Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Subjective Freedom of Speech and Property Rights
Denise Smith Amos's heart may be in the right place, but her opinion in her Enquirer Column is wrong. People can hate burning a cross. They can view it as intimidation. They can view it as hatred. Flag burning brings the same level of opposition. People hate it and people clearly view it as a hatred of the country. All forms of boycotting, especially the current type in Cincinnati, can be viewed, and in my opinion are, a form of intimidation. Should we ban flag burning? Should we ban Boycotting and the right to assemble to protest?

The biggest issue Ms. Smith Amos failed to identify is the difference between the two Virginia cases. Each has a different set of facts, and the only issue really decided by the court was the act of “burning a cross". One case should be legal to me in all aspects. That is the case of burning a cross on private property. The only reason they were caught is that they were seen. If I burn a flag or wave an anti-Cincinnati sign from my front lawn, should I be punished? The clear answer is no. The other case cited has two factors. This is the case where a cross was burned on another's property, where no authorization was given for the act. The act of burning anything on that property without permission is illegal. Harassment or threatening an individual is against the law, and burning a cross can be considered a threat. Additionally, burning a menorah, a tire, or a pile of dry leaves could be considered a threat. The item burned should not itself be a crime, how it is used or where it is burned can be.

The example that fits this concern is talking on the telephone. Is it a crime if I call my girlfriend and we talk dirty to each other? No, it is not. If I instead call someone else and talk dirty to them, that could be a crime. In your yelling fire in a crowded theater example, yelling the word "fire" alone is the not the issue. I could yell, "there's a nude girl in the lobby" or "the first person out side win 1million dollars", or "free beer", and all three things could cause the same result in that crowded theater. The bottom line is not banning the actions if no none is harmed. The actions are just tools of different goals. Reaching that goal by whatever means is the concern. How you get there is not the issue.

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