Media Coverage of Koran Dunking Incident
August 1, 2007
by Luke Sheahan
There is no question that the Koran does not receive any special protection under the law that the Bible, the Torah, or (from a secular perspective) the American flag doesn’t receive. A person can take a jug of toilet water and pour it over the Koran at a public demonstration. A person could do all the obscene things to the Koran that radical secular leftists have done to the Christian religious images. A person does not, however, have the right to stop up a university toilet. Whether you’re drop a bowling ball, a copy of Moby Dick, or a holy book into a toilet, you don’t have a right block someone else’s bowl.
It seems to me that this sort of use of the hate crime statutes is at least very dangerous to free speech, and may well be unconstitutional. Unfortunately, people sometimes act in illegal — often mildly illegal — ways when engaged in protest. It’s right to punish them for such actions. But it seems to me that they shouldn’t be punished more (potentially much more, as when a misdemeanor is turned into a felony) because they were motivated by disapproval of a religion, a religious practice, a sexual orientation, and the like, or were motivated by a desire to offend people based on these criteria.Such additional punishment is not, it seems to me, primarily punishment for the crime (since that would have been covered by the unenhanced punishment), or even for the discriminatory selection of a crime’s target. Rather, it is punishment for the ideology that motivated the crime. And it will deter even speakers who have that ideology but have no plans to commit any crimes…
Without [the rule of law], the level of protection speech receives depends on the arbitrary whims of the powerful—which is something about which people on the receiving end of the kind of harassment in question should be especially concerned.Stanislav Shmulevich should be punished for crimes he has committed. But the thoughts in his head are his own.