Tennessee

Originally posted at FrontPageMag.com.

A LESSON ON FREE SPEECH AND SHARIA IN KNOXVILLE

A stunning defeat for CAIR in an unlikely place.

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A recent legal victory by Freedom X upheld the right of private citizens to discuss openly sharia law at a Knoxville, Tennessee, high school. “This is a victory for free speech,” Freedom X’s President William J. Beckerrightly explained, in yet another instructive example of Islamists seeking to subvert the United States Constitution’s First Amendment.

A local Knoxville chapter of ACT! for America began the case by arranging an April 24 evening town hall atFarragut High School (FHS). The event featured Dr. Bill French, Center for the Study of Political Islam founder under the pen name Warner, and Matt Bonner, regional director of the Crescent Project, a Christian evangelization ministry for Muslims. They intended to address the encroachment in America of sharia, vaguely described in one online report as “Islamic laws governing worship and lifestyle.” Becker correctly clarifies that “Sharia is incompatible with our constitutional and legal protections” in numerous ways.

Both local and national Muslims groups, however, greeted the event with harsh opposition. Abdel Rahman Murphy, a Muslim chaplain at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, emailed then FHS principal Mike F. Reynolds on April 8 requesting the event’s cancellation. The town hall flyer had “kind of an aggressive tone,” Murphy argued to reporters. “Feel free hosting” the event “anywhere else by renting out a banquet hall,” Murphy added, “but to host it at a public place…is not comfortable for the rest of us.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a radical faux civil rights group and an unindicted terrorism financing coconspirator, also objected. An April 11 CAIR news release publicized a letter by CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper to FHS the previous day that “vilifies…French, Bonner and ACT! for America” with a “false attribution” of “anti-Muslim hate” refuted by Becker’s complaint. “We support the First Amendment right to free speech—even…hate speech used by these speakers,” Hooper argued. The “need for a safe and inclusive learning environment,” though, makes a “school…not the proper setting.”

Principal Reynolds’ April 10 letter to Knox County Schools Superintendent James P. McIntyre, Jr. shared Hooper’s sentiments. “Groups promoting hate rather than tolerance” would have the event “serve as a public forum for harassment and bullying practices that contradict the open-minded, academic discussion we seek to…foster at” FHS, Murphy wrote. The event would generate “little positive press or educational benefit,” yet “polarize our community” when “deemed ours by association.” Concerns of “potential backlash” and “future security threats” from “retaliation of opposing groups” existed. These “expressed concerns…about…disruption” from an event unsuitable for “a safe, healthy and comfortable learning environment” caused McIntyre to rescind ACT!’s invitation in an April 11 letter to its Knoxville chapter leaders.

A Knoxville school official was “happy to announce” ACT!’s uninviting. Hooper boasted of the school’s decision, arguing that “this event in a public school would send an implicit message of endorsement for the bigoted views of the speakers.” Knoxville schools must “remain a safe place for all students,” concurred Remziya Suleyman from the Tennessee-based Muslim organization, American Center for Outreach.

The Knoxville ACT! chapter’s president John Peach held the event in a church, not seeking other public venues for fear of another cancellation. “Sharia is not well-understood and we wanted to inform the public” as “concerned Americans,” Peach said. An “American…should” not “be afraid to speak out on public matters in a public forum.”

Peach noted that Muslim groups such as the Saudi-backed Muslim Students Association, meanwhile, could openly operate unopposed at the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus. “If it’s right for Muslims to host events in tax-funded public facilities, then what is wrong with a group of citizens wanting the same,” he asked. “This is a great example of what Sharia Law is doing to America.”

On August 4th, Peach and French with Becker as counsel sued the school district for violating his First Amendment constitutionally protected rights. “It is unfortunate we have to educate the educators,” Becker stated in filing the lawsuit to coincide with the school year opening, but the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech…distinguishes America from Muslim nations.” “CAIR and other terror-affiliated groups are exploiting our laws,” Becker analyzed, “to erode…freedom of speech…part and parcel of a greater plan” for an “Islamic caliphate.” “Unfortunately…as Muslim activists play the victim card,” this trend will grow, even though blasphemy laws are unconstitutional.

Because “litigation would have been futile,” Becker rejoiced, the school’s attorneys settled just 21 days after his filing. An “undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome” the “hazardous freedom” that “is the basis of our national strength,” the 1969 United States Supreme Court Tinker v. Des Moines School District decision cited by Becker held. In addition to paying plaintiff attorney fees and costs, a new school district policy states that “[a]pproval for use of school buildings and property will not be withheld based upon the content of the message or viewpoint of the applicant.”

As with a prior June 2014 Chicago CAIR lead protest involving another instance of ACT! using public facilities for an anti-Sharia program, America’s First Amendment protections have stopped those who would inhibit open discussion of Islam. Vague “hate” or “disruption” claims have not silenced indirectly in America speech censored directly in majority-Muslim countries or “multicultural” sensitive Europe. The Knoxville case, a precedent that will not remained unnoticed, has shown groups like CAIR that Americans will not hesitate to defend free speech under assault even in the land of the free.

This article was commissioned by The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.


 

Freedom X Sues Tennessee School District For Discriminating Against Group Warning Of Islamic Law Threat

Muslim pressure on U.S. school district results in censorship of after-hours presentation

KNOXVILLE, TN – Freedom X, a non-profit legal organization, filed a federal lawsuit on August 4 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee against the Knox County Schools and two school officials after the school district canceled an after-hours presentation at a Knoxville public high school in reaction to demands by Muslim activists.

The lawsuit (ACT! for America Knoxville vs. Knox County Schools) alleges that school officials cancelled an evening town hall meeting sponsored by a local chapter of ACT! for America (“ACT! Knoxville”) set last April at Farragut High School in Knoxville, TN. ACT! Knoxville planned the event to discuss the increasing acceptance of Islamic law (known as sharia) within the United States and its harmful impact on American freedom. Labeling ACT! Knoxville and its scheduled speakers “bigots,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a local Muslim cleric wrote the school protesting ACT! Knoxville’s use of public school facilities, arguing the event was likely to incite violence and “disrupt the school environment.”

William J. Becker, Jr., Freedom X president and general counsel, stated that Muslim activists resort to fear-mongering as a way of silencing critics of Islamic law. “Muslims in America led by CAIR and other terror-affiliated groups[1] are exploiting our laws to erode everyone else’s freedom of speech,” Becker said. “It’s part and parcel of a greater plan to eventually make us into an Islamic caliphate.”

Becker said that blasphemy laws are unconstitutional. “Public officials, and that includes public school officials, violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment whenever they censor speech merely because it offends someone. Unfortunately, we are seeing this trend grow as Muslim activists play the victim card.”

ACT! Knoxville was forced to move its meeting to a church following the school district’s cancellation. John Peach, its director, said he didn’t seek out another public venue out of concern the group’s request would be rejected. “We are concerned Americans,” Peach said. “Sharia is not well-understood and we wanted to inform the public about it. I don’t think that as an American I should have to be afraid to speak out on public matters in a public forum affecting our culture.”

The ACT! Knoxville event featured an expert on Islam and the Koran and a representative of the Crescent Project, a Christian group that teaches the gospel to Muslims.

The lawsuit was filed to coincide with the start of the new school year. “We have a lesson to teach the teachers,” Becker stated. “The First Amendment protects speech some might not want to hear but school officials are sworn to uphold the Constitution and to allow it. They were tricked into censoring American citizens wanting to exercise the freedom of speech that distinguishes America from Muslim nations.”

Freedom X is a non-profit legal organization protecting conservative and religious freedom of expression.

 

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American Flag t-shirt

In 2010, Freedom X sued to vindicate the right of public school students to express their patriotic pride by wearing American flag-themed clothing even on May 5 , the day the Mexican-American holiday Cinco de Mayo is celebrated. Ultimately, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the wearing of such attire poses a safety challenge that frees school officials to silence such expression. 

William Becker’s opinion: Should the U.S. Supreme Court hear MH’s Cinco de Mayo controversy?

Published in the February 4-17, 2015 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By William Becker

William Becker

In 1984, Gregory Lee Johnson, protesting outside of the Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, poured kerosene on a U.S. flag and set it on fire. He was convicted under a Texas criminal statute.

Concluding Johnson’s First Amendment right of free expression had been violated, the United States Supreme Court overturned Johnson’s conviction. Flag desecration was thus declared a constitutional right regardless of who it offended.

What the courts have never been asked to decide —until now — is whether the celebration of our nation’s flag deserves the same level of constitutional protection. In our lawsuit against Morgan Hill Unified School District, Live Oak High School officials feared that self-identified “Mexican” students offended by the flag’s image would respond with violence.

But do those who threaten violence — or who simply claim to be offended by the display of our flag on Cinco de Mayo — have a constitutional right not to be offended?

Consider Sony Pictures’ recent decision to cancel the release of a satirical film lampooning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following terror threats against theaters planning to show it. Or the murder of French cartoonists who satirically depicted the prophet Muhammad. In each case, violence — or the threat of it — was used to suppress ideas offensive to someone. Fear trumped freedom.

America’s founding fathers understood that dissent was vital to a free republic, and that the freedom to say things some people find offensive needed to be jealously guarded. Inoffensive speech requires no protection. And no one has a right to not be offended.

Why do the Mexican students feel they have a right not to be offended, and what about the flag is offensive to them? The Supreme Court has described our flag as “a symbol of national unity.”

Yet when a group of patriotic demonstrators sought to convey support for our lawsuit by hoisting the flag outside of Live Oak last year, the school fenced them (and their flags) out of students’ view, preferring instead to create a “unity” banner.

Our Constitution does not impose a one-day-per-year calendar restriction on the right to celebrate our flag. In Morgan Hill, race relations will fester until its schools begin teaching respect for our flag — the preeminent symbol of national unity — and freedom of expression, our only safeguard against political orthodoxy.

William J. Becker, Jr., Esq., is the founder and director of Freedom X, a nonprofit legal organization that promotes conservative and religious freedom of expression. Freedom X is lead counsel in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified School District, currently on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.