There is a tendency among some free-speech advocates to shy away from denouncing the squelching of expression when the innocent victim is vulgar, or outside the mainstream, or mean-spirited, or otherwise considered questionable.
This means that people who burn Korans or draw cartoons of Mohammed having sex with farm animals can generally expect a less vigorous defense than those who write elegant essays or make documentaries about honor killings. If the topic or method of depiction is outré, the activist receives less support.
This is actually completely understandable. Our time is limited, and we elect to spend it defending speech that is more readily defensible. We must choose our battles.
However, sometimes unpopular forms of expression — in this case, burning a Koran — cry out for defense.
From the point of view of civil libertarians, the important thing about what Pastor Terry Jones did last year is not whether Muslims in Afghanistan became angry and violent as a result, or whether it was the wisest way to resist Islamization, or whether it did more harm than good to his cause.
The important thing is this: For the first time in American history, the Executive Branch of the government (including military officers who take orders from the Commander-in-Chief) used public shame, humiliation, and intimidation against an American citizen who chose to exercise his legitimate rights in a manner protected by the First Amendment.
What was done to Terry Jones was an outrage. The fact that it was widely tolerated — if not supported — by politicians on both sides of the aisle is a symptom of how far the United States has descended into tyranny.
Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for uploading this interview with Terry Jones: