Precinct 333

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Stupid Letter, Stupid Decision -- But Still Constitutionally Protected

Back on December 2, 2003, the Tucson Citizen printed a letter to the editor. The author suggested that going to a mosque and killing five Muslims for every soldier killed in Iraq.

Printing it was stupid.

There was outrage, and rightly so.

Muslim families kept their kids home from school out of fear of violence.

Apologies were made, and the author of the letter clarified that he meant mosques in Iraq, not those in the area.

And that should have been the end of it. Except for folks filing lawsuits in an attempt to gut the First Amendment. On January 13, two Muslims filed suit alleging assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Muslims.
You can express your opinion but not — especially with what's going on in the Middle East — if you put some people's lives at risk," said plaintiff Aly Elleithee, an accountant and immigrant from Egypt. "Somebody has to be accountable for what they did."

A trial judge dismissed the assault claim, but allowed the other claim to stand.
"Clearly, reasonable minds could differ in determining whether the publication of the letter rose to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct," Judge Miller wrote.

The Arizona Supreme Court is now deciding whether to overturn that decision.

It should be a no brainer. After all, no specific threat was made, nor did the publication of the letter put anyone's life or safety in immediate danger.
"If the trial court's ruling is allowed to stand, political speech that falls well short of advocating immediate violence may be subject to sanction in Arizona — making this state a uniquely risky jurisdiction in which to publish news and commentary," the Citizen's lawyers wrote in the appeal.

Without any immediate physical threat to anyone, publication of the letter is constitutionally protected, the newspaper's appeal said.

If this decision is allowed to stand as rendered by the Ninth Circuit wanna-be, then the First Amendment is trumped by the first person to say they are scared or their feelings have been hurt. And all it will take is one overly sensitive member of the minority to trump the freedom of speech of the majority.


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