Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Free Speech: Public vs Private

  1. Apr 9, 2003 #1
    I read about the Surpreme Court rulling agaisnt two types of cross-burnings; those on private property, and those that involve tresspassing on someone elses property(for intimidation). I was wondering if anyone sees a difference between burning a cross in someone's yard, and burning it somewhere in the woods, on your property.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 9, 2003 #2
    It's not about what you light on fire, it's about where you light something on fire.
     
  4. Apr 9, 2003 #3

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Zero there is a difference, generally things you do on your property or in your home are your business. BUT, burning a cross on your property is a PUBLIC statement even though you are making it on your property. People don't have to be on your property to see it. Further this kind of statement is DESIGNED for other people to see. Maybe if they could argue that they didn't intend for anyone else to see the burning cross it would be ok. But thats a stretch.

    Tough issue in any case.
     
  5. Apr 9, 2003 #4
    I know its a tough issue...but I wonder at the ramifications of banning all expressions of an unpopular idea. I think the KKK is a disgusting organization, and yet they are still Americans,and still due teh same rights as everyone else.
     
  6. Apr 9, 2003 #5
    i say let them burn crosses all day long as long as they don't violate fire safety and property laws. the idiots need to do something to keep themselves busy and burning crosses sure beats much of the stuff they try to get away with. :wink:
     
  7. Apr 9, 2003 #6

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Well the KKK is allowed to demonstrate and things like that, but cross burning is different because it is a direct threat. Threats have never been protected speach.

    Remember, cross burning origionally was burning a cross on SOMEONE ELSE's lawn. Burning the cross on their own lawn is a more generalized threat, but it is still a threat.
     
  8. Apr 9, 2003 #7
    Good points. Plus, how do you stop banning speech, once you start?
     
  9. Apr 9, 2003 #8
    But what about the people who are only doing it in an attempt to conjure Satan and nothing more?

    At that point it might be out of your hands and you will just have to go along with whatever the masters say.
    [edit]
    ...and likely they won't want you saying anything negative about them either...
     
  10. Apr 9, 2003 #9

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    My guess would be that if you were arrested for it but could PROVE you were only trying to conjure Satan, you'd be off the hook. Of course then you'd have to answer for that virgin you just sacraficed...
     
  11. Apr 9, 2003 #10
    They don't always sacrifice people, but placing the burden of proof on the defendant turns the US justice system inside out. Besides, Satan is even more difficult to prove than Jesus. Or to quote MT;

    "I have no special regard for Satan; but I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side. We have none but evidence for the prosecution and yet we have rendered the verdict. To my mind, this is irregular. It is un-English. It is un-American; it is French. Without this precedent Dreyfus could not have been condemned. As soon as I can get at the facts I will undertake his rehabilitation myself, if I can find an unpolitic publisher. It is a thing we ought to be willing to do for anyone who is under a cloud. We may not pay him reverance, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents. A person who has for untold centuries maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilites of the loftiest order. In his large presence the other popes and politicians shrink to midgets for the microscope. I would like to see him. I would rather see him and shake him by the tail than any member of the European concert."
    -Mark Twain

    But then, this is perhaps more suited for religion.
     
  12. Apr 9, 2003 #11

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    You are of course correct. They could be arrested on suspicion of threats, then the prosecution would have to prove the intent of the cross.

    prosecutor: Youre honor, I'd like to introduce people's exhibit A: One bedsheet, slightly soiled, with a neck hole cut in it.

    defendant: Uh, thats a halloween costume.

    prosecutor: Your honor, I'd like to introduce people's exhibit B: One matching white hood with eye holes cut in it...


    I don't think the prosecution would have trouble with that case.
     
  13. Apr 9, 2003 #12
    I remember one time in middle school, someone threatened to burn a cross in my yard. My response? "Just don't place it in the flower garden. I spent all summer watering it and clean up after you're done."

    One person's explanation for the cross burning was that it was supposed to be "how Jesus is the light of the world".

    Of course, this guy was a glue-sniffing moron so I don't know if that's the REAL reason.
     
  14. Apr 10, 2003 #13
    I think we get into fuzzy territory when we start calling this sort of speech a threat in ALL instances. I think a judge can decide on a case by case basis, instead of having a carpet ban on it(which is actually the decision, according to the latest I have read on it; private dosplays are up to state courts...)
     
  15. Apr 10, 2003 #14
    IMO allowing the burning of a cross or a triangle or a square at any time in any place that allows open fires is perfectly fine. Any conclusion that it is unconstitutional to burn anything, weather it is a picture of Bush, the Pope, Saddam, a cross, an X, a flag, or an old pair of undershorts, is simply foolish and nonsensical.
     
  16. Apr 10, 2003 #15

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Alias, again: free speech only goes so far. You are not allowed to threaten people. If the intent of the speech is to threaten someone, it is illegal.
    It is a fuzzy issue, Zero, but our judicial system is based on PRECIDENT. Once a judicial decision is made, on the matter it becomes a semi-official interpretation of the Constitution/law. Whether or not they change the law after the court case is irrelevant - the ENFORCEMENT of existing laws will change to reflect the court decision. This is a test case.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Free Speech: Public vs Private
  1. Free Speech Zone (Replies: 34)

  2. Free speech zones? (Replies: 44)

Loading...