TJSL Professor Kaimipono Wenger was a special invited guest at the meeting of the San Diego Regional Hate Crimes Coalition (SDRHCC) on December 7, at San Diego County Sheriff’s Headquarters.
Professor Wenger attended so he could discuss his Op-Ed piece "Religious Intolerance is Never Welcome" that appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune on October 28, which brought attention to and was critical of anti-Islamic hate literature that was handed out in front of Clairemont High School that month by a Christian group. The literature claimed that Muslims are inherently violent and followers of Islam are not to be trusted.
“While it may fall under constitutional free speech guidelines,” Professor Wenger told the meeting attendees, “it raises troubling issues.”
Quoting from Professor Wenger’s newspaper commentary:
"Free speech is a cherished right in the United States and court decisions in California have affirmed speech rights for even obnoxious and offensive groups like skinheads or Nazis. Under current case law, it is likely that the particular method used to distribute anti-Islamic fliers in Clairemont (handing them out on the sidewalk) complies with constitutional mandates. But while this kind of speech may be constitutional, it is also an obnoxious and shortsighted exercise in religious intolerance."
Professor Wenger’s comments led to a discussion among SDRHCC members on how the coalition will publicly respond incidents like the one at Clairemont High School in the future.
Also at the meeting, TJSL’s Director of News & Media Relations Chris Saunders, was named as the Vice-Chair of the SDRHCC. Saunders first became affiliated with the coalition in 2003, while he was the Public Affairs Officer at the Sheriff’s Department. He currently is in charge of the SDRHCC’s “Unity in Action” contest that honors school programs which capture the spirit of the organization – tolerance, diversity and peaceful solutions.