Thursday evening, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared on Sean Hannity’s show to discuss the tragic attack in Nice, France. During the interview, Gingrich made suggestions for how the U.S. and other nations can prevent such attacks in the future, but his solution is both ineffective and unconstitutional.
Gingrich told Hannity that all Muslims need to be asked if they favor Sharia law, and if so, they should be deported.
‘Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are.’
Gingrich is correct when he says that Sharia law, as practiced by groups like ISIS, is incompatible with secular Western values. However, deporting people for holding a certain religious belief is also incompatible with secular values. The First Amendment grants freedom of religious belief, though not unlimited freedom of practice, so Gingrich’s proposal to ban all Muslims who follow a certain belief system is unconstitutional. We can, and certainly should, punish any person involved in carrying out or planning terrorist attacks, but attempting to ban ideas is a bridge too far.
Speaking of banning ideas, Gingrich took things a step further when he suggested arresting anyone who visits a website promoting extremist ideology or groups such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda.
‘Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail. Any organization which hosts such a website should be engaged in a felony. It should be closed down immediately.’
Once again, this seems to be a violation of a person’s freedom of expression and speech. If if we were to ignore the constitutional issues, this law would cast too wide a net. What about journalists or researchers? Would Gingrich’s proposed law punish them for reading material put out by extremist groups?
Gingrich made similar statements regarding Mosques, but the same constitutional issues arise with those statements. Actions can be prosecuted, but to arrest or deport U.S. citizens for attending certain mosques is flagrant violation of the First Amendment.
It should be noted, too, that in terms of practicality, Gingrich’s plan is also a bit odd. If people are willing to blow themselves up or kill innocent people, then they’re probably willing to lie to officials about what they believe.
You can check out the full interview in the video below:
Featured image via Getty Images.