Thursday, June 12, 2008

How much is too much freedom?

Should a private school that leases its land from the state be required to submit its curriculum for approval by the state? That's the interesting legal question that will eventually need to be answered after it was discovered that an Islamic school in Fairfax, Virginia was teaching that
"...apostates (those who convert from Islam), adulterers and people who murder Muslims can be permissibly killed.

The authors of a 12th-grade text on monotheism write that "(m)ajor polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible," meaning that a Muslim can take with impunity the life and property of someone believed guilty of polytheism. According to the panel, the strict Saudi interpretation of polytheism includes Shiite and Sufi Muslims as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists."
The textbooks mimic the education typically received in Saudi Arabia. MSNBC is running a poll asking whether this school should be shut down. Currently, there are over 13,000 votes with nearly 69% saying that the school should be shut down. I'd love to know how that breaks down in terms of political ideology - conservative or liberal - and the differing interpretations of the separation of church and state and the First Amendment.

The resolution of this question could have particular importance to homeschoolers (and really all parents) depending on how broadly this is applied. If the state can regulate an Islamic school because they lease public land, could they insist on approving or disapproving what is taught by parents that accept some form of state assistance, whether it be state aid like WIC or participation in a public e-school? Or what about a Christian church that leases a public school for its Sunday service? Are they subject to state approval for what they teach in their Sunday school?

In a related question, should the US reconsider what is "hate speech?" Not surprisingly, there are various opinions,

Anthony Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections "in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism." In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court's insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.

Harvey Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Boston, disagreed. When times are tough," he said, "there seems to be a tendency to say there is too much freedom."
"Free speech matters because it works," Silverglate continued. Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.

The issue is topical due to a Canadian trial surrounding an article written by Mark Steyn, author of the book America Alone in a Canadian publication, Maclean's. Such articles are protected by the First Amendment in the United States, but Muslims hope that the Canadian government will be sympathetic to their claim that the article amounts to "hate speech." The Ontario Human Rights Commission said, "In Canada, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, nor should it be."

Mark Steyn counters, "The problem with so-called hate speech laws is that they're not about facts, they're about feelings....Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world."

These are interesting cases with profound implications as international law continually affects our judiciary and their decisions on various cases.

HT: Michelle Malkin

No comments: