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Protest at Tenn. Event to Curb Anti-Muslim Speech Opens Up First Amendment Debate


U.S. Attorney for Eastern Tennessee Bill Killian recently suggested that he’d use federal civil rights laws to crack down on anti-muslim speech, like the recent controversy reported by TheBlaze where a Tennessee county commissioner posted a photo of a man aiming a gun with the caption, "How to wink at a Mulsim."

Killian and an FBI counterpart held an event for "the stated purpose of increasing awareness and understanding that American Muslims are not the terrorists some have made them out to be in social media and other circles" in Coffee County Tuesday, where the U.S. Attorney was met with boos and heckles from 200 protestors that argued he is threatening to infringe on their First Amendment rights. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports:

U.S. Attorney Bill Killian was greeted with shouts of "traitor," "serpent," and calls to "resign" or "go home" Tuesday night at an event aimed at improving relations between local residents and their Muslim neighbors.


State Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he attended the event because "I had concerns when I read Bill Killian's statement [announcing it]."

After the event, Bell said he still was not certain of Killian's position on free speech.

Outside, about an hour before the planned event, more than 200 protesters braved the 90-degree heat outside the conference center to hold up signs and sing patriotic songs. Some called it a "pre-rally" to gather those opposed to any encroachments on free speech.

Some people at the impromptu rally were handing out anti-Islamic literature, other patriotic materials and some Christian materials as several speakers were using a megaphone to work up the crowd.

Killian's actions and statements on federal civil rights laws, along with the protest at his event Tuesday, has opened up a debate on free speech. A First Amendment expert told POLITICO for a report on the growing controversy that the "government may, indeed, play a useful and entirely constitutional role in urging people not to engage in speech that amounts to religious discrimination. But it may not, under the First Amendment, prevent or punish speech even if it may be viewed as hostile to a religion."

On 'Real News' Wednesday the panel discussed offensive speech and censorship, as well as when political correctness of speech stifles legislation and policy.


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