Letter: Worse than Quran burning

Worse than Quran burning

The column by Rory Marsh ’13 missed the mark in suggesting punishment for Rev. Terry Jones (“My town, tarnished,” Sept. 23). Marsh is right calling Jones’ Quran burning un-American, hateful and bad for the way The U.S. is viewed by the world. It also cost his town a large amount of money. I sympathize with him and I join those condemning Jones’ actions.

But the column gets the issue completely wrong. First, there is no such thing as a hate crime on its own: “Hate crime” as a legal term is simply a condition that calls for higher sentencing guidelines for other crimes. For example, if Jones had beaten up Muslims, then he could be charged with assault and his sentence might be increased if the prosecutors proved that he was motivated by hate. But hateful speech is not by itself a hate crime.

Marsh also implies that President Barack Obama should have threatened to use force against Jones. But as defined in Brandenburg v. Ohio, the standard for restricting speech is only that “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” Jones was not trying to incite violence. Violence as a response to his speech would have come from Islamic extremists, not from those who agree with Jones.

Perhaps, the state of Florida could pass a law banning Quran burning (maybe under the “fighting words” doctrine), but it hasn’t yet, and such a law would probably be ruled unconstitutional anyway.

But the column didn’t call for Florida to pass a law. It called for the arrest of an innocent American citizen for exercising his constitutional rights. In the end, I’m not sure which of the following would be worse for America: if we followed Jones and burned Qurans, or if we followed Marsh and burned the first Amendment.

Eli Markham

Sept. 23

The writer is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College and a Production and Design staffer for the News.


  • justayalemom

    Great article!!!!

  • JE14

    I totally agree.

  • penny_lane

    I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment, but this letter is stylistically atrocious. Where are the editors?

  • Peasant

    I’m disturbed by this comment: “[…] In the end, I’m not sure which of the following would be worse for America: if we followed Jones and burned Qurans, or if we followed Marsh and burned the first Amendment”

    The principles of the First Amendment are of timeless importance to the entire world. Many covet the ability to speak their mind and worship according to their own conscience rather than simply comply with the ideas of those that would threaten harm.

    The author’s claimed uncertainty about the utmost importance of the First Amendment seems to be due to it being pitted against less noble values such as embarrasment of the US’s image and the fear of extremists. Those human weaknesses are often exploited and masses pay the price.

    Under the First Amendment Jones can win by venting, the anti-Jones crowd can win by venting back, and the rest can win by following their conscience in ways that are neither of the above. Without the First Amendment, it would be a crap shoot who would win, but you can bet that overall, violence would be the winner.

    On another note, the author initially writes of an act being un-American as if it is a strong value, but by the end of the article the author abandons that value and shows indecisiveness about burning the core principles of America–the First Amendment. It is very American to exercise First Amendment rights.

    It takes a brave and benevolent people to gain and hold and share the principles of the First Amendment. Selling it out to bullies of any variety should not be taken lightly. For the sake of peace we all need to have spines and hold up to solid principles even if we get a little offended or we think someone is a little weird.

  • Peasant

    eli rocks!

  • penny_lane

    Oh dear. Peasant, you need to get your irony sensors checked. Either that or your middle and high school English teachers never taught you about the use of irony as a rhetorical device, and that is gross negligence indeed on their part.

  • Peasant

    In the end, I’m not sure which of the following the readers are lead to think is worse: burning Qurans, burning the first Amendment, editors committing stylistic atrocities, or the gross negligence of English teachers :)

    penny_lane: I guess I sort of intentionally overrode my irony sensors for a reasons outside of Eli’s letter.

    On a wildly separate note: Won’t you use your passion for English to help the language get over its awkwardness when it comes to the desperate need for a gender non-specific pronoun? Could you support a fresh new pronoun that is as purely masculine as “she” is purely feminine. This could free up “he” to run its natural neutral course and avoid offenses or mistakes that are not intended. For backwards compatibility, interpretting “he” as non-specific to gender is quite convenient if not more accurate. For medical purposes, I suspect an unambigous male pronoun would also be handy.

  • The Anti-Yale

    ” Could you support a fresh new pronoun that is as purely masculine as “she” is purely feminine.”

    I have advocated for thirty years liberation from male inheritance names. Even a woman who retains her maiden name, still carries the male insignia (her FATHER’S name). My married profs at Bread Loaf threw out their birthnames and created a new marriage name from syllables of the discarded names. This still leaves male inheritance names in charge, albeit fractured and spliced. I suggested that women put the prefix “Eve” in front of their last name with a hyphen. “Eve” (the first woman) would be a designator which says I renounce the male domination of the name which follows.

    Otherwise, there is simply no way out of male domination in inheritance names.