Thursday, August 28, 2014

Upholding Thuggery

Eugene Volokh, writing at the Washington Post, has some thoughts regarding the decision in Bible Believers v. Wayne County (6th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014). That case involved Christians suing law enforcement for threatening them with arrest for disturbing the peace if they did not cease efforts to preach at a Muslim street festival in Dearborn, Mich. Because the festival was held on public streets and walkways, not private property or public property leased expressly for the festival, the location was a public forum. Nevertheless, the majority upheld the officers' actions because the crowd was reacting violently to the Christians. (And, based on the facts recited in the article, the preachers were deliberately attempting to be provocative in their speech). However, as Prof. Volokh points out:
Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. People who are willing to use violence to suppress speech will learn that such behavior is effective, at least when the police don’t come down particularly hard on the thuggery. Indeed, they may find at times that even merely threatening violence might suffice to suppress speech they dislike. And of course this message will be easily learned by the potentially violent of all religious and political stripes (again, so long as they suspect that the police won’t make the thuggery too costly).
This behavior is part and parcel of the growing hostility toward Christians in the United States. The same reasoning could be applied to counter-protests regarding homosexuality, abortions, etc. It could even be extended to non-religious protests/demonstrations/rallys, such as on immigration, taxing/spending, etc.  Even if you do not participate in such protests, you have reason to be concerned because this decision will serve to further ratchet up the possibility of a protest/demonstration/rally turning violent.

(H/t Instapundit)

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