Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | June 9, 2013

Oh, My Beloved Southland

I love you, South, but sometimes you appall me.

1. First, Tennessee: I happened to be in Chattanooga Wednesday morning, which was where I saw this report in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press about a meeting in Manchester on June 4:

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian was greeted with shouts of “traitor,” “serpent,” and calls to “resign” or “go home” Tuesday night at an event aimed at improving relations between local residents and their Muslim neighbors.

Killian and Kenneth Moore, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville office, were featured speakers before a hostile crowd of well over 300 at the “Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society” event at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center.

The event was sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee, which was formed two years ago when state lawmakers were considering legislation that would ban Sharia, the law followed by devout Muslims. Killian initially pitched the event as an effort at improving understanding and tolerance of Muslims and their religious beliefs.

About 300 people made it into the conference center before the room reached capacity for fire safety standards. From the Knoxville News-Sentinel (“Federal prosecutor booed at forum on tolerance”):

Some who remained outside hurled labels including “communist,” ”socialist” and “Muslim” at law enforcement officials who denied them entry.

Inside, Killian told the crowd hateful speech is allowed by law, but threats are not.

According to The Tennessean, former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Victoria Jackson was among the protesters. Jackson now lives in Tennessee.

“The Constitution and Sharia cannot coexist,” she said. “Islam is evil.”

Not exactly Tennessee’s proudest moment. American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) chose to host the event specifically in Manchester, in Coffee County, largely because Barry West, a Coffee County Commissioner, in late April put up a Facebook post that included a picture of a white man wearing a cowboy hat and pointing a shotgun into the camera; the picture was captioned, “HOW TO WINK AT A MUSLIM.” (See the picture at this link.) When the post led to controversy, it appears that at first West was defiant and defensive, although he subsequently apologized around May 8, according to the Times-Free Press.

Now, prior to the event itself, the announcement of the event raised some red flags for First Amendment watchdogs. The Tullahoma News had reported on May 21, “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 prompted Floyd Abrams to remark:

The government may, indeed, play a useful and entirely constitutional role in urging people not to engage in speech that amounts to religious discrimination. But it may not, under the First Amendment, prevent or punish speech even if it may be viewed as hostile to a religion.

Eugene Volokh also commented on the announcement:

My one reservation is that it’s hard from the newspaper article to tell precisely what U.S. Attorney Killian said; misparaphrases sometimes happen, even more commonly than misquotes. If his claims about the civil rights laws was limited to specific true threats of violence against particular people or particular institutions, such speech may indeed be punishable under the “true threats” exception to the First Amendment. But indeed “inflammatory documents targeted at Muslims” generally are constitutionally protected, so if Mr. Killian indeed used those words or ones that are fairly paraphrased as those words (or suggested that the “How to Wink” posting was actually illegal rather than just wrong), then Floyd Abrams’ criticism is entirely apt.

According to the News-Sentinel, “Killian told the crowd hateful speech is allowed by law, but threats are not.” That short paraphrase doesn’t clarify the US Attorney’s position quite as much as I would hope. I have not seen any transcripts or extended video of the speech itself. (That last point does not exactly shed glory on either of the professional newspapers that are quoted above.) The Tennessean (a Nashville paper) provides this short video, but that video does not provide much clarity either.

Be that as it may, I want to focus on the reaction to the presentation hosted by AMAC. At the League, Tod Kelly uses this episode as a vehicle to wax on about currents of bigotry and intolerance within the Tea Party movement — malevolent currents lurking just beneath the surface (and sometimes coming to the surface). Here is Kelly’s conclusion and rhetorical challenge (citation omitted):

One of the things conservatives often criticize moderate Muslims for is not voicing condemnation when Muslim extremists cross lines. (I do not happen to agree with this criticism, as I have never actually met a Muslim who didn’t condemn those atrocities with the most extreme language. But be that as it may, I accept that others feel differently.) The Venn diagram of conservative bloggers, pundits and pols who argue that the Tea Party is wrongly painted as an attracter of far-right social conservatives and bigots overlaps quite a bit with those who demand moderate Muslims speak out more forcefully against violent extremists. And therein lies my challenge to the NROs, Foxes, Instapundits, PJMedias, Limbaughs, Becks, Hewitts, Malkins, Ericksons, Hannitys and O’Reillys of the world, and even to small and as-of-yet largely undiscovered conservative bloggers on the Internet:

Are you willing to back your claims that the Tea Party movement is one devoted to fiscal restraint and tax reform, and join me in condemning the Tennessee Tea Parties who are using the grassroots tribes you honor so to such extreme and hateful ends? Will you risk the potential RINO demerit and stand up against these Tea Partiers who are so willing to trash the founding document you claim to hold so dear? Are you willing to do what you so often demand of your moderate Muslim brothers and sisters, and shout to the heavens your disgust and dismay regarding these bigots who tarnish the ideals you so proudly defend and uphold?

I suspect not. But I continue to hold out hope.

For what it’s worth (which is not much), I condemn the Tennessee Tea Parties and such of their members who heckled the US Attorney and others Tuesday evening. I am disgusted and dismayed by these bigots.

Because I need to laugh, I will leave the last word on this general matter to Jackie and Dunlap (video contains strong language):


~~~

2. Also, Tennessee, it is generally not a good thing when your state makes an appearance on the Daily Show.

3. Texas: Anderson links to this story in the Texas on the Potomac blog of the Houston Chronicle, which contains this groan-worthy gem:

“I’m going to be real honest with you, the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats.”

– Ken Emanuelson
“tea party activist”
May 20, 2013
Dallas, Texas

4. Also via Anderson:

“The constitutional right to speedy trial in Mississippi is dead.”

– Justice King
Mississippi Supreme Court
Dissenting Opinion, Galloway v. State (pdf)
June 6, 2013

5. Tennessee child custody law appears to favor parents who can best “instruct, inspire, and encourage the child to prepare for a life of service.” In a recent case, Wood v. Wood (Tenn. Ct. App. May 16, 2013) (nonprecedential) (pdf), the court uses that factor to conclude that it is a point in the father’s credit that he “exposes the child to a church environment.” Prof. Volokh sees that as a First Amendment violation, a analysis that he defends at greater length at the link.

6. Also via Eugene Volokh: “Louisiana Set to Criminalize Publishing That Someone Has a Concealed Carry Permit.”

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Responses

  1. This stuff is why I want to get that Quentin Compson T-shirt:

    I dont hate it,” Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; “I dont hate it,” he said, I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!

    • it’s not even past…

      Now if Quentin had just gone to a good SEC school…

    • As opposed to Ole Miss ….


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