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U.S. Attorney Bill Killian greeted by hostile crowd at Manchester, Tenn., free speech event

5 June 2013 General 32 Comments Email This Post Email This Post
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An unidentified man shouts to U.S. Attorney Bill Killian as he speaks in the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center during a meeting Tuesday called “Public Discourse in a Diverse Society.”
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

by Ben Benton, timesfreepress.com

MANCHESTER, Tenn. — 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.

Killian and Kenneth Moore, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville office, were featured speakers before a hostile crowd of well over 300 at the “Public Disclosure in a Diverse Society” event at the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center.

Despite the noisy crowd, Killian began a dry delivery of information about hate crimes, civil rights and the federal laws that prescribe violations and penalties.

The event was sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee, which was formed two years ago when state lawmakers were considering legislation that would ban Sharia, the law followed by devout Muslims. Killian initially pitched the event as an effort at improving understanding and tolerance of Muslims and their religious beliefs.

He told the audience that despite 50 prosecutions and convictions of hate crimes in his district, “far too many people are still repeating the same vicious acts against the Arab-Muslim … ”

But he was cut off by shouts from the crowd.

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.

One man’s sign read: “In America, you are free to practice your religion, and I am free to insult it.”

Bell Buckle, Tenn., resident John Anderson, the sign’s author, said he wanted to know “why two federal employees are not looking into [Attorney General] Eric Holder” rather than holding the night’s event.

Residents inside at the meeting had similar feelings.

“Let me be clear, in this country, hateful speech is allowed,” Killian said. “It is protected by the freedom of speech part of the first amendment.

“But if someone makes threats of violence, that is not protected speech and they will be prosecuted,” he said. “Likewise, if someone commits acts of violence under the guise of religious or other speech, they will be prosecuted for their violent acts.”

Killian said the same behaviors that lead to bullying in schools also lead to hate crimes and other acts of hate and violence.

Controversy arose earlier this year in the community over a Facebook post by Coffee County Commissioner Barry West, who drew fire for posting an illustration showing a man in a cowboy hat pointing a double-barreled shotgun at the viewer with the caption: “How To wink at a Muslim.”

West since has apologized.

“I wish to issue a heartfelt sincere apology to anyone I have offended or hurt in my sharing of the Facebook picture,” he is quoted as saying in the May 8 edition of the Manchester Times.

First Amendment Center president and executive director Gene Policinski said before the Manchester meeting on Tuesday that the details of the threat and the specificity of its target are significant in determining how federal law applies to comments made in a public forum.

The threat “has to be likely, imminent and directed at a specific person,” Policinski said.

He said remarks such as those made by West are protected speech.

Killian didn’t address West’s post, except to acknowledge that it created a stir in the community.

“While [West’s] cartoon might be tasteless and crass and juvenile and even hateful, I think the founders of this nation provided for people to be able to express those views,” Policinski said. “When it comes to a public official, I think the market place idea is protected under the First Amendment, where voters can decide if this is the kind of person whose opinion and whose judgment they trust to hold public office.”

In all instances, the First Amendment “requires government to really demonstrate that it’s a true threat before they can restrict our speech,” he said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Subscribe on Facebook at facebook.com/ben.benton1 and follow on twitter.com/BenBenton.

Original post: U.S. Attorney Bill Killian greeted by hostile crowd at Manchester, Tenn., free speech event

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32 Comments »

  1. The funny thing about most people against this is that they think they are so kind and American. It makes me sick. What’s so patriotic about not even trying to understand a different culture? So ignorant…

  2. I have been treated far better by Muslims than people from Tennessee.

  3. Yes, there are ignorant and uneducated Americans.

  4. Ignorance is rampant, as long as we involve faith in government this will happen. All these misguided right wing christians are whipped into a frenzy of bigotry by the GOP and Teaparty. This country was founded on acceptance of others. Idiots!

  5. :(

  6. Tennessee seems to be trying hard to win the “Craziest State” award.

  7. dont you just love White america at times?

  8. Nothing like “good Christian people” out there showing their “good Christian values” by engaging in “good Christian behaviour”. (Please understand- My mother tongue is sarcasm. English is my 2nd language.)

  9. south….huuu! why am I not surprised?

  10. What makes me laugh is how theses people call themselves Christians & Patriots. God teaches us to love everyone ( even our enemies ), but these idiots try to use God to back up their hate! ” do into others!” That means treat people the way you want to be treated! When you put out hate, that’s what you will receive! I truly expect this from people in the south, they are the ones who believe that all races are inferior to the ” White ” race!!! Christians teach & live by the word of God! Patriots fight for their country, and all of the citizen in it no matter race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation!!! Truth & Love will prevail!!!

  11. These same people would probably praise their representatives who have signed loyalty oaths to Israel as ‘true American patriots’. Such is the hypocrisy of the conservative.

  12. So the US Attorney announced 50 arrests and convictions for hate crimes, then got shouted down when he began to explain how to reduce hate crimes. Build another jail, I guess.

  13. Of course, if people like Stephen Branch, would stop pretending that all the bigots and racists in the US are in the South, and not where they themselves live, we might make more progress everywhere.

  14. Jesus loves me and shares my hate?

  15. the ignorant, the violent, and the just plain stupid all got together…funny they could find their way down the street.

  16. This outreach meeting was successfully hijacked by the anti-Islam industry (aka Hate Inc.)

  17. “One man’s sign read: ‘In America, you are free to practice your religion, and I am free to insult it.'” That’s right. In America we have the right to talk just as stupid as we want to. I guess. :(

  18. What irks me even more is the continued belief that Muslims are all foreign-born Arab immigrants. I am an American-born white Army vet who also happens to be a convert to Islam. My conversion was an act of faith, not an act of treason. Unless, of course, the accepted standard is to hate everyone who isn’t “just like me” – I’m more than okay with being contrary to that. :) Salams and love to all.

  19. I bet these bigots harassing Mr. Killian call themselves christian too…NOT!

  20. I’m saddened, but not surprised. You may have the freedom of speech, but how does anyone justify their own hate and willful ignorance? It’s mind-boggling.

  21. I am not always proud to be an American.

  22. Every religious doctrine has been tampered with for political gains & power all over the world for centuries.. this isn’t common knowledge yet? Mankind shouldn’t be the dominant species on any planet… Most Humans don’t even understand what they really are, draped with the veil of forgetfulness in the 3d realm.

  23. I am so glad i’m not a Christian. I couldn’t be in the same room with those freaks.

  24. They are gone crazy.

  25. Go away haters, you are NOT doing the Christian thing

  26. Go away haters, you are NOT doing the Christian thing

  27. I don’t call that patriotic-it’s just hate

  28. I don’t call that patriotic-it’s just hate

  29. thanks for serving and good luck in life-Salam and Shalom :)

  30. thanks for serving and good luck in life-Salam and Shalom :)

  31. Please read an article from the Library of Congress pointing out the respect for Islam held by the Founding Fathers and by ordinary citizens. http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0205/tolerance.html

    in Virginia, Jefferson followed Locke, his idol, in demanding recognition of the religious rights of the “Mahamdan,” the Jew and the “pagan.” Supporting Jefferson was his old ally, Richard Henry Lee, who had made a motion in Congress on June 7, 1776, that the American colonies declare independence. “True freedom,” Lee asserted, “embraces the Mahomitan and the Gentoo (Hindu) as well as the Christian religion.”

    In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted with satisfaction that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature “rejected by a great majority” an effort to limit the bill’s scope “in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan.”

    Officials in Massachusetts were equally insistent that their influential Constitution of 1780 afforded “the most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians,” a point that Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons resoundingly affirmed in 1810.

    In 1783, the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, cited a study showing that “Mohammadan” morals were “far superior to the Christian.” Another New Englander believed that the “moral principles that were inculcated by their teachers had a happy tendency to render them good members of society.

    That ordinary citizens shared these positive views is demonstrated by a petition of a group of citizens of Chesterfield County, Va., to the state assembly, Nov. 14, 1785: “Let Jews, Mehometans and Christians of every denomination enjoy religious liberty…thrust them not out now by establishing the Christian religion lest thereby we become our own enemys and weaken this infant state. It is mens labour in our Manufactories, their services by sea and land that aggrandize our Country and not their creeds. Chain your citizens to the state by their Interest. Let Jews, Mehometans, and Christians of every denomination find their advantage in living under your laws.”

  32. Please read an article from the Library of Congress pointing out the respect for Islam held by the Founding Fathers and by ordinary citizens. http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0205/tolerance.html

    in Virginia, Jefferson followed Locke, his idol, in demanding recognition of the religious rights of the “Mahamdan,” the Jew and the “pagan.” Supporting Jefferson was his old ally, Richard Henry Lee, who had made a motion in Congress on June 7, 1776, that the American colonies declare independence. “True freedom,” Lee asserted, “embraces the Mahomitan and the Gentoo (Hindu) as well as the Christian religion.”

    In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted with satisfaction that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature “rejected by a great majority” an effort to limit the bill’s scope “in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan.”

    Officials in Massachusetts were equally insistent that their influential Constitution of 1780 afforded “the most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians,” a point that Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons resoundingly affirmed in 1810.

    In 1783, the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, cited a study showing that “Mohammadan” morals were “far superior to the Christian.” Another New Englander believed that the “moral principles that were inculcated by their teachers had a happy tendency to render them good members of society.

    That ordinary citizens shared these positive views is demonstrated by a petition of a group of citizens of Chesterfield County, Va., to the state assembly, Nov. 14, 1785: “Let Jews, Mehometans and Christians of every denomination enjoy religious liberty…thrust them not out now by establishing the Christian religion lest thereby we become our own enemys and weaken this infant state. It is mens labour in our Manufactories, their services by sea and land that aggrandize our Country and not their creeds. Chain your citizens to the state by their Interest. Let Jews, Mehometans, and Christians of every denomination find their advantage in living under your laws.”

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