The column’s headline was a grabber: “Why the Bill of Rights Would Never Pass Today.”

So, being a fan of fundamental liberties, I clicked on the link (Charles W. Cooke, at nationalreview.com, May 4) to see what motivated such a bleak view of Americans’ support for our Founders’ vision.

Cooke’s main point is this: “In its classical mode, liberalism requires the citizenry that it serves to respect the crucial distinction that obtains between the principle of a given rule and the consequences that the rule might feasibly yield.”

Today, he says, the Bill of Rights would be rejected because too many Americans cite only “negative consequences” of those rights, rather than upholding their overarching principles that safeguard everyone.

Thus, religious freedoms are assaulted by laws demanding that businesses and individuals violate their consciences in ways entirely new to American practice, while many people are widely criticized for exercising their free-speech rights if others are “offended.”

The Constitution is silent on remedies for offense. The Founders apparently believed that the way to answer disagreeable speech is with countervailing arguments, not gunfire.

Still, as we have seen abroad – in Copenhagen, in Amsterdam, in Paris and across the Middle East – some people respond to verbal slights with bullets, hangings and the headsman’s blade.

Which brings us this week to Garland, Texas, where militant jihadism came prepared to impose censorship by firearm on an art contest exhibiting satirical cartoons of Islam’s founder, Muhammad.

Aware of the danger, sponsor Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative had invested heavily in security.

The event also featured Geert Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ third-largest political party. He was able to attend only after efforts by the two Muslims now serving in Congress to bar him from entering the country had failed.

Both Geller and Wilders are widely known for opposing jihadist depredations, but opponents say they also link all Muslims with violence.

It’s true they haven’t been careful about distinguishing the bloody actions of militants from the far larger body of peaceful believers.

Still, many Muslims want to ban any criticism of their faith, not just drawings of Muhammad. Thus, Wilders has been under 24-hour-a-day police protection for more than a decade, and an associate, filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was murdered by a jihadist after producing a film critical of the treatment of some Muslim women.

And a Texas art show was indeed attacked by Islamic gunmen – here, in America, not in some distant nation. What surprised me, and shamed me as an American, was how many reactions to the attack entirely blamed the victims for it.

Here’s a sample of tweets garnered by pjmedia.com: “The organizers should be prosecuted for hate speech. Deliberate provocation. Disrespectful” … “If you feel the need to mock Muhammad in a cartoon, just realize Muslims may decide to exercise their #2A rights on you” … “Some illiterates don’t know that offending is not ‘Free speech.’ Such ppl belongs (sic) to Jungle like those of terrorists.” TV commentators also took Geller to task for “provoking’ the attack.

Criticizing her group for mocking others’ beliefs is perfectly fair. That doesn’t mean, however, that they should be barred from doing it – or deserve to be killed for it.

Some critics also said Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative is labeled an “anti-Islamic hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which supposedly keeps an objective eye on such things.

In truth, however, the SPLC is a hard-left political lobby whose list of “hate groups” includes many mainstream Christian organizations that simply are pro-life and support traditional marriage. Who’s committing the hate speech here?

Note that one of the legal advocacy organization’s targeted groups is the Family Research Council. In 2012, a gunman with the SPLC’s list in his hands and bent on mass slaughter wounded a security guard at the Family Research Council’s Washington headquarters before the officer heroically disarmed him.

So, how should Americans react to offensive speech?

Faced with an “artistic” insult to their faith in 1989, when Andres Serrano’s crucifix-in-urine, “Piss Christ,” appeared in an exhibit funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, faithful Christians tried to block its funding and sought a boycott of the exhibit.

But it went on nevertheless.

And the critically acclaimed musical “Book of Mormon” mocks that faith mercilessly and obscenely, including a song titled “(Expletive) God” – yet no outraged Latter-day Saints have shot it up.

However, in Texas, it only took a single day for jihadist gunmen – at least one an American – to try that very thing. It being Texas, though, a single police officer proved more than a match for two terrorist wannabees.

Remember what the Founders knew: The First Amendment is utterly worthless if it protects only the speech we like to hear.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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