US: Constitution 'cannot ban' Koran burning

Williamsburg, 10 Sept. (AKI) - American evangelical pastor Terry Jones on Friday said he would not commemorate the 9th anniversary of the 11 Sept. attacks by burning the Koran. If he changes his mind there is very little the US government can do to stop him, according to a US constitutional expert.

They can enforce some fire codes but beyond that there is no way to stop him," Tim Zick told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Friday in a telephone interview.

An expert in the First Amendment of the American Constitution, he teaches law at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Jones, who leads a small church in Gainesville, Florida with 50 followers, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he believes a plans to build an Islamic cultural centre near Ground Zero has been scrapped and that it will be constructed further away from the site of the terrorist attacks.

Jones said the plan to change its location was communicated to him by Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida.

Musri told "Good Morning America' that Jones misunderstood his comments leaving open the possibility that the pastor will at some point go ahead with his Koran bonfire plan.

"For the government to stop Jones he must expressly advocate others committing violence," which Zick says he is not doing.

"He says he might burn copies of the Koran on church grounds," which doesn't constitute violence, he said.

What many Europeans find difficult to understand is that America's freedom of expression does little to stop expressly offensive behaviour, Zick said.

While it is illegal in Germany to deny the Holocaust or wear a swastika, in the mid-1970s American courts declined to cancel a permit allowing neo-Nazis to march in the city with a large Jewish population.

"Courts wouldn't intervene even in things that were deeply offensive to Holocaust survivors," Zick said.

Citing another example, Zick said the government can't stop flag burning.

"People can say all sorts of hateful things free of government interference. The First Amendment protects in a robust way a person's autonomy."


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