Thread on Islamic fundamentalism

Eric Cernyar ecernyar at SATX.RR.COM
Wed Nov 7 08:54:59 PST 2001

First, thanks for sharing the links.  They are quite interesting.  Please
keep sending them.

I've looked at Lawson v. Singletary before.  It does not strike me as
controversial at all.  I don't see any reason for the religion clauses to
protect incitements to violence more than the speech clause.  I think a more
difficult question is whether a leader or congregation should be protected
from civil or criminal RICO liability for the leader's promotion of
nonviolent civil disobedience (e.g., sit-ins and the like).  I have argued
that it should.  See Eric William Cernyar, The Checking Value of Free
Exercise: Religious Clashes With the State, 3 Texas Review of Law & Politics
191 (1999).  See page 221 & n. 176 for my views on Beasley.

Best regards,

-----Original Message-----
From: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
[mailto:RELIGIONLAW at]On Behalf Of Michael MASINTER
Sent: Monday, November 05, 2001 7:37 PM
Subject: Re: Thread on Islamic fundamentalism

And so did Daniel Pipes.  See also the poll
reported in the Sunday Times at

As has already been noted, we regulate conduct, not belief.  When belief
becomes the impetus for unlawful conduct, we punish the conduct, not the
belief.  But what is wrong with denigrating beliefs that compel murder, or
with recognizing the danger of fascism with a religious face?  Tolerance
of intolerance means only that we do not employ the power of the state to
suppress intolerance; it does not require that we accord intolerance any
respect.  The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech, not freedom
from speech we find distasteful.

To reconceptualize the thread, here is a question.  Suppose the organizing
principle for 9/11 was a religious belief, and suppose further that the
participants in one of the hijackings regularly attended a congregation
whose leader repeatedly exhorted the faithful to kill those who opposed
the faithful, and represented to them that were they to do so, they would
enjoy eternal salvation.  Does the first amendment insulate the leader, or
the congregation, from civil or criminal RICO liability?  What, if
anything, is the significance of Lawson v. Singletary, 85 F.3d 502 (11th
Cir. 1996)?  Does clothing otherwise unprotected incitement or conspiracy
in the language of sincerely held religious belief insulate the speaker
from criminal responsibility for his words?

Michael R. Masinter                     3305 College Avenue
Nova Southeastern University            Fort Lauderdale, Fl. 33314
Shepard Broad Law Center                (954) 262-6151
masinter at                       Chair, ACLU of Florida Legal Panel

On Sun, 4 Nov 2001, Eric Cernyar wrote:

> David Forte wrote another insightful piece on the continuing debate over
> Islamic "fundamentalism".  See
>  It
> the dualistic classifications (you are either a fundamentalist or you are
> not; you are either intolerant or tolerant) we so often find ourselves
> using, especially in recent threads.  And it suggests that by approaching
> "fundamentalist" Islam with such polarizing rhetoric, we (as a society)
> too much (Islamic orthodoxy as a whole) to the militants.
> In this respect, I greatly appreciate Will Esser's distinction between
> criticism and denigration.  People of all kinds of orthodox persuasions
> (including Christians and Muslims), and non-orthodox persuasions, should
> open to criticism.  David Forte is, in a sense, pleading with Western
> intellectuals to avoid denigrating Islam as a whole, or even
> "fundamentalist" Muslims as a subgroup, although they of course are not
> immune from criticism.
> Best regards,
> Eric Cernyar

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