Defending the right to heckle

Episcopal Church leaders in California have voiced strong support for 10 Muslim students who were convicted on Friday of heckling the Israeli ambassador to the United States during a speech at the University of California’s Irvine campus last year.

Pat McCaughan writes:

The Rev. Wilfred Benitez, rector of St. Anselm of Canterbury Episcopal Church in Garden Grove, California, called the verdict “a travesty of justice.”

“This attack against Muslim students and the Muslim community is an attack on democracy,” he said at a gathering of media representatives following the verdict. “It’s an attack on all of those who believe in the U.S. Constitution and in freedom of speech.

“We stand together today,” he added. “The Muslim community is not alone in this. On this day I am a Muslim.”

Bishop Jon Bruno of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles issued a statement after the verdict calling upon “Orange County bishops, rabbis, and Islamic leaders to come together immediately in renewed solidarity to address the issues and injustices raised in relation to these verdicts.

“Our Episcopal congregations will also increase participation in the Shura Council’s Open Mosque Day on October 16 to demonstrate our understanding that Islam is at its core a religion of peace within our shared Abrahamic tradition, and deserving of equal protection under First Amendment freedoms,” he said.

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