Justice Breyer Suggests That Burning a Quran Could be Like Shouting 'Fire' in a Crowded Theatre--Thus Not Protected by 1st Amendment
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
By Chris Neefus
Muslims believe the Quran, in the original Arabic, to be the infallible “final revelation” of Allah to Mohammed. (Image: Iqra)
(CNSNews.com) – Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer said on Tuesday that globalization may change the way the First Amendment applies in the United States, and he suggested that Pastor Terry Jones’ proposed Quran-burning may or may not be protected under the First Amendment.
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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, flippant and ignorant of the Constitution
Will America Ban Criticism of Islam?
By Daniel Greenfield Wednesday, September 15, 2010
In 1935 Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here, a novel about the rise of tyranny in America, whose message was that it indeed can happen here. Just to remind us that in fact it “can happen here”, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer used the occasion of his appearance on noted legal forum, Good Morning America, to suggest that there may not be any First Amendment protection for burning the Koran.
“Holmes said it doesn’t mean you can shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Breyer told me. “Well, what is it? Why? Because people will be trampled to death. And what is the crowded theater today? What is the being trampled to death?”
Breyer’s statement was every bit as flippant and ignorant of the Constitution and even previous Supreme Court decisions as you would expect from a Clinton appointee.
To begin with, Breyer misstated what Holmes had said and what he had meant. In Schenk vs United States, Holmes wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.” The key word here is “falsely”. Shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there really is a fire, is a warning. Shouting it when there is no fire, is a malicious attempt to start a panic. Holmes used the metaphor to argue that freedom of speech was contextual, so that some speech which presented a clear and present danger in a time of war could be banned. An Anti-War argument during peacetime might be legal, but illegal in wartime.
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