Recently, Randall Terry made a statement breathtaking for its irresponsibility. He said that if the new health insurance reform bill included coverage for abortion that "others" might resort to violence.
Let all those in government be warned: They cannot order people to pay for the murder of babies, and betray God Himself, without horrific consequences." — Randall Terry
Background: It is clear that many elements in the pro-abortion congress and White House want to force Americans to pay for the murder of the unborn in their "healthcare" program. If that happens, it is tantamount to the government putting a gun to taxpayers’ heads to pay for the brutal murder of an innocent child. This is tyranny and evil of the highest order.
"Please understand: neither I, nor any thinking person wants the convulsions that would inevitably come from such a government policy — the decision to force Americans to pay for the murder of their neighbor.
"Nevertheless, the sheer horror and frustration of such an evil policy will lead some people to absolutely refuse to pay their taxes. And I believe — if my reading of history from America and around the world is correct — that there are others who will be tempted to acts of violence.
There was something about the way he phrased that statement that immediately brought to mind Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a/k/a "the Blind Cleric." In June 2004, Abdel-Rahman issued the a statement, via his lawyer Lynn Stewart, withdrawing his support for a cease fire between The Egyptian Islamic Group (a terrorists organization that had previously gone on a shooting spree at the ancient Temple at Luxor, killing dozens, mostly foreign tourists) and the Government of Egypt. In October of 2004, in response to Abdel-Rahman’s message, the group began a terror bombing campaign that killed 34 people and continued that campaign with more bombings in 2005, killing another 64 people.
Lynn Stewart was convicted for her role in transmitting his message. Note, Lynn Stewart didn’t pass along "warnings" about "acts of violence," Abdel-Rahman’s statement was merely that he no longer supported a cease fire–I say merely, not referring to the content, but for its lack of hyperbolic, flame fanning rhetoric.
Back in 1997, Andrew C. McCarthy, the lead prosecutor in the trial of the sheikh in regard to his plot to destroy New York City landmarks, drew this lesson from the sheikh’s case . . . . he wrote that Americans need to develop a "proper understanding of their constitutional liberties: that beliefs may be freely held or articulated [but that] does not mean that they are beyond public scrutiny or that they can immunize criminal behavior undertaken in their name."
Look, I am a big fan of the First Amendment. Heck, without it, there would be no Firedoglake; it would have been shut down during the Bush Administration for flogging the Plame story. However, even the most ardent free speech advocate knows you can’t yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater. (See, Schenck v. United States. 249 US 47 (1919).)
As with all rights, your right to do as you please ends pretty much where doing so causes another person real harm. For example, your right to swing your arm ends at the point where your fist hits my nose. In the free speech arena, this is known as time, place, and manner restrictions.
Of all the kinds of free speech, "political speech" is traditionally afforded the greatest amount of constitutional protection. Terry’s is clearly political speech, it directly relates to pending legislation. And although I disagree with his position, I truly believe that Terry has the right, and as a prominent person in his movement, maybe even a duty to his cause, to make his position known.
It is the MANNER of his expression that is disturbing. It sure sounds like an incitement to violence. I mean, "warned" of "horrific consequences"; doesn’t get much more violent than that, does it?
[F]ree speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.
(Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, 447 (1969), overruling Schenk v. US .)
If one believes that Terry’s action is directed to inciting imminent lawless action, then Brandenburg clearly prohibits this kind of expression. More significantly, common sense and simple human decency should have caused Mr. Terry to self edit. He could have made his political point very eloquently without crossing the line into incitement to violence.
He does himself and his cause great harm. If he truly believes all life is sacred, not just unborn life, then he cedes the moral superiority of his position by threatening harm to his fellow Americans. Violence against the already born is crime in every state of the Union.
It always amazes me when people who claim to love all stages of human life feel that it is acceptable to bomb a clinic or assault a pregnant woman on her way to Planned Parenthood for pre-natal care, just because of the nature of the building she is walking into. Did you know that Planned Parenthood is one of the biggest providers of pre-natal care (pdf) in the NYC area?
But I digress–we were talking about free speech. I disagree with Mr. Terry’s position on a woman’s right to choose, but I will defend to the death his right to hold it and speak openly about it. This is the essence of national dialogue. What I will not defend, and what Mr. Terry really ought to publicly retract, is any call to further violence against people who do not share his views.
That’s not public debate. That’s domestic terrorism. Just ask Sheik Abdel-Rahman. Oh, wait, you can’t, he’s in SuperMax.