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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another piece on the Fenton case

This one from South Dakota.


Marshall said...

I don't think it's appropriate for Fenton's employer to get involved with his away-from-work political activity and the judge agrees with me: his speech was protected.

But most of this editorial is about Terry Jones in Detroit, and I don't know why his situation would be different than an ordinary domestic restraining order, if you believe that Jones had/has the intention to provoke violence. The remedy in the military funerals case seems adequate: keep the demonstrators at a distance from their object. The judge reduced the bond to a symbolic $1, choosing to rely on citizens' acceptance of the order; Jones refused to accept and went to jail for what amounts to contempt of court. For "failing to perform the duties of a citizen."* So it seems to this non-specialist.

It's not necessary to see this as a "muslim exception" ... if Catholics announced their intention to protest the Piss Christ and bring spray paint, restraint would also be appropriate. Evangelicals are made to keep their distance from abortion clinics. If a man has a history of harassing his ex-wife, restraint is appropriate. The Detroit situation has little or nothing to do with Jerry or PZ expressing themselves verbally in what amounts to private space.

The Montreal piece you referenced points out "Civility is the key to making the marketplace of ideas a truly creative arena." The secular authority has the duty to enforce some sort of civility in the public arena, at least to the extent of restraining violence. Which in general it is not doing a good job with, lately.

* In Oregon, hit-and-run is legally "failing to perform the duties of a driver."

phil said...

Yeah, I think this is primarily an issue of keeping the peace and avoiding the possibility of violence.

That said, if there were a history of using this to suppress free speech I'd be less comfortable. Whatsisname is free to express himself elsewhere, so really his right to free speech is not suppressed, just his right to express it anywhere he likes (which is not protected).

ColinGavaghan said...

I'm with Marshall here. I'm not sure I see a huge problem with requiring particularly offensive demonstrators to stay a particular distance from people likely to be particularly offended by their demonstrations. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, we have a long tradition of parades by the Orange Order, which often descend into generalised anti-Catholic abuse. Allowing those processions to take place only on certain routes, away from predominantly RC residential areas and places of worship, has always seemed to me a reasonable compromise.