Bill Killian, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, recently suggested that offensive speech about Islam may be punishable under U.S. law.
Killian and Kenneth Moore, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Knoxville Division, are scheduled to speak next week at a special meeting in Manchester, Tennessee, to increase awareness among citizens that American Muslims are not terrorists.
"This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion. This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are," said Killian.
He also mentioned that Coffee County Commissioner Barry West had posted a photo of a man aiming a shotgun with the caption "How to wink at a Muslim."
“If a Muslim had posted ‘How to Wink at a Christian,’ could you imagine what would have happened?” Killian told The Tullahoma News on Tuesday. “We need to educate people about Muslims and their civil rights, and as long as we’re here, they’re going to be protected.”
Killian said Internet postings that violate civil rights are subject to federal law.
“That’s what everybody needs to understand,” Killian added.
"He’s just wrong," said Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment attorney, told Politico.com. "The government may, indeed, play a useful and entirely constitutional role in urging people not to engage in speech that amounts to religious discrimination. But it may not, under the First Amendment, prevent or punish speech even if it may be viewed as hostile to a religion."
"And what it most clearly may not do is to stifle political or social debate, however rambunctious or offensive some may think it is."