www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Brownback's budget -1/26/2015, 9:59 AM

Committee meetings begin -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Excitement starts at Capitol -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

What's happening with oil prices? -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Synthetic biology, brave new world -1/26/2015, 9:50 AM

Today's fierce urgency is voter mobilization -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Duke, Muslims and politics of intimidation -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Right to hunt -1/25/2015, 5:02 PM

Pipeline: Foreign profits, American risk -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christianity' -- Chapter 3 -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

Kiwanis generosity -1/23/2015, 7:47 AM

The state economy -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Restate of the union -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

France needs our First Amendment -1/22/2015, 10:23 AM

Repurposing Washington -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

March for Life -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Brownback, the budget and schools -1/20/2015, 9:31 AM

Sensible checks are no assault on gun rights -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

Jeb Bush chooses expedience on marriage issue -1/19/2015, 9:50 AM

The State of the State Address and the legislative session -1/19/2015, 8:47 AM

Spending's not the culprit in budget woes -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Pilgrim's paradise -1/18/2015, 3:32 PM

Spring elections -1/18/2015, 3:23 PM

Kobach is back -1/16/2015, 3:04 PM

More with Les -1/16/2015, 10:03 AM

Understanding Hooper -1/16/2015, 10:02 AM

Basic economics -1/16/2015, 10:01 AM

Female governance -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

2015 energy policy -- a unique opportunity -1/15/2015, 9:37 AM

The better option -1/15/2015, 9:36 AM

'Wall Street' a waste -1/14/2015, 2:50 PM

Trade already -1/14/2015, 2:49 PM

No media bias? -1/14/2015, 2:48 PM

Retirement funds -1/14/2015, 2:47 PM

Redefining public education in Kansas -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

What the future holds -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Efficient education -1/13/2015, 10:06 AM

Terrorists usher in the 'End of Satire' -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

Sexuality, lame logic, substandard science -1/12/2015, 9:14 AM

A tragic family story -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

For freedom, LGBT rights, a year of decision -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Roberts' promotion -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

FHSU campaign -1/11/2015, 12:11 PM

Fairness in U.S. -1/9/2015, 3:05 PM

Liberals' use of black people -- Part II -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Social Darwinist 'Christians' -- Chapter 2 -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Taxing situation -1/9/2015, 9:09 AM

Trust: Society depends on it -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Education schools lack a paradigm -1/8/2015, 9:55 AM

Congress convenes -1/7/2015, 10:07 AM

Simple way to fix gridlock: change committees -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Kansas is your customer -1/7/2015, 10:06 AM

Large budget shortfalls await solution -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

The state and funding K-12 education -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Tree removal -1/6/2015, 10:06 AM

Republicans won -- now what? -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Social Darwinist religion, Chapter 1 -1/5/2015, 9:13 AM

Liberals' use of black people -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Ignorance abounds -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Superbug dilemma -1/2/2015, 9:53 AM

Thanks North Korea -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Sony gets the last laugh -12/31/2014, 1:26 PM

Free speech -12/31/2014, 1:16 PM

New Year's resolutions -- sort of -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

A flat-footed backflip for Wall Street -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Dim the lights -12/31/2014, 9:22 AM

Some near-sure bets for the new year -12/31/2014, 9:21 AM

Adios, Rick Perry -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Budget strife means high-anxiety session -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

Time for caution -12/30/2014, 8:20 AM

-12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Court's raw deal -12/29/2014, 10:01 AM

Chris Christie's pork barrel politics -12/29/2014, 10:00 AM

A Festivus Miracle -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

Faith, not politics, keeps Christ in Christmas -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

EPA rule falls short -12/27/2014, 4:18 PM

2014: The year in Kansas higher education -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Methane from cattle -12/26/2014, 9:39 AM

Black progression and retrogression -12/26/2014, 9:38 AM

Up-Lyft-ing Christmas tale -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Terrorism on soft targets -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Story of Christmas -12/25/2014, 1:22 PM

Fabricated column -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

The Christmas spirit dwells in us all -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

Celebrating life -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

A visit from St. Nicholas -12/24/2014, 8:21 AM

A look ahead to the Legislature -12/23/2014, 9:34 AM

There is a Santa Claus -12/23/2014, 9:34 AM

Cuban sanctions need to be lifted -12/23/2014, 9:33 AM

2016 presidential campaign already boring -12/22/2014, 9:08 AM

A rainbow coalition of protests -12/22/2014, 9:07 AM

Budget needs dynamic leadership, not scoring -12/21/2014, 1:06 PM

Sure, you can say that -- but please don't -12/21/2014, 1:06 PM

Holiday travel -12/19/2014, 10:16 AM

ALEC's starring role in the 'Wrecking Crew' -12/19/2014, 10:17 AM

Should profiling be banned? -12/19/2014, 10:06 AM

No right to misbehave -12/18/2014, 10:09 AM

Pompeo deserves thanks -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Executive orders -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

Attack on Pearl Harbor -12/18/2014, 10:00 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Walking the fine free-speech line

Published on -10/16/2012, 10:15 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

There's nothing in the First Amendment that says we have to like Mark Basseley Youssef. Or Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Or Sam Bacile. Or Nicola Bacily.

Those names all appear to apply to the same person, the man behind production of the controversial, crudely done video that has angered Muslims worldwide.

But the 45 words of the First Amendment do require that we protect Youssef's rights, under whatever name, to express views and hold opinions that others find offensive without fear of being silenced or targeted by the government.

And with much of the world operating under a very different concept -- and often under different laws -- regarding the scope of free-speech protection, we need to keep in mind that what happens here to unpopular speakers can easily be misunderstood elsewhere by the unknowing, or distorted by the dictatorial.

In Youssef's case, the novice filmmaker is also a convicted criminal, having pleaded "no contest" in 2010 to a credit-card fraud charge involving the use of fake names. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison, but was released on parole in June 2011 with conditions barring him from accessing the Internet without approval and from using any name other than his legal name.

The video, "Innocence of Muslims" portrays Islam's revered Prophet Muhammad as a religious fraud and sexual deviant. Youssef was arrested last month and charged with lying to federal investigators who in the wake of fatal rioting overseas were looking into production of the video. Prosecutors claim Youssef applied for a passport under one name, applied for a driver's license under another name, and used a third name in connection with the video.

On Oct. 10, Youssef denied violating his probation conditions. He's being held without bail because officials fear he'll flee the U.S., in part to hide from Muslim extremists who have vowed to kill him for his blasphemy.

If prosecutors can prove in court that Youssef is Nakoula is Bacile or Bacily, the situation would seem fairly straightforward. He violated terms of parole. Back to jail.

But like the very Middle East conflict into which the man has thrust himself, little is "straightforward" about this situation, including his legal predicament and its implications for free expression in the U.S.

Youssef's prosecution for violating parole conditions seems to have moved extraordinarily quickly in comparison to the usual pace in such cases. Some claim the White House is pushing the case "through the back door" to do what it cannot do openly: punish Youssef for producing a film that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "disgusting and reprehensible."

As for Youssef's potential violations, such prosecutions take place every day. If federal officials had not reacted, it's likely critics would be attacking them for doing nothing.

But bearing the gold standard of free speech internationally also means special obligations for the United States. What some may see as a procedural response to a parolee's misstep may instead echo worldwide as mere subterfuge for circumventing our basic freedoms.

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Nov. 9 as the next step in Youssef's saga. The judge is walking a fine line. Move too quickly and the matter will be seen as appeasement to those who want Youssef kept in jail and as a repudiation of centuries of U.S. free-speech protection. Move too slowly and Youssef likely remains jailed -- with the same effect.

The challenge for Judge Snyder and for prosecutors is to keep the process moving, as transparently as possible, and to separate the parole issues from the political ones. Holding bigoted religious views is indeed reprehensible -- but not illegal. If the government wants to prosecute Youssef on a charge of deliberately and directly inciting violence with his video -- if proven, one of the few, very narrow legal restrictions on free speech -- it should do so, and make its case in public.

The First Amendment is not a shield for lawbreakers, but it is one against government officials who would use the letter of the law to void the shelter of its 45 words.

Gene Policinski is senior vice president and executive director of the Washington-based First Amendment Center. gpolicinski@fac.org

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.

Kansas News