Yesterday I posted a link to a video on YouTube showing a discussion between Representative Trent Franks and Thomas Perez from the Department of Justice.
Franks asked the following question four times: “Will you tell us here today that this administration’s Department of Justice will never entertain or advance a proposal that criminalizes speech against any religion?”
Perez wouldn’t answer the question.
You can watch the video and see how it played out for yourself.
I erred, however, when I wrote that Perez “refuse[d] to say that his department won’t attempt to criminalize blasphemy in the future.” He did refuse to say that in the video, but unbeknownst to me at the time he clarified his position and said the right thing later in the same hearing.
The relevant portion begins at 49:24. Below is a transcript:
Representative Jerry Nadler: I assume the department would make a commitment that you’re not going to offer a proposal to criminalize protected speech, to criminalize criticism of religion or of anybody else, other than in the context of a direct threat.
Perez: Right. We will do this work, as we always have, in a way that is consistent with the Constitution.
Nadler: Which means you cannot criminalize, uh…
Perez: Hate speech.
Nadler: Hate speech.
Franks was quite right that he didn’t ask a hard question. Criticism of a religion (or anything else) is a very different thing from a death threat or an incitement to murder and violence. I don’t know why Perez struggled with it. The simple and correct answer to Franks’ question is “no.”
Perez did later clarify his position, however, so I’m sorry that I wrote about this at all. I wouldn’t have had I known what Perez said later. But I’m happy to correct the record. And this is one of those cases where I’d rather be wrong than right anyway.