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Constitution Day Focuses on Contemporary Application

By Amanda Morad | September 27, 2013

Amos Guiora discusses constitutional implications of Boston bombing.

As part of Regent University's celebration of Constitution Day this month, terrorism and security expert Amos Guiora visited campus for a discussion of the constitutional implications of domestic terrorism on Monday, Sept. 23.

Hosted by the Robertson School of Government (RSG), the event also featured responses by two Regent professors, Dr. Mary Manjikian (RSG) and Tessa Dysart (Law). Guiora is an Israeli-American professor of law and co-director of the Center for Global Justice at The S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah.

Guiora based his remarks off a book chapter he's written called "Boston to Where?"

"The Boston Marathon bombing was a critical moment in terrorism that reflected a paradigm shift," Guiora said. "It suggests a very complicated confluence of international and domestic terrorism that I call global-local terrorism, and it was the first time this kind of terrorism came to America."

Guiora's definition of global-local terrorism involves acts of terrorism carried out by immigrants who live and function among Americans. It's not like the Unabomber or Timothy McVeigh-type terror of the 90s. It's not like the 9/11 attackers who came to the United States with a single, fatal goal. It's immigrants, sometimes citizens, being radicalized religiously and incited to terrorism.

"The idea of an immigrant living among us but not really being 'of' us raises questions about the idea of 'otherness,'" Guiora said. "Often, the first generation in an immigrant family works hard to make a better life for themselves. They try to create the American dream for their children, but then the second generation of immigrants becomes radicalized."

This was the case for the brothers who bombed the Boston marathon, Guiora explained. "Here's where the rubber meets the road in the context of the First Amendment: If we know someone is being radicalized in a house of worship, can we limit what those leaders can say?"

"The day has come for us to examine whether houses of worship can be monitored and surveilled by law enforcement," Guiora said. "For me, I can say unequivocally, yes."

But he also admitted that this kind of preventative solution does not come without consequence. "This should make us all very uncomfortable," he said. "Global-local terrorism raises critical points about basic American rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association.

"The thought that there are more like the Boston bombers out there is more dangerous to the fabric of American life than the 9/11 bombers, but there's also a danger of pointing to people who are just not like you," he explained. "It's complicated because it entails law enforcement having to examine American citizens, but to ignore a threat that is obviously here is to endanger the lives of innocent citizens."

At the end of Guiora's remarks, Dr. Manjikian took the podium to express her concern that his view on global-local terrorism threatens constitutionally protected individual rights.

"I worry about a society in which some American citizens don't have the same rights as others based on their ethnicity," she said. "I would hope that we can behave in a way that shows terrorists they can't win here."

Dysart then explained why she felt the paradigm shift in terrorism came at 9/11. "The Supreme Court has been less concerned with individual rights of citizens since that time," she said. "There's not a clearly defined enemy here. We have to consider the rights of the accused as well as the rights of others."

Her secondary concern was spillover that would ultimately limit all people groups in one way or another. "What kind of precedents are we setting that will one day have ripple effects in our society and limit what Christians and churches will be able to do as well?"

Guiora offered closing remarks acknowledging the difficulty of the issue at hand. "We need to have this conversation because how and where we draw the balance is the single most important and most dangerous question to both sides," he said.

Regent's Constitution Day celebration began on Sept. 17 with a film festival showing movies and educational films that deal with constitutional topics.

"The content of the educational films ranged from the origins and impact of the constitution, to modern day constitutional issues like tax-exempt status for religious institutions," said Jason Stewart, the reference librarian who organized the event. "The popular films each focused on one of the 'Justice Amendments' and were accompanied by discussion questions to facilitate deeper engagement with the concepts."

Learn more about the Robertson School of Government.

Learn more about the University Library.


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