Gay Marriage, Mount Rushmore, Muhammad Doodles, and Free Speech

A group of Black Hills provocateurs plans to blaspheme marriage and Mount Rushmore… on a Sunday, no less!

National Marriage Celebration
National Marriage Celebration “Save the Date” postcard, front, received 2015.05.04.

“Celebrate Marriage Equality”—we all know that’s code for gay marriage, for homosexuals defying the will of God, and here promising to defile the sacred institution of marriage at our sacred Shrine of Democracy.

National Marriage Celebration "Save the Date" postcard, reverse text, received 2015.05.04.
National Marriage Celebration “Save the Date” postcard, reverse text, received 2015.05.04.

The Black Hills Center for Equality provokes us further by expressing their confidence that the Supreme Court will declare their sin equal to our decent heterosexual marriages in June. How dare they?!

I can imagine the National Marriage Celebration stirring passions and provoking protest. I can imagine that passion and protest posing a risk of violent confrontation. But will I ever blame the organizers of National Marriage Day for any violence that could arise from protests of their actions? No. These advocates for marriage equality are exercising their First Amendment rights. No words they say, no loving vows they make at Mount Rushmore on September 6 can justify any response with fists or bullets.

Fawstin-Muhammad2015
Winning cartoon in the American Freedom Defense Initiative’s “Draw Muhammad” contest, by Boyce Fawstin. (Click to access Fawstin’s website… but beware: he hates Obama and reads Ayn Rand.)

Now turn to Garland, Texas, and the attempted attack on the “Draw Muhammad” contest. The organizers are provocateurs, arguably a hate group. Their hiring of heavily armed security guards shows they anticipated that their event would invite violence.

Yet under no moral scheme can we look at the thwarted attempt of two killers from Arizona to attack the “Draw Muhammad” event and say to the organizers and participants of that event, “You had it coming.” This hateful, disgusting group is exercising its First Amendment rights. No words they say, no pictures they draw can justify any response with fists or bullets.

They’re called rights because everybody gets them, even bad people who antagonize for the sake of antagonizing and who lie with the same regularity as they breathe.  But my distrust of their motives and pretty much the rest of their platform are my only criticisms, and they’re irrelevant to this situation.  Even people I don’t like have the right to offend, even if their intentions are less than pure.  They absolutely had the right to hold their exhibit, and it’s just cartoons [J.T. Eberhard, “Two Gunmen Shot and Killed at Draw Muhammad Exhibit in Garland, Texas,” Patheos, 2015.05.04].

Consider the spectrum of provocative speech from Pamela Geller to Charlie Hebdo to the National Marriage Celebration. The anti-Islam propagandist, the French satirists, and the South Dakotans who just want to love the people they love differ greatly in intention and tactics. Yet none of them deserve to be silenced by force. None of them are criminals; the silencers are criminals.


10 Responses to Gay Marriage, Mount Rushmore, Muhammad Doodles, and Free Speech

  1. You are absolutely right, we cannot allow violence, or the threat of violence, to curtail the expression of ideas in speech, writing, or art, however offensive or misguided the source. To do so would sacrifice a core freedom of our society and an essential means of arriving at truth. Blasphemy, an absurd way of viewing opinions contrary to one’s own, is in the eye of the beholder; and to use blasphemy as an excuse to kill is demented. Thank you for posting the Mohammed drawing; it takes some courage to do so.

  2. —You can’t blog me!
    —That’s why I blog you.

    To paraphrase my old friend Martin, who back in high school protested the Madison cinema’s showy refusal to play The Last Temptation of Christ, any god who can’t withstand a mere earthly drawing is a pretty weak god. My god, if I had one, would not command me to kill someone for drawing a picture or reward me for such a cowardly act.

  3. Deb Geelsdottir

    You’ve put together a very diverse collection here, with something to offend, or celebrate, across the political spectrum. Outstanding work Cory.

    I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center lists the evil Geller and her slime ball followers on the borderline next to hate groups. In my decidedly non-expert opinion, they ought to be in the middle of that collection of hatefulness. She is the one who wanted to put hate messages on the NY subways. My question about her: Where does she get the money to plaster advertising on the entire NY subway system? What hateful person/group is that hateful person fronting?

    All that said, as horrible as she is, scum such as her have as much right to say scummy things as any other American.

    Although I doubt I’ll be in the Hills during the Marriage for All celebration . . . CONGRATULATIONS! Woo-hoo!

  4. mike from iowa

    What was the purpose of Mount Rushmore?

  5. Roger Cornelius

    mike from iowa,

    Although I’m not certain, it could be Mount Rushmore was chosen because it is the “Shrine of Democracy”, it is probably an assumption that includes same-sex couples.

  6. Joseph Nelson

    Do you reckon that drawing him could be construed as hate speech? Or have similar legal ramifications of yelling bomb in an airport?

  7. Joseph, I’d have a hard time calling the act of drawing a historical figure “hate speech.” It’s like eating pork: if I do it, I’m not saying, “I hate Muslims” but “I disagree with a certain Muslim belief.” If we classify disbelief as a hate crime, then I’m in trouble.

    As for drawing the prophet and yelling “bomb” in the airport… hmm… The first act incites a lunatic fringe to violence. The second act incites law enforcement to unnecessary enforcement action that may distract from real threats. I can see the argument for the second act to be punishable (although I still chafe at having to give up the First Amendment every time I fly). Punishing the first act feels much more clearly like punishing the rape victim for wearing sexy clothes.

  8. the last time I blasphemed mt. rushmore it was 1969-70 when my band was the entertainment for the 1st annual hunger walk-a-thon from rc to mr. we of course played the popular proto-punk anthem -of-the-day, “kick out the jams(mofo)” and were promptly barred from ever playing mt. rushmore again, and in fact all rock’n roll music was banned from that infamous venue until the 90s when the “presidents of the united states”-a new version of punk came along, and played-you guessed it-“kick out the jams( sanitized w/ NO mofo)”. lotsa barbershop quartets and other domesticated choirs ect get to play the place though-go figure :)