Friday, September 14, 2012

Terry Jones and the First Amendment

by Geoffrey R. Stone

Huffington Post

September 14, 2012

Are those who condemn Islam and mock Mohammad protected by the First Amendment? There are two arguments one might make to support the proposition that such speech is beyond the protection of the Constitution. First, one might argue that such speech is blasphemous and, as such, is outside the boundaries of the First Amendment.

Historically, supporters of laws against blasphemy have argued that such laws are necessary to avert divine wrath, to enforce conformity with prevailing beliefs, to insulate those beliefs from the contagion of doubt, to protect the sensibilities of believers, and to avoid retaliation by believers against those who deride their beliefs.

During the Middle Ages, the penalty for blasphemy included death, imprisonment on bread and water (often causing a lingering death), cutting off the lips, and burning or tearing out the tongue. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, executions and other brutal punishments for blasphemy were inflicted throughout Europe.