The Deadly and Suicidal Side Effects of the First Amendment

The Deadly and Suicidal Side Effects of the First Amendment by Peter Burrows, 7/19/15

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is only one sentence long, but it packs a powerful line-up of freedoms most of us think essential:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Implicit in those freedoms is the idea that they cannot be used in ways that do harm, e.g. the famous adage that freedom of speech does not give one the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater.  There are gray areas, however, where society has to weigh the pluses and minuses.

One example that comes to mind is the freedom of the press to publicize acts of depravity, which to some extent may be motivated by the very publicity such acts generate.  The recent mass murder in a Charleston church  generated tons of publicity for the moronic little punk who committed the crime, including pictures of him posing with the Confederate flag.

I strongly suspect that such tragedies would be reduced if the media were under publicity constraints of some kind.  I realize that a total blackout is not possible with the Internet so ubiquitous, but if television, newspapers and magazines would limit coverage to victims only, not show pictures of, or name, the perpetrators other than to describe them as depraved, mentally deficient, etc., I think that would remove at least some of the motivation for such acts.

Passing laws abridging press freedoms to cover these atrocities is not my first choice.  It used to be that the press never printed the names of rape victims.  There was no law saying so, just an unwritten code of conduct most journalists, print and media, followed.  Why not have the same sort of thing for coverage of mass murders?

This is something President Obama could initiate.  The press likes to say he is worried about his legacy, maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.  (He sure as Hell SHOULD be.)  I think history would look very favorably on a White House summit that gathered television, cable and print executives together to propose they voluntarily refrain from what could be described as “infamy enhancing” coverage of acts of mass murder and terrorism.

It’s worth a try.

The above is fairly trivial compared to another part of the First Amendment that is VERY troubling.   This is the part that prohibits laws that restrict “the free exercise” of religion. The problem is that the religion of Islam, if allowed to be freely exercised, advocates the prohibition of all other religions.  Furthermore, it commands its followers to use murderous force to achieve this.

The recent incident in Chattanooga, where a Muslim killed five U.S. military recruiters, has authorities scrambling to determine if the killer had ties to ISIS.  How stupid. Of course he had ties. It’s called the Koran.  The infamous Verse of The Sword, sura 9:5, commands Muslims to “slay the Pagan wherever you find them.”  So, you think, “I’m no pagan, I’m Jewish,” or “I’m Christian.”   Sorry, infidels.  Sura 9:29 says to fight anybody who doesn’t acknowledge Islam as the “Religion of Truth,” even if they are “People of the Book,” i.e. Jews and Christians.(1)

Essentially, the First Amendment, if slavishly followed, amounts to an assisted suicide of our Republic. At the very least, we have to prohibit the free exercise of Islam within our borders, but how to do so constitutionally?  My first thought was to more tightly define the meaning of  “religion.” The dictionary definition is of no help:  Religion 1. A. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe. B. A particular integrated system of this expression: the Hindu religion. 2. The spiritual or emotional attitude of one who recognizes the existence of a superhuman power of powers. (2)
Sorry to say, but Islam fits.  There is no way to square the circle. Islam is protected by a law it would do away with. I’m hardly the first to notice this conundrum. Google: “Islam and the first amendment” and you will find extensive discussion of this inherent contradiction.. I especially liked “Islam and the First Amendment” by Tom Gilson 1/21/15 Breakpoint Columns. This link will get you close:

I’m sure the Founding Fathers would have qualified “the free exercise thereof” phrase had they known Islam would someday be a problem.  They didn’t, and we’re stuck. I think a Constitutional Amendment is in order, and ASAP. Until then we will have to rely on common sense and a universal law that has existed far longer than the Constitution: The right of self defense.

(1) I’ve written nine articles about Islam, not all of which were published in The Grant County Beat. Go to and see:

Monsters From The Id, 2/25/14
Groucho, Chico and Islams’s Useful Idiots 12/4/14
Islam 101, Part One 12/18/14
Islam 101, Part Two 12/27/14
Islam 101 Part Three 1/6/15
Islam For Smart Dummies 1/11/15
Islam 101 Part Four 1/18/15
Move Over, Neville Chamberlain 4/6/15
Slandering The Prophet 4/26/15

(2) The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition, Houghton Mifflin 1991, pg. 1044.

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