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Monday, April 07, 2003

When I Survey the Hateful Cross-The Supreme Court ruled a Virginia law against cross-burning constitutional on a 6-3 vote. It was an odd coalition, with Suter, Ginsberg and Kennedy voting against, Thomas voting for in a concurring opinion, with the remaining five stating that it didn't violate free speech. Free speech cases seem to be ones that can bust apart the classic right-left coalition; when's the last time Kennedy was on the short-end of a 6-3? I'm not sure I like the precedent of being able to single out types of speech, but there doesn't seem to be too many cases where cross-burning would not have an intimidation effect. If I remember my tort law, assault technically means the threat of violence; a cross burned in the presence of a group targeted by the Klan is an implied threat of violence against said group. This isn't a mere bonfire. Threatening speech can be held illegal, and the court did just that. There isn't a good way to write this into law, but the idea that the symbol of God's sacrificial love for us can be turned into a symbol of evil incarnate turns my stomach. It's one thing to make fun of iconography, like Serrano's infamous piece, it's yet another thing to turn it into a force for evil.

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