A Law Enforcement Chill on Free Speech
by IPT News • May 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech to every American.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held there are very limited circumstances in which those rights can be restricted. The most significant among those restrictions includes speech that can incite violence and other crime.
So it’s unusual to see the top FBI agent and federal prosecutor in Eastern Tennessee leading a special meeting June 4 in response to an offensive Internet posting.
According to a report Tuesday by the Tullahoma News [see article below], U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Kenneth Moore “will provide input on how civil rights can be violated by those who post inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims on social media.” It was prompted by 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.”
Call it inappropriate. Call it offensive. But don’t call it a federal case unless, it was an actual threat that West intended to act upon, or, as the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, it seeks to direct or incite imminent lawless action. Otherwise, such offense should be met with a rebuttal of better ideas and words, if met at all.
Otherwise, the scorning reaction from two senior government officials in the Eastern District of Tennessee can have a chilling effect on free speech – a chill imposed by the very people sworn to protect those Constitutional rights.
[divider dotted] Group sets meeting to increase tolerance of Muslims, culture
Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1:15 pm
A special meeting has been scheduled for the stated purpose of increasing awareness and understanding that American Muslims are not the terrorists some have made them out to be in social media and other circles.
“Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society” will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4, at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center, 147 Hospitality Blvd.
Special speakers for the event will be Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Kenneth Moore, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville Division.
Sponsor of the event is the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee — a 15-member board formed two years ago when the General Assembly was considering passing legislation that would restrict those who worship Sharia Law, which is followed by Muslims.
Killian and Moore will provide input on how civil rights can be violated by those who post inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims on social media.
“This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian told The News Monday. “This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.”
Killian said the presentation will also focus on Muslim culture and how, that although terrorist acts have been committed by some in the faith, they are no different from those in other religions.
He 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.”
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.
Killian said slide show presentations will be made.
Zak Mohyuddin, a Muslim Advisory Council member, said a shortened version of a documentary called “Welcome to Shelbyville” will also be featured.
The documentary, produced by the Public Broadcasting Service, spotlights recent demographic changes in nearby Shelbyville, with a focus on the growing number of immigrants from Latin America and Somalia with many Somalis from the Bantu minority ethnic group which practices Islam.
Mohyuddin said Muslims across the nation consistently issue press releases condemning terrorist acts, but the media usually does not pick up the information. He added that the apparent silence leaves the impression that Muslims do not condemn such acts.
Like Killian, Mohyuddin said word needs to be spread so more people understand the Muslim culture.
“It is in the self-interest of Muslims in the United States to counter violent extremism, because we and our children do not want to be viewed with suspicion,” Mohyuddin said. “The Muslim community is a vital resource in the fight against terrorism.”
Killian said he has made other presentations in the state about Muslim culture and civil rights laws, and the Muslims he’s become acquainted with are outstanding citizens.
“Some of the finest people I’ve met are Muslims,” he said, adding later: “We want to inform everybody about what the law is, but more importantly, we want to provide what the law means to Muslims, Hindus and every other religion in the country.
“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.”
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits making any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, as one of the 10 amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights.