Metal band Exodus’ lyrics get Kentucky resident thrown in jail
A 31-year-old man from Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, was recently arrested and put in jail for posting lyrics by a metal band to his Facebook page, reported WFIE 14 News. A fellow resident saw James Evans' Facebook post and informed local school officials. Two days later, Evans was taken into custody for allegedly threatening to kill students or staff. It was not clear which school, if any, he was referring to.
The lyrics James Evans posted are from a song called "Class Dismissed" by Exodus.
"Student bodies lying dead in the halls / a blood splattered treatise of hate / class dismissed is my hypothesis, gun fire ends in debate," posted Evans.
Evans was arrested early in the morning by local police and commented that he was not even handcuffed while being taken in, according to WFI14. Evans recalled the story to Billboard.com, explaining how he did not expect his post to have such serious implications. Evans spent eight days in jail before being released on September 3.
"They knew I wasn't dangerous. They were kind of shocked, too, because they thought it had been resolved. They just had to serve it because it was in their jurisdiction," said Evans.
Evans' arrest raises the question of whether free speech is in fact free, and this is not the first time that song lyrics have lead to court cases. Billboard.com referenced the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling last month, in which it was decided that violent rap lyrics cannot be used as evidence in court, unless the lyrics are directly related to a criminal case. The Judge went on to explain that in reference to Bob Marley's popular song, "I Shot the Sheriff," it cannot be understood that Bob Marley actually shot a sheriff.
Exodus band appalled by events
The following day, Exodus made a statement in a press release stating that it does not condone terrorism or acts of bullying. The band went on to mention that they did not understand how someone could get arrested for posting lyrics to a song, as Evans should have been protected by the First Amendment freedom of speech. The band also explained that the song in question was written through the eyes of a killer, the person who perpetrated the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. The song is simply an exploration of a particular topic and was not meant to propagate violence in any way, the band said. As mentioned in the Huffington Post, Exodus guitarist, Gary Holt, was perplexed by the events.
"The idea that an individual in this great country of ours could be arrested for simply posting lyrics to a song is something I never believed could happen in a free society," said Holt.
In a world after the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech massacres, any mention of violence related to schools is not easy to look past. Regardless, Evans' arrest was an infringement upon his rights.
American Civil Liberties Union takes the case
The ACLU has decided to take up Evans' case and believes that the police were out of their jurisdiction to arrest him. The First Amendment shields people from censorship, even if they express unpopular or unpleasant views according to Michael Aldridge, Executive Director at the ACLU in Kentucky, who told Billboard.com that what Evans posted was not against the law.
"The First Amendment exists to protect people from government censorship of unpopular, but otherwise lawful, speech. And there is no greater threat to our ability to exercise that right than to be thrown in jail for doing so."