Archive | “Hate Speech”

Criminal Charges Against Anti-Homosexuality Street Preacher Dropped in England

The Daily Mail reports:

The street preacher charged with public-order offences for saying homosexuality is a sin has had his case dropped …

Dale Mcalpine was arrested by police who claimed his comments to passers-by had caused offence.

But the Crown Prosecution Service has decided not to pursue the charges as there is insufficient evidence….

For more details on the incident, see this blog post from a couple of weeks ago. For video of the arrest, see here. [...]

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Another European Prosecution for Insulting Religion

[Polish pop star Dorota Rabczewska, also known as] Doda is accused by the prosecutor’s office of the capital [Warsaw] of insulting the religious feelings of others, including by calling the authors of the Bible “drunks and drug addicts.” For this, the popular singer is facing up to 2 years in prison.

On April 30, the accusation against Dorota R. was directed to the regional court of the Warsaw-Mokotow district, according to the vice-director of the regional Warsaw prosecutor’s office, Anna Wereszczynska. She added that this accusation is supported by the view of the prosecution’s experts, a philologist and two experts on the Bible (one clergyman and one layperson). The prosecutor’s office did not provide any further details.

Unofficially, the Polish News Agency learned that the experts’ statements partly state that Doda publicly insulted the object of religious worship, which is an element of the crime of insulting the religious feelings of others. The Bible is the object of religious worship of all Christians, the clergy expert noted in his statement.

Prosecutor Wereszczynska states that this accusation was communicated to Doda on April 21 (about which at the time no-one else was informed). The prosecutor does not report whether the accused admitted her guilt during the investigation. All that Wereszczynska has said is that the accused provided her explanation.

In Summer 2009, in an interview with the press the 26-year-old Doda, speaking of the Bible, said that she “believes in the dinosaurs more than in the Bible,” because — in her opinion — “it’s very hard to believe in that which was written by someone who was drunk and smoking some plants.” When she was asked about whom she was talking, she added, “about all those people who wrote all those insane stories.”

The prosecutor’s office was given the accusation by

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Street Preacher Arrested in England for Public Statements That Homosexuality is a Sin

From the Daily Mail:

[Dale McAlpine] was charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour contrary to the Public Order Act 1986….

Mr Mcalpine[ and two others were preaching and leafletting in] the pedestrianised shopping precinct in the centre of Workington….

Mr Mcalpine said a woman came up to him [as he was leafletting] and they became engaged in a debate about his faith, during which he says he recited a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians in the Bible, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery, drunkenness and homosexuality, as well as talking about repentance and salvation.

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Criminal Conviction in England for Leaving Anti-Religious Leaflets in Airport Prayer Room

Harry Taylor was convicted of “causing religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress,” and sentenced to six months in jail (suspended for two years), 100 hours of community service, and 250 pounds in costs; he was also barred from “carrying religiously offensive material in a public place.” A few details on the leaflets, from Asian News International/, which has the most comprehensive coverage I’ve found (though there’s also a similar story in the Independent (UK) and other British papers):

Among the posters, one image showed a smiling crucified Christ next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue.

In another, a cartoon depicted two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption: “Not for women or gays, obviously.”

Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise were told in another: “Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins.” …

He had adapted newspaper and magazine cartoons and added captions of his own — one made a crude joke on a picture of a woman kneeling in front of a priest.

But some of his cartoons went way beyond exercising freedom of expression, prosecutor Neville Biddle said.

One image showed a pig excreting sausages with insults to Islam, and others linked Muslims to attacks on airports….

An appalling restriction on freedom of speech; I realize English free speech rules aren’t the same as ours, but cases such as this remind me why I like our free speech rules much better. I should note also that this certainly wasn’t a content-neutral prohibition on leafleting in particular places (e.g., a ban on leaving any unsolicited material in prayer rooms) — the conviction was based on the content and viewpoint of the speech, and the “anti-social behaviour order” applied to carrying “religiously offensive material” in any “public place.”

Thanks to Josh Mize [...]

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(Maybe) Racist Vanity Plates and the First Amendment

The Washington Post reports:

The owner of a Ford truck bearing the license plate 14CV88 will have to find a new message after the DMV on Wednesday canceled its earlier approval of that series of letters and numbers.

A photo of the truck hit the Web a few days ago, went viral on car and other blogs and finally came to the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group for American Muslims. On Wednesday morning, the group complained to the DMV that the plate contained a white supremacist and neo-Nazi statement.

A few hours later, the DMV agreed that the plate contains a coded message: The number 88 stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, doubled to signify “Heil Hitler,” said CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper. “CV” stands for “Confederate veteran” — the plate was a special model embossed with a Confederate flag, which Virginia makes available for a $10 fee to card-carrying members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. And 14 is code for imprisoned white supremacist David Lane’s 14-word motto: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

The giveaway that something was amiss, Hooper said, was the truck itself. An enormous photo of the burning World Trade Center towers covers the entire tailgate, with the words: “Everything I ever needed to know about Islam I learned on 9/11.” …

I’m not wild about government officials looking for hidden messages of this sort, and guessing about supposed hidden offensive meaning (even if the guess here proves correct). But in any event, rejecting a vanity plate on the grounds that it’s “racially … offensive” (which I assume is the basis for the restriction) likely violates the First Amendment.

The courts that have dealt with vanity plates — as opposed [...]

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Court Strikes Down Military Base’s Ban on Anti-Islam Car Decals

The case is Nieto v. Flatau (E.D.N.C.), decided a week ago. Camp Lejeune policy banned the display of “extremist, indecent, sexist or racist” messages on cars. Mr. Nieto had been required to remove from his car an “Islam = Terrorism” decal, a “Disgrace My Countries [sic] Flag and I will SHIT On Your Quran” decal, a “decal depicting an Islamic crescent moon and star with a diagonal line superimposed upon them and the words ‘No Quarter’ and ‘Islamic Terrorist,'” and a “decal depicting Calvin urinating on Muhammad.” The latter, I’m quite sure, must have been a reference to noted religious leader John Calvin’s pungent criticisms of Islam.

The court concluded that the base was a nonpublic forum, and that the government as proprietor of the base could therefore restrict speech in reasonable and viewpoint-neutral ways. But, the court ruled, the restriction was applied in a viewpoint-based way:

Plaintiff has been prohibited from displaying anti-Islamic messages, such as “Islam = Terrorism.” Yet, testimony by defendants establishes that decals espousing pro-Islamic messages, such as “Islam is Love” or “Islam is Peace” would be permitted upon the Base.

The court’s analysis strikes me as quite right: Though military bases are indeed treated as nonpublic fora (even when they look much like normal city blocks), viewpoint-based restrictions on private speech are impermissible even on nonpublic fora. The government may impose even viewpoint-based restrictions on the speech of soldiers, and in some situations on the speech of civilian employees. But this power doesn’t extend to its actions as proprietor, applicable to all speech on base property.

The court also opined, in my view incorrectly, that the ban on “extremist, indecent, sexist or racist” messages was “viewpoint neutral on its face” because it applied “without regard to any particular message or point of view.” [...]

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Insult-to-Religion Prosecution in Poland

From Gazeta Prawna, with many thanks to my father Vladimir and brother Sasha for the translation from Polish:

The Gdynia district prosecutor’s office has accused Adam Darski, the leader of the death metal band Behemoth, of defamation of religious sensibilities….

The decision to accuse the musician was announced … Monday by Gdynia District Prosecutor’s Office head Marzanna Majstrowicz…. [Darski] is threatened with two years’ imprisonment….

The case concerns a concert in September 2007 in the club “The Ear” in Gdynia, during which Darski tore up the Bible and scattered its fragments among the audience. Then the [fragments] were to be burned by fans of the band. The singer of Behemoth also [said] that the Catholic Church is “a criminal sect.” …

The first proceedings in this case were officially initiated in February 2008 based on reports about the Behemoth concert to the media by Ryszard Nowak, President of the National Committee of Defense Against Sects. Then Adam Darski, questioned as a witness, told investigators that tearing the Bible was part of his artistic work. The Behemoth leader also explained that his goal was not to offend anyone’s religious sensibilities…. [T]he investigation [did not lead to a prosecution] because Nowak was the only one who considered himself “injured” in this case (Polish law requires at least two people in such a situation).

Investigators from Gdynia again took up events at a Behemoth concert in January of this year, after the prosecution filed an application in this case [from] four Pomeranian PiS (Law and Justice Party) representatives…. During the hearings, which took place in February of this year, all of the representatives unanimously declared that they watched a film of the concert and the behavior of the Behemoth leader offended their religious sensibilities.

In the ongoing case the prosecutor is also

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Minnesota Prosecutors Decline to Charge Man for Posting Anti-Islam Cartoons Outside Mosque, Somali-Owned Store, and Other Places

The St. Cloud Times reports, and includes the letters from the prosecutors, one from the Stearns County and the other from Benton County. (Too bad more news outlets don’t include or point to the original documents this way.) Minnesota Public Radio has more factual details, noting that the “cartoons [were] posted on a couple of utility poles.”

The materials apparently depicted, among other things, “Muhammad defecating on the Koran, Mohammed discussing engaging in sexual relations with a child (purportedly his wife), and Mohammed engaging in sexual relations with animals.” There was apparently some argument that those images constituted obscenity, because of their sexual or excretory content, but the prosecutors rejected this. One concluded that, “When viewed as a whole, those images do not appear to have been distributed or displayed for sexual gratification or sexual interest,” and therefore the elements of the obscenity weren’t met. The other concluded that, even if the material “appeals to a prurient interest in sex and depicts sexual conduct in an offensive manner,” it nonetheless had “political … value” and thus couldn’t constitute obscenity.

The Stearns County prosecutor also rejected the theory that the pamphlet constituted a “hate crime.” (The other prosecutor didn’t discuss this.)

There is no specific crime in Minnesota called a ‘hate crime.’ Rather, there are specific offences, including Assault, Criminal Damage to Property, and Stalking/Harassment, that when committed because of the victim’s race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., carry enhanced penalties. Since this individual’s conduct does not rise to the level of [those offenses], none of the enhanced penalties would apply in this case.

The Benton County prosecutor likewise rejected the theory that the pamphlet constitutes criminal defamation. (Again, the other prosecutor didn’t discuss this.)

[A state] statute renders it a crime to communicate … anything which exposes a person, class or

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Bruce Bawer on the Muhammad Cartoon Attack

Follow up to Eugene’s post on the Muhammad Cartoon attack … see Bruce Bawer’s article in City Journal, “While Europe Sneered.” And although I received a comp copy of the Voltaire Project printing of the cartoons, I have ordered a paid copy and have requested that my school’s library order the book.  Please consider doing the same.  When I am in Paris, I make a point of visiting the Pantheon to lay flowers at Voltaire’s tomb.

Now I have a question … I have been finishing a section of my book on UN-US relations on the US-Egypt expression-religion provision offered by the Obama administration a few months ago as part of its “engagement” policy in the UN Human Rights Council.  I am critical, to say the least, as will surprise no one.  I have also read lots and lots and lots on the whole religion-speech controversy in the UN, going back to its origins up to its current argument.  But I want to be sure to cover the bases.  What would readers point me to as the best articles or discussions on this issue, specifically at the UN?  Academic or otherwise?

Also, side note, does anyone know who or what office at State was responsible for coming up with this language?  Was it developed out of the UN mission?  I thought it was the assistant secretary for human rights, democracy, labor, but perhaps I am wrong.  What office was responsible for developing this language? [...]

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New Jersey Legislature’s Italian American Caucus Argues That the Making of Jersey Shore May Violate Hostile Work Environment Harassment Law?

That’s what this letter from the Caucus appears to say. In part, the letter just condemns the show; I can’t speak to that, since I haven’t watched the show. But the letter also argues that the use of the terms “is a breach of Viacom’s Global Business Practices Statement requiring a harassment-free workplace environment,” and that “Viacom has a legal and ethical responsibility to uphold policies intended to maintain a harassment-free work place” — a pretty clear allusion, it seems to me, to legal prohibitions on hostile environment workpalce harassment.

I’ve argued before that hostile work environment harassment law may sometimes violate the First Amendment (at least when applied to speech other than threats, fighting words, and other First Amendment exception, as well as some other one-to-one speech to unwilling listeners). Fortunately, the California Supreme Court resisted the application of harassment law to the making of a TV show, in Lyle v. Warner Brothers. Lyle involved comments made during the writing process, but the same logic should apply at least as forcefully to speech actually broadcast to the public. But that decision was based on a narrow reading of California state workplace harassment law; federal law has been read somewhat more broadly, and New Jersey law is in some respects broader still. (Jersey Shore was shot in New Jersey, so New Jersey state hostile work environment law would apply there, as would the separate federal law.)

I think that ultimately the First Amendment defense to certain hostile work environment claims should and will prevail, at least in “communicative workplace” cases such as Lyle and a hypothetical case brought by a cameraman, cast member, or whoever else who was offended by any “offensive, inaccurate portrayal of Italian Americans” or the use of “[p]ejorative words ‘guido’ and ‘guidette.'” (I think [...]

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