ADL to Supreme Court: 'Cross Burning Statute Does Not Run Afoul of The First Amendment'
New York, N.Y., August 9, 2002 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today filed an amicus, or "friend of the court," brief with the United States Supreme Court in Virginia v. Black, a case that discusses the constitutionality of that state’s cross burning law. The Virginia statute outlaws the use of a burning cross as a means of threatening another person, but not for other purposes.
"A cross burning statute does not run afoul of the First Amendment if it punishes only criminal behavior such as intimidation," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Our brief argues that the government has the clear power to outlaw serious threats of violence, and makes the strong point that criminal conduct is not immune from punishment merely because it is disguised as expressive activity."
The Virginia case involves the convictions of a member of the Ku Klux Klan and of two other individuals. The Virginia Supreme Court struck down the convictions and invalidated the law.
Mr. Foxman stated, "While we would oppose government attempts to stifle expression, there is no real expression involved here, only threats."
ADL filed the amicus brief as lead attorney for a coalition of civil rights and civil liberties groups, including People For The American Way Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, National Conference For Community And Justice, Asian American Legal Defense And Education Fund, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization Of America, Inc., American Jewish Committee, Jewish Council For Public Affairs, Commission Of Social Action Of Reform Judaism, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, National Gay And Lesbian Task Force, National Council Of Jewish Women, Inc., and Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights Under Law Of The Boston Bar Association.
The brief was primarily drafted by ADL National Legal Affairs Chairman Martin E. Karlinsky, of Katten, Muchin, Zavis & Rosenman; with assistance from Howard Goldstein, ADL National Commissioner, of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, and Fred Lawrence, ADL Association National Commissioner, and professor of law at Boston University.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.