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March 09, 2007

I Disagree

No, not with the conclusion of this article that San Francisco State University should drop all action against the College Republicans – for they should, based upon Supreme Court precedent permitting flag desecration. On the whole, I agree with the analysis.

Rather, I disagree with this little element of the column.

The objection to the trampling of the name of Allah is reasonable. Done willfully, it would be an act of religious intolerance. The problem is, this wasn’t willful, at least not as religious disrespect. The erasure of the name shows it.

First, any desecration of the name of Allah is committed by the terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, when they place the name of the allegedly peace-loving deity of the so-called “Religion of Peace” on flags for their decidedly non-peaceful organizations. Unless, of course, some Muslim wishes to argue that Islam and Allah are not so peaceful after all, and that the use of the name of Allah to represent terrorists is therefore an honest portrayal of the Muslim faith.

Secondly, any disrespect shown to Islam or its sacred words, books, or symbols, even if done intentionally, is constitutionally protected and beyond the disciplinary reach of a public university to punish. Indeed, colleges and universities regularly sponsor plays, display art, host programs and schedule classes in which insults to Christianity and Judaism are permitted and justified based upon the “academic freedom” and “First Amendment rights” of those who commit the offensive acts. Not only that, but Israeli flags have been desecrated more than once on the campus by pro-terrorist groups composed primarily of Muslims with no sanctions imposed – despite the fact that the Israel flag includes a universally recognizable Jewish symbol, the Star of David. Setting aside the question of a double standard and unequal protection of the law, the act of which the College Republicans are accused would be Constitutionally protected and beyond the reach of the university to punish EVEN IF IT WERE a willful act of disrespect for Islam. After all, no government official may compel respect for, or punish disrespect for, the religious beliefs or symbols of any creed.

I’d also take issue with this concluding bit.

San Francisco State should just drop the case. The offense was unintentional and the underlying act is constitutionally protected. The whiff of the whole thing is just wrong.

The problem is not that the “underlying act” is Constitutionally protected – the problem is that the actual offense with which the College Republicans are charged is Constitutionally protected. And as it would in any other case, SFSU may not grant a “heckler’s veto” by claiming that an act protected by the First Amendment is an incitement of hostility – unless it is prepared to impose a regime of speech censorship incompatible with a free society and the Constitution of the United States.

However, if SFSU gets away with this, I hope the university is prepared to deal with many objections from Christian and Jewish students to activities on campus – and that they are prepared to ban an Islamic group that uses the Koran, a work in which Christians and Jews are insulted and called “pigs and monkeys”.





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NAME: Greg
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