Last week's (Jan. 13 editorial) decision by two county attorneys not to prosecute a man for posting disgusting, distasteful, anti-Islamic cartoons in the area should bring to an end another growing pain for Central Minnesota as its population becomes more diverse.
While there are some potential lesser charges the city of St. Cloud could pursue against the man - namely posting material on a utility pole - one look around the city at such poles indicates such an ordinance isn't enforced; why start now?
Realistically, and as Benton County Attorney Robert Raupp and Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall made clear in their findings, the First Amendment, the man's claim to be trying to educate others, and the state's standards for obscenity and hate-crime laws all combine to make it unlikely he could be convicted.
Therein lies an important lesson and strong statement about the protections provided for a person's First Amendment rights.
So sure, it may trouble some local Muslims that no charges were brought - even if the man who posted them tried to defend them as his lame attempt to educate the community.
But the bigger point to take away - especially for new immigrants and others who feel targeted by public debates or displays - is that you can speak out and express your opinions without fear of government retribution.
Having heard somewhat regularly in recent years from new immigrants who wanted to express themselves in public but feared government backlash, we urge them to see this case as proof they, indeed, have a right to speak freely.
- St. Cloud Times
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