States. It is very controversial however and people who burn the flag can be charged with other offenses

Terry Jones did tell us why he was burning the Koran it was ‘to send a clear message to the radical element of Islam’. What nonsense. The message was as inarticulate as a howl of rage and all Muslims, whatever their views would find it offensive.

dabbler's avatar

Seems to me that intentionally causing “deep insult or harm” to get attention is part of the definition of a punk. It has the same delusions of self-righteous justification as the driver on the interstate doing exactly the speed limit in the fastest lane while the flow of traffic is much faster.
It doesn’t matter at all whether he’s not legally prohibited from doing so. Hiding behind alleged patriotism or behind defending a right as a concept (even to the detriment of everyone intended to benefit) ignores the cherished part of those things. It also insinuates that some of the goodness rubs off on them because they can say the words. More so if pronounced vehemently.
The most adamant seem to think they are special because they resonate with the innate value of the principles. Well guess what we all do and that’s why we respect them as guiding principles. But because of their personal epiphanies we should let them run things as they like—even if that’s disconnected from all those nice principles.
“Hey look at me I’m outrageous!” makes great news in self-feeding media cycles.
But I liked it better when clowns wore spinning bowties to get attention.

cazzie's avatar

A civilian’s reckless behaviour that puts service men and women in greater danger can be held responsible. Everyone knew there would be a backlash. The pastor knew there would be a backlash and he did it anyway. He was asked by the President not to do it because of the risk he was putting foreign service men and women. They ended up attacking a UN building killing non-Americans.

Norway lost Lt. Col Siri Skare, a 53-year-old female pilot. She was also a wife and mother.

mattbrowne's avatar

This right in this particular case does not exist in Germany, because there are a few exceptions to freedom of speech, and this violation of our law is called

Volksverhetzung (“incitement of popular hatred”) which is a concept in German criminal law that bans the incitement of hatred against a segment of the population. It often applies in, though it is not limited to, trials relating to Holocaust denial in Germany. The German penal code (Strafgesetzbuch) establishes that someone is guilty of Volksverhetzung if the person in a manner that is capable of disturbing the public peace:
– incites hatred against segments of the population or calls for violent or arbitrary measures against them; or
– assaults the human dignity of others by insulting, maliciously maligning, or defaming segments of the population

American law is different, so Terry Jones was legally entitled to carry out his irresponsible act. To answer your question: He should have chosen not to exercise his right. He also put himself in great danger.

Sooner or later Terry Jones will most likely be killed by Islamist terrorists. The question is, will the police or FBI be able to protect him?

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne asks ‘Sooner or later Terry Jones will most likely be killed by Islamist terrorists. The question is, will the police or FBI be able to protect him?’

and I ask, ‘Why should they?’ If he can’t pay for his own private security, why should the tax payers? They can pay for the trial of who ever ends up killing him.

They want their freedoms and liberties and basically, ‘live by the sword.’

(We aren’t allowed to name a child ‘Adolf’ here in Norway…. feeling goes pretty deep.)

mattbrowne's avatar

@cazzie – It would be a crime to kill Terry Jones, so this means that the police has to protect law-abiding citizens no matter how crazy they are. But it will be quite a challenge.

The Danish cartoonist

was almost killed and he just drew relatively harmless (in my opinion) pictures. Westergaard was unharmed due to security precautions in his house. He fled to a panic room when he saw the intruder standing in the hallway wielding an axe.

Maybe Terry Jones will install a panic room too. Another example is this:'s_comments

Police protection is an expensive business especially when it needs to be carried out over many years.

I know about the situation in Norway. The Nazi regime is responsible for many horrible crimes committed in Norway. Healing takes time and it’s more difficult in some countries, not only in Norway, but also the Netherlands and Poland.

Almost all 21st century Germans despise the name Adolf and except for very few exceptions it’s not being used any more.

cazzie's avatar

@mattbrowne They don’t have to use any extra-ordinary measures to protect him though…. that’s my point. Just because he made himself a target completely at-will.

Plenty of men have made themselves a target for noble (Nobel!) reasons and you didn’t see the CIA or FBI looking out for them.

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