Tag Archives: American Freedom Defense Initiative

Is this the same as yelling 'fire!'?

It’s been said many times about the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment that free speech is protected except when you yell “fire!” in a crowded movie theater.

Therefore, I’m wondering if it’s fair to ask if staging an event that you know could provoke a violent reaction from someone offended by is the same as yelling “fire!”


Pamela Geller told The Associated Press she has no regrets over playing host to a contest to draw the Muslim prophet Muhammad in Garland, near Dallas. The event resulted in gunfire by two Muslims who then were shot to death by a Garland police officer.

Free-speech advocates — and I’m one of them, to be sure — suggest that Geller was exercising her right of free speech as a leader of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. She stands by her constitutional right. Her organization is virulently anti-Muslim. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls it a hate group.

The Constitution’s right of free political expression is rock-solid. Everyone knows that.

However, is it responsible to engage in free speech when you can expect with some reasonable certainty that it’s going to result in violence?

This is a troubling question for me. I don’t have the answer. I’m looking for help.

I’m all ears.

Free speech does have its limits

Garland police officers responded as they should have when two gunmen opened fire at a “contest” to draw the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

They shot the men dead.


Now the debate has ensued. Were the provocateurs — the folks who sponsored a contest they knew would provoke that kind of response from Muslims — merely exercising their rights of “free speech”?

My answer? No.

They knew that illustrating the prophet is offensive to Muslims. Indeed, the group that sponsored the “contest,” an outfit called the American Freedom Defense Initiative, has been identified as an extremist anti-Muslim group.

So, do you think these folks knew what to expect when they staged this event? My guess is that they knew.

The shooters were described as Islamists. One of them, Elton Simpson, allegedly wrote a good-bye note to his friends and family before he started shooting. He knew he’d meet his end in Garland.

As Jim Mitchell of the Dallas Morning News writes in his blog: “Islamic extremism is a global curse. Cartoon contests in Garland aren’t going make a bit of difference in combating it. But insensitive contests like the one yesterday will provoke lone wolves and insult an entire religion. And I ask, to what purpose? This wasn’t discourse; it was a opportunity to draw offensive cartoons for the sake of drawing offensive cartoons. My idea of defensible free expression has a higher and more noble purpose.”

It’s widely established and known around the world that Muslims don’t react well when Muhammad is depicted in cartoons or illustrated simply for the sake of producing a worldly image. Do non-Muslims agree with this religious tenet? No. But it’s not non-Muslims’ place to judge how those who worship a certain religion are supposed to believe.

We should be grateful that the FBI had tipped off the Garland Police Department.

Its officers responded correctly.