Black Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison And Andre Carson Versus Geert Wilders And Free Speech
Last November, Alexander Hart wrote on VDARE.com that “If Geert Wilders or Marine Le Pen wanted to come to America to speak against mass immigration, the President would have no statutory grounds to deny them admission based on their political views.” Now America’s two Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison (D-MN) [Email him] and Andre Carson (D-IN) [Email him] just tried to do just this. Their reflexive attempt to repress freedom of speech is further evidence that, even apart from any risk of terrorism, the burgeoning Muslim community poses an implicit threat to our political liberties.
Rep. Steve King and Louis Gohmert had invited Geert Wilders to speak before two private gatherings. (Which he did—see Brenda Walker’s Geert Wilders Speaks to Washington Republicans and Press Conference: Geert Wilders Warns America against Islamic Immigration. On Saturday Wilders is scheduled to speak in Texas at an event sponsored by American Freedom Defense Initiative’s Pam Geller.)
Above, Geert Wilders at the podium, with Congressmen Scott Perry, Louie Gohmert and Steve King, left to right.
In response, Ellison and Carson wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to “respectfully request that the U.S. government deny Mr. Wilders entry due to his participation in inciting anti-Muslim aggression and violence.” (Ellison and Carson, along with New York Democrat Rep, Joe Crowley, a white Irish Catholic, also wrote GOP Speaker John Boehner calling on him to condemn the invitation: Boehner asked to denounce invites to far-right Dutch legislator, by Lauren French, Politico, April 28, 2015)
In their letter to Kerry and Johnson, Ellison and Carson claimed:
In the past, the United States has denied entry to international leaders under the authority of the International Religious Freedom Act which allows the Department of State to deny entry to a foreign leader who is responsible for severe violations of religious freedom.
The International Religious Freedom Act bars admission of “[a]ny alien who, while serving as a foreign government official, was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom.” [INA 212 (a)(2)(g)] These violations are clearly defined as “torture….; prolonged detention without charges…; causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction…[or] other flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.” [22 U.S.C. 6402 (11)]
What do Carson and Ellison accuse Wilders of? They wrote:
In 2010 and 2011 Wilders was formally charged with inciting hatred and discrimination by the Dutch government. Mr. Wilders is currently facing charges of inciting hatred for proposing to arrange the removal of Moroccans from the Netherlands at a campaign rally. Reports indicate that Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist responsible for the murder of 77 people in Oslo, was inspired by Mr. Wilders’ hateful message.
So, even taken at face value, the Muslim Congressmen can’t even pretend that Wilders tortured, detained, or disappeared Muslims. And not only does US immigration law not provide for exclusion of foreign leaders for “inciting racial hatred,” it explicitly prevents the government from citing it as reason to deny entry. While the government can exclude aliens for reasons of foreign policy, it cannot invoke this “solely because of the alien’s past, current, or expected beliefs, statements, or associations, if such beliefs, statements, or associations would be lawful within the United States.” [INA § 212 (a)(9)(C)(ii)]
More troubling than their hypocrisy and ignorance of immigration law is their general disrespect for and understanding of free speech.
As law professor Eugene Volokh notes (and VDARE.com has noted before), the First Amendment does not apply to immigration policy. But Carson and Ellison did not invoke the plenary powers to justify restricting Wilders on Speech. Rather they, claimed
Freedom of speech, however, is not absolute. It is limited by the legal and moral understanding that speech that causes the incitement of violence or prejudicial action against protected groups is wrong.
As Volokh responded
In Rep. Ellison’s and Rep. Carson’s views, “freedom of speech” “is limited by” an exception for “speech that causes the incitement of violence or prejudicial action against protected groups.” And of course they aren’t just limiting their claim to the very narrow Brandenburg v. Ohio “incitement” exception to free speech, which is limited to speech intended to and likely to produce imminent lawless conduct . . .Wilders’ statements don’t urge any imminent conduct (or even any criminal conduct, as opposed to long-term changes in the law). Such statements’ are “incitement” in the Congressmen’s opinion only because the Congressmen apparently view constitutionally unprotected “incitement” (or, as they term it earlier, “hate speech”) much more broadly.
[Congressmen Keith Ellison and André Carson call for denial of visa to Dutch legislator Geert Wilders , Volokh Conspiracy, April 29, 2015]
Ellison and Carson’s letter includes a paragraph that begins “In the U.S., freedom of speech is a bedrock principle that distinguishes free societies from ones living under oppressive regimes” and then continues with a large “but” involving “speech that causes the incitement of violence or prejudicial action against protected groups”.
Volokh notes that “their ‘In the U.S.’ paragraph suggests that they view” debates of Wilders’ views “by Americans as constitutionally unprotected.”
I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped. [Congressman’s No Muslim Fan, The Smoking Gun, December 21, 2006]
The predictable outrage ensued. Charles C. Haynes [Email him] of the First Amendment Center wrote: “Goode’s conviction that Muslim immigration to the United States is a threat to our traditional ‘values and beliefs’ is bigoted and un-American.” Black journalist Roland Martin [Email him] chastised Goode, “For all of these so-called patriots, please, read the First Amendment.” [Rep Goode Is An Unrepentant Religious Bigot, Creator’s Syndicate, December 22, 2006]
But Goode, who was a graduate and a Law Review member of the University of Virginia School of Law perfectly understood the First Amendment. He did not advocate barring Ellison from swearing in on the Koran. Rather, he explained that “[t]he voters of each Congressional district select the representative that they choose to represent them, and perhaps voters in all districts will now ask prospective candidates whether they will use the Bible, the Koran, or anything else” [Va. Lawmaker’s Remarks on Muslims Criticized, By Zachary A. Goldfarb, The Washington Post, December 21, 2006]
Contra Martin, it’s Ellison and Carson need a lesson on the First Amendment. And contra The First Amendment Center, their attempt to stifle criticism of Islam helps prove Goode’s point: Muslim immigration is indeed undermining “values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America.”
John Reid [email him] is an American citizen and a recent law school graduate.