Infamous Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones planned another September 11 stunt—burning one Koran for every victim of 9–11 terrorist attacks, making a pile of 2,998 Korans.
Police and other authorities have pleaded with him in the past not to carry out such public demonstrations, as they claim the incendiary protests provoke Muslim terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world putting American and other innocent lives at risk.
This year, it appears the authorities planned ahead, did a little homework, and got clever. And this year, Jones’ provocative free speech was thwarted by Jones’ lack of detailed knowledge of the law. He got nailed for a felony on a charge completely unrelated to free speech: the unlawful conveyance of fuel.
Yes, Jones was towing a barbecue grill laden with those Korans already pre-soaked in kerosene. According to Florida state law, “It is unlawful for any person to maintain, or possess any conveyance or vehicle that is equipped with, fuel tanks, bladders, drums, or other containers that do not conform to 49 C.F.R. or have not been approved by the United States Department of Transportation for the purpose of hauling, transporting, or conveying motor or diesel fuel over any public highway. Any person who violates any provision of this subsection commits a felony of the third degree.”
Now, whether the facts in Jones’ case will actually fall afoul of this law or not is beside the point. The police tactic here was to prevent the burning event, and thus thwart the occasion. They were able to use an unrelated statute that provided enough color of law that they could arrest him on the spot. Whether the charge sticks or not doesn’t matter. The police accomplished what they wanted.
There are two sides to this lesson. First, if you’re going to be a Terry Jones, you’d better know the law and your rights very well. Appealing to “my first amendment rights” or any other amendment will not prevent you from being arrested for any of a thousand other points of law. Whether your right is preeminent at the time or not, if there is enough color of law to arrest you, you will be arrested. Especially in situations like these, involving small scale protests, police may often have been given an agenda ahead of time. They will arrest first, sort out the questions later. And in the meantime, anything you say or do can only be used against you in a court of law, not for you.
Now, if you follow through with such a protest with the intention of challenging any such arrest, that’s a different story. But it’s not a different process. And you’d still better know your stuff before you go ahead. You’d better not rely of some naïve notion of “my constitutional rights.”
On the other side, this reveals the extent to which our police state has long since turned into a legal behemoth police state. If authorities decide they want to interfere with your life, they have a vast array of laws and statutes at their disposal that they can probably find something to give them an open door. Then, they can use the full scope of legal and psychological tactics (intimidation, etc.) to justify their actions. And even if they lose, they have caused you a major headache, probably legal expenses, and they have few ramifications if any in most cases.
This fine lecture given by a Christian law professor on the Fifth Amendment emphasizes the importance of not talking to police under any circumstances. It is interesting in that the professor gave part of his time over to an experienced policeman and police interrogator. He asked the student audience, “Are any of you guilty of anything?” No? LOL. He explains,
Everybody does something that they can get in trouble for. . . . When I was a uniform I could follow a car however long I needed to and eventually they’re going to do something illegal, and I can pull them over . . . and justifiably.
This is simply a witness to the evils of both the extent and nature of a civil-law legal system. I have contrasted this with the biblical view in my applications of 1 Samuel 14:24–52, “Common Law vs. Central Planning.” Under the current type of legal system, anyone can be stopped for something virtually at any time, as the officer stated. This is not biblical-style freedom, it is the very Egyptian-style tyranny from which God delivered His people.
This unrelated-charge phenomenon can sometimes appear to have good outcomes. It was just this tactic that was used to bust Al Capone. Suspected of murders, violence, prostitution rings, and much else, the authorities could never prove anything against him. Finally, the so-called “Untouchables” (decent movie by the way) busted him for . . . tax evasion. Oh, you’re running legitimate businesses, eh? Let’s just look at those tax records. He spent eight years in federal prison.
Now that looks like a good thing, but remember, the very rise of gangland violence in this nation was almost entirely the result of prohibition—something biblical law does not support. Not to mention, the IRS and income tax have no biblical warrant either. Thus it was man-made law and statutes that created the problems to begin with. When another man-made unbiblical law then comes around and partially cleans up the problems the same system made to begin with, what have we accomplished?
And keep in mind, like him or not, Jones is no felon. He’s certainly not a murderer or criminal of those sorts. But he wanted to be provocative, and the authorities were all against him. Thus he got the Untouchables treatment.
Call it conspiracy by the authorities. Call it what you want. But don’t call it freedom. And this rings true in every back yard in the country.