As the right to free speech is threatened as never before, here comes this decision: this fellow is free to make a political statement by scaring the daylights out of passersby — at least, unless his Volkswagen van looks too ludicrous to scare anyone, which is likely.
I am glad in these dark days to see any ruling in favor of the freedom of speech, however nutty this fellow may be, but consider a thought experiment: what if this Volkswagen van had been painted with proclamations of hostility to jihad? What if it announced that Muslim immigration should be stopped (which it patently should, given the impossibility of distinguishing actual or potential jihadists from peaceful Muslims)? What if it announced that Islamic groups in the U.S. are carrying out a stealth jihad to subvert American institutions and Constitutional government (which they patently are, as per the 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum that came to light at the trial of the Holy Land Foundation last summer, the Islamic supremacist statements made by CAIR leaders and others, the initiatives to force American businesses and public institutions to make special accommodation for Muslim practices, etc.)? What if it even quoted statements such as the one by CAIR’s Omar Ahmad: “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth”?
Then that there is no telling how this ruling may have come out. Then it would be “hate speech.” And even if the court decision had been the same, CAIR would be issuing “Action Alerts” and “Incitement Watch” pieces about “hatred of Muslims,” and the mainstream media would fall into line behind them. But say you’re a jihadist with a WMD? Fine, fine, be on your way!
“Ninth Circuit Holds Van’s Message of “˜Jihad” Protected Speech,” by Sherri K. Okamoto for the Metropolitan News-Enterprise (Los Angeles), June 30 (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist):
A Grass Valley man’s proclamation via block letters on his 1970 Volkswagen van that he was a terrorist carrying a weapon of mass destruction was political hyperbole protected by the First Amendment, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
A three judge panel concluded that police officers violated Matthew Fogel’s constitutional rights by arresting him and impounding the van upon which he had painted the message, as well as other slogans and paintings, but declined to impose liability against the officers, holding that a reasonable officer could have concluded the message was not protected under existing precedent.
Fogel painted block letters on the back of his van indicating he was a suicide bomber, and declaring “jihad” on the First Amendment and invoking Allah to praise the Patriot Act. The rest of the vehicle was decorated with slogans and paintings added by Fogel and his friends that had no political or threatening character.
When a citizen in the town located between Sacramento and Reno complained about the van, a police officer responded, but told his supervisor that the writing was merely satire. The supervisor disagreed, however, and ordered the officer to treat the situation like a bomb threat.
Officers testified that, upon being questioned about the van’s messages, Fogel said he wanted to “scare people into thinking.” The interviewing officer stated in a deposition that he found Fogel mild-mannered, and that he did not take the writing as a threat.
The officers did not follow standard bomb threat procedures at the scene or during a subsequent search of the van, but impounded the vehicle and arrested Fogel, who spent one night in jail before being released when the district attorney declined to press charges. The police department released Fogel’s van once he removed the writing.
Fletcher also pointed out that the officers who saw the van and its message did not behave as if they believed the speech was a true threat and there was no evidence that Fogel subjectively intended the speech as a true threat of serious harm, leading Fletcher to conclude that Fogel’s message was “exactly the kind of “˜unpleasantly sharp attack– on the government that the First Amendment “welcomes and protects.”…