(NPR) A Meeting On Muslims, Christians and Civility Turns Into A Shouting Match

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The public meeting in Manchester, Tenn., about 70 miles from Nashville, was supposed to address and tamp down discrimination toward Muslims there.

But instead it turned into a shouting match.

Bill Killian, the local U.S. attorney who organized the meeting, told the people in attendance that hate speech was not protected by the First Amendment. Over the last few years, there have been tensions between Muslims and many Christians in Tennessee. A Coffee County commissioner recently posted a picture on Facebook of a man with one eye looking down the sights of a shotgun, with the caption: "how to wink at a Muslim." The photo went viral.

Read or listen to it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Religion News & CommentaryInter-Faith RelationsOther FaithsIslamMuslim-Christian relations

Posted June 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Jim the Puritan wrote:

A totally misleading account by the liberal media of what was really going on.  People showed up to protest at the meeting because Killian had previously made anti-Christian statements and said that those who criticize Islam could be subject to federal prosecution under the civil rights laws.

Here’s a sample of the statements Killian made before the meeting:

He [Killian] referred to the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing in which Timothy McVeigh, an American terrorist, detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. Commonly referred to as the Oklahoma City Bombing, the attack killed 168 people and injured more than 800.

It was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. Terry Nichols was also charged and incarcerated as a coconspirator.

Killian also referred to the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting on Aug. 5, 2012, when Wade Michael Page, an American white supremacist, fatally shot six people and wounded four others in a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. Page committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both Christians as was the guy who shot up the Sikh temple,” Killian said. “Sikhs are not Muslim, Many people think they are Muslim, but they split off with the Hindu religion.”  (Bolded emphasis added)

Killian has also stated that the purpose of the First Amendment was to protect people from Christians: 

“It’s why we came here in the first place. In England, they were using Christianity to further their power in government. That’s why the First Amendment is there.”

Killian has indicated that making statements critical of Islam could lead to federal prosecution:

Killian and [FBI agent] Moore will provide input on how civil rights can be violated by those who post inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims on social media. . . .

Killian referred to a Facebook posting made by Coffee County Commissioner Barry West that showed a picture of a man pointing a double-barreled shotgun at a camera lens with the caption saying, “How to Wink at a Muslim.”

Killian said he and Moore had discussed the issue.

“If a Muslim had posted ‘How to Wink at a Christian,’ could you imagine what would have happened?” he said. “We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”

Killian said Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal jurisdiction.

“That’s what everybody needs to understand,” he said.

For a government attorney and FBI agent to threaten people with prosecution if they make statements critical of Islam is a clear First Amendment violation and should have led to discipline of both of those individuals. To compound that by making false, bigoted statements attributing terrorist acts to Christians is just frosting on the cake.

Government officials who exercise such an abuse of power need to be confronted.  Otherwise, government will simply characterize any statement it doesn’t like as “hate speech” which is not protected by the First Amendment.  Here, there was clearly an agenda to denigrate Christians and promote Islam, and to scare people into thinking it is illegal to criticize Islam.  It is no wonder that people got upset.  This is a good example of how we are losing our fundamental freedoms in this country and how we need to stand up and push back.

Quotes taken from http://www.tullahomanews.com/?p=15360

June 14, 3:38 am | [comment link]
2. Katherine wrote:

This U.S. Attorney is absolutely wrong on the law when he says that speech critical of Islam, even if that speech is harsh, is punishable under federal law.  The same applies to speech critical of any religion, or of atheism or materialism.  Even the ill-advised “wink” Facebook posting was not a legal violation, if I properly understand case law in this matter.  Violent threats have to be focused and immediate to run afoul of the law.  This was very clear when the KKK were allowed to parade through a heavily Jewish Chicago suburb some years ago.  If we moved towards outlawing “hate” speech, we’d have to outlaw the Qur’an itself, which has numerous anti-Christian and anti-Jewish passages.  Surely Muslims don’t want this outcome.

The people who committed arson at the Tennessee mosque were properly convicted of arson.  We may speak against our neighbors’ religion, but we may not assault them or destroy their property.

June 14, 10:05 am | [comment link]
3. Jim the Puritan wrote:

Katherine—You are exactly right.  The purpose of the First Amendment is precisely to protect speech that others may not agree with.  Unless there is a specific threat of violence to another individual or group, or directly inciting others to an imminent lawless action, it is absolutely protected by the First Amendment.

Government conduct here was way over the line, including chilling the First Amendment right of expression, as well as violating the Religious Freedom and Establishment clauses by saying the government will protect Islam from criticism and that Christianity is a threat.  If this had been reversed, with the government saying that there could be no criticism of Christians and their beliefs and those who did could face federal prosecution, don’t you think the atheists and Church and State Separationists would have been all over it?

June 14, 3:31 pm | [comment link]
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