A Florida pastor who canceled plans for his congregation to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks had the right to follow through with his intentions, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said Wednesday.
In an interview Wednesday on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” the associate justice compared the act of burning Islam’s holy book to setting the American on flag on fire when asked whether the Rev. Terry Jones had the right to carry out the controversial plan.
“We protect expression that we hate,” he said. “When you have a country of 300 million different people who think different things, it is helpful. It is helpful to tell everyone, ‘You can think what you want.'”
Breyer, who served in the Army, acknowledged that witnessing an American flag being burned during the Vietnam War era triggered “a physical reaction of repulsion” in him. But, he added, free speech applies equally to popular and unpopular statements.
“It’s so often I hear people say — and particularly in college students — ‘Well, that’s just so terrible what he’s saying.’ I say, ‘Oh, you think that free speech is only for people who don’t say things that are terrible?'” he said.