Free speech and Koran burning

By now you’ve probably heard of Terry Jones, the preacher in Florida who put the Koran on trial, found it guilty, and “executed” it by burning a copy of the book. Subsequently, riots broke out in Afghanistan in which 16 people have been killed, including 7 U.N. employees. Now Americans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, are starting to suggest that perhaps Mr. Jones should be prosecuted for his actions.

First things first: the preacher is an idiot. To protest the actions of radical, fundamentalist Muslims, he did something considered to be blasphemous to all Muslims. That’s like protesting the KKK by burning Bibles. He and his congregation are world-class twits for having done what they did.

But how can anybody be considering taking legal action against him? Seriously? How does this not fall squarely into the First Amendment? Freedom of speech extends to people who say things that we–perhaps vehemently–disagree with. Frankly that’s the very point of it.

Some have compared it to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. I don’t see the comparison. The panic induced in a theater would result in harm even though the people involved would act (more or less) rationally: trying to get away from the perceived fire. In this case, 16 innocent people were killed because somebody burned a book thousands of miles away. I don’t care how blasphemous it is; that is not rational. To somehow suggest that Mr. Jones should be prosecuted because of what he said, no matter how stupid, is completely contrary to the principles this nation was founded on.