islam is of the devil shirtIs it just me, or do all the biggest nuts live near me? A few years back the pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville’s 20,000 member mega-church, made inflammatory comments about the Prophet Muhammad. Now, just a short drive further south, in Gainesville controversial t-shirts produced by a local church are saying that “Islam is of the Devil.” The real issue is that some kids have worn these shirts to public schools and have been told that they violate the dress code.

The front of the shirt quotes John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me.” The inflammatory message on the back is the result of the verse on the front, according to the pastor of Dove Word Outreach Center. In the video available through the above link, the father of the students disciplined by the school district explains that being told that they cannot wear the shirts to school is like being told that you cannot wear shirts that say “I love my momma” on them. Mr. Sapp (you can’t make some stuff up) does not understand analogies well. The shirts are not analogous to “I love my momma” shirts but to shirts that have a nice poem about mothers on the front and the declaration, “Your Mother is a Whore” on the back.

The shirt is apparently only the latest in the church’s campaign to demonize Islam. There is a sign in front of the church that proclaims the same message. The church’s position is that the sign and the shirts are protected under the First Amendment. I cannot weigh in on the sign, it is after all on church property. It IS hate speech, and while it may or may not pass Oliver Wendell Holmes’ litmus test of falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, it certainly passes Brandenburg v. Ohio‘s standard of not inciting immediate lawlessness. For good or for ill, hate speech that does not incite immediate lawlessness is, as I understand it, protected.

The shirts are likewise situated, except in the context of public schools. The Gainesville school district takes the position that because the shirts could offend other students and disrupt the educational process they violate the dress code. The policy does not require immediate lawlessness, nor should it. It is enough that they can disrupt the educational process.

The church website gives a justification for this statement. I could go through point by point and refute their reasoning, but sometimes, Sen. Barney Frank is right. Sometimes, it is like arguing with furniture. There is no point. Their minds are made up and they are unwilling to listen to any facts that contradict their opinion.

However, for reader’s who are still open minded, let me point out that the claim that Islam is evil because of the idea that “In Muslim countries, if you preach the gospel or convert to Christianity – you will be killed. That is the type of religion it is” is misguided at best. First, that is not the case in the world’s largest Islamic country. Yes, proselytizing is restricted in Indonesia but neither it nor conversion carry a death penalty. Second, even if the claim is true in some Muslim countries (and I cannot confirm or deny this claim for all such nations), it overlooks an important point. Such policies are not the result of the religion but of a nation founded on religion. Dove Outreach Center wants to argue that the US is a Christian Nation. In Islamic Nations you might find the situation they discuss. But, what they fail to see that it is not which religion a religio-centric nation is based, but the very idea of a religio-centric nation with religo-centric laws that creates such a situation. Once again, for the fact that the United States is not a Christian nation, I must thank god (which ever one is listening). But, surely, Loki (or some other trickster) is the god most directly involved in all of this.

Let me close with using not John 14:6 but Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” and ask that with complete lack of peacemaking on the part of Dove World Center, whether or not they might not be the ones who are “of the Devil?” I guess prooftexting with the Bible truly makes it a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).

Ron Lukens-Bull