United States v. Al-Timimi Essay
Al-Tmimi’s appeal to the Supreme Court is meritorious and should be granted. His statements are protected free speech under the first amendment.
They are neither obscene nor libelous, in the legal sense. Although his scurrilous statements are damaging to his targets they are not sufficient to constitute sedition or inciting to the same. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion protects Al-Timimi and allows his to believe as he wishes and protects him from prosecution for what he said.
The First Amendment guarantees the Freedom of speech. Broadly speaking a person can say, write and publish whatever he wants without fear of prosecution. There are two categories of unprotected speech, Obscenity and Slander/Libel. None of Al-Timimi’s statements fall under these two categories.
Obscenity, as defined by Roth v. United States, is any speech whose dominant theme, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of the average person applying contemporary community standards. Obscenity usually refers to pornography and material which displays human genitals and sexual acts.
It is possible for obscene material to be “not obscene” if there is artistic, cultural, educational or scientific value to displaying the apparently obscene material. For example, Venus de Milo is considered art even though it displays female breasts. Al-Timimi’s statements can not be considered obscene.
Libel is a public and malicious imputation of a crime, vice, defect real or imaginary or any act omission condition status or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of a natural or juridical person or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.
As defined in New York Times v. Sullivan an important element for a speech to be considered libelous is that the person who uttered it had actual malice in doing so. There can be no disputing that Al-Timimi has an axe to grind with the United States, President Bush and Jews. The rabid hate with which he addresses them to his followers shows that he intends malice against them.
However, another important element of Libel is that the statement is an imputations which is patently false. There is nothing objectively false about what Al-Timimi has said. In his analysis of the significance of the Columbia crash all the facts he gave were true.
The Town was called Palestine, Texas is the Home State of George W. Bush and there really was a Jew aboard the Columbia. His interpretation of these facts into signs of impending doom and imputations of religious significance are mere statements of his personal opinion.
Even his teachings that the United States is the enemy of Islam and that his followers should go and wage ‘holy war’ or Jihad against it are just teachings. It is up to the followers to actually believe what he says and act upon his teachings. If the do follow through with his Seditious teachings then they can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. His act of aiding his followers in reaching Pakistan cannot be prosecuted either since there is no law prohibiting, as yet, innocent persons from leaving the country.
Voltaire once said that “I may not agree with what you have to say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it” The same can be said here, very few Americans, if any, will agree with Al-Timimi’s ideals. However for as long as does not he overstep the bounds of the constitutional guarantees afforded him, he is free to believe, think and say whatever he pleases. His teachings may be wrong and ultimately send his followers afoul of the law but barring a actual illegal act by Al-Timimi he is beyond the pale the law.