PHILADELPHIA, PA. May 7, 2014: Radio talk show host Dom Giordano spoke with James Funt, a lawyer for the Black Israelites, on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT to discuss the group’s demonstrations outside of the Shops at Liberty Place and their freedom-of-speech rights.
The Shops at Liberty Place, a Philadelphia retail complex, hired two DJs to drown out the preaching of a group known as the Black Israelites. For more than 20 years, the Upper Darby-based “Israelite School of Universal and Practical Knowledge” has been protesting on the streets of Philadelphia. The DJs played classic songs such as “Black or White” by Michael Jackson and “Hit the Road, Jack” by Ray Charles. For photos and additional coverage of the event, please see the Philly.com story, “Din of iniquity: Liberty Place hires DJs to drown out Black Israelites.”
Attorney Jamie Funt, a partner of the Philadelphia law firm, Greenblatt, Pierce, Engle, Funt & Flores, stated he has no issue with the presence of the DJs. “It’s speech combated with more speech, and that’s exactly what the Supreme Court has indicated in their dictates. It’s constitutional, it’s permissible, and I certainly have no problem with them doing that,” he said.
As is common knowledge, the most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech.
“Individuals had access to go in and out. People stopped and listened, other people continued on. Some people ignored them, some people engaged them in conversation. That is what this country is all about, and freedom has costs, and one of those costs is listening to unpopular speech,” Mr. Funt said.
Funt also pointed out that, as controversial as this group is, they have many beliefs that are in line with the rest of America. “They do not believe in gay marriage. They are vehemently anti-abortion. Nearly half of this country agrees with them…What they don’t agree with is the manner in which they are saying it. Therein is the rub, and there is the fight, and that’s what this really is all about.”
Mr. Funt is considered one of the leaders of the Philadelphia criminal defense bar and is the immediate past Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association and Chair-Elect for 2015. His clients include members of the law enforcement community, including police and probation officers, as well as members of the firefighters union and Teamsters. Over the last 20 years, he has successfully tried thousands of criminal cases, many extremely high profile, before both judges and juries in state and federal courts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Mr. Funt may be contacted at 215-735-1600 or via e-mail.