Sympathies for the devil

A deranged Christian extremist in Florida, Terry Jones, burned a religious book and across the world an enraged Afghanistan crowd tore several innocent U.N. and police workers to bloody pieces.

There has been outcry from officials that these deaths were the Ė which it did last month with the most vicious intentions of denouncing Islam. So youíve got one extreme religious group insulting, destroying a religious symbol, because in its eye the other is too extreme. Talk about calling the kettle black.

Iím not personally saying the church was justified in burning the Koran, but they absolutely have the right. You can burn the United States flag, the Bible, or the Constitution if you want and no one can do any thing about it. This is a free country, and you are free to express yourself even when it includes burning cultural, government or religious symbols in legitimate protest, for no reason at all or for a really offensive and stupid idea.

So after the church burned the Koran, thousands of people in Afghanistan, whose enflamed passions were fanned by Muslim religious extremists, stormed U.N. and Afghan police buildings in response, killing about 20 people in the name of Allah.

If Allah, or any God, would condone any such action, then Iíd be more than happy to burn his book. Of course what the Bible, the Koran or any religious text really says depends almost exclusively on what the reader wants to see in it.

The Westboro Baptist Church, headed by another disturbed Pastor, Fred Phelps, has set out on the mission of picketing the funerals of dead soldiers and others carrying inflammatory signs decrying Americaís social liberties. It blames our nationís turmoil on homosexuality and the war is godís punishment. And here I though it was the Bush administrationís rash decision to manufacturer evidence of weapons of mass destruction and exploit an injured nationís post 9/11 political fervor.

One father who buried his son decided to sue the church for infringing on his right to hold a private funeral.

But in early March, the United States Supreme Court said the church had the right to protest so long as it didnít directly interfere with the funeral service. Basically as long as the nut-jobs stand a distance enough away and picket along the road, the Constitution supports the option to support any crazy cause you wish to demonstrate.

The worst part about the decision though is that the father who originally brought the case, and initially won a lawsuit in lower courts, now has to pay tens of thousands in legal fees back to the church.

In another civil liberties case, the United States has decided to deny the rights of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay Gulag in Cuba.

Fearing that it will be unable to secure pre-ordained convictions in a fair justice system due to the fact the U.S. tortured the defendants, and violated a number of other constitutional rights historically guaranteed to everyone, the Attorney General has reversed course and is now shipping the men to face more restrictive military tribunal.

The sole goal of this decision is to deprive these men of a fair trial, to purposely remove their rights to defend themselves.

Now I know this is controversial notion, but I believe all people have undeniable human rights and they should be unconditionally granted the respects offered to them by our founding fathers through the Constitution. I donít think George Bush had the legal power or the moral position to undue that long history. Thanks to the recent leak of additional information about the prisoners, we can now see just how many of them were really just routine combatants; most, in fact.

Theyíre no more different or monstrous than the thousands of other enemies our country has had over the decades, no less deserving of specially harsh treatment. I hate to admit this but in our countryís endeavor to fight terrorism, weíve become quite frightening ourselves. Itís not a stretch to say our government may have willfully and intentional torture children. Teen prisoners held at Gitmo, who would have been minors in most first world countries, were not spared our zeal for security and interrogation. You canít be the leader of the free world when you run one of the worldís most notorious and totalitarian prisons. I am, and we should be, ashamed. The America I learned to love was better than this.

I realized that standing by me in all these personal freedom and civil liberty arguments is the devil, and he always will be. I say the devil because he represents the unsolvable problem of creating offensive expression whenever you offer genuine freedom of speech. Heíll be there to promote the most guilty manís defense, but how else do we sort out the innocents?

Once separated from the debate, do our high principles reflect the reality of common sense? It might not seem so. Offensive protesting at a veteranís funeral, the burning of a holy book that leads to international violence and the prospect of mass murders hoping to reap more destruction could go free.

There is no individual we can set apart of the law, no one exception we should treat differently from another. Each time we make a special case to deprive a single person of the rights entitled to the rest of us, we diminish the Constitutional powers protecting all. If our ideals of right and wrong swing on a political pendulum of poplar justice, thatís not justice.

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