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Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001

Dear Mr. Bin Laden:

I have listened to your message that all Americans and Jews should be fearful, because you are going to combat a "Christian-Jewish crusade (against Islam) led by the big crusader Bush under the flag of the cross." And I have seen your more recent video letting us know that there are only two groups in your world, those who believe what you believe and "the infidels."

Your hatred, turned into pyrotechnic evil on September 11, is inflamed by the liberty that I have secured for the American people for over 200 years and that I have sown in countries around the world. You cannot stand the American people's freedom to believe whatever they want, including the freedom to reject everything you stand for.

Nor the women's ability to show their faces and to compete with men on equal footing. Nor the seduction of this mesmerizing and powerful artistic culture. Nor the rule of law that forbids you from killing for the purpose of imposing your beliefs, even as it protects the right to hold what beliefs you choose.

I'm sure you cannot comprehend this last point. I have led the American people to the miracle of peaceful religious liberty and diversity, because I have drawn a distinction between belief and conduct.

I have been a fortress for religious belief since I was drafted. The American people are not permitted to have their beliefs (secular or religious) dictated to them, by you or by their government. At the same time, they are not permitted to commit criminal acts to get others to believe what they believe.

I sanction no actions, even those motivated by religious belief, that lead to the death of innocents. Indeed, I authorize the war powers that now operate to decimate you.

You justify your evil actions by your religious belief, but that is not enough for me. Tyrannical actions can be outlawed and their authors can be brought to justice — regardless of the beliefs you claim the actions vindicate.

I certainly won't let President Bush wage a Christian-Judeo "crusade" against you, because I forbid the United States government from taking up any one religious standard. Religion is actually irrelevant in the war that the United States has declared against you, because I would authorize the President and the Congress to declare war against anyone —regardless of their beliefs–who did what you did.

If you are feeling criticized by the American people, blame it on me: Again, I am your real adversary, for I protect the freedom of speech of anyone, including religious leaders, who want to judge your beliefs or your actions by their own lights.

I don't expect you to understand distinction between government action and private action, though. You can't distinguish belief from conduct or government from religion, so why would you understand that liberty thrives when government action is distinct from individual action?

Now that you know I am behind everything you hate about America, you may want to destroy me too. But you will never be able to. Your problem is this: I don't exist in any one person, but rather in hearts and spirits in the United States and beyond, so killing innocent Americans and Jews won't help you.

They say you are willing to be a martyr, but all you've done so far is to make martyrs of thousands of innocent people. To do so does not help your cause — it damages it.

The harsh reality is that if you actually want to succeed in imposing your beliefs on the world, you have only two options, neither of which bodes well for you. Either you will have to convince the world that your beliefs are worth following and that my system of liberties is wrong, or you will have to kill every person who disagrees with you.

Since your tactics of persuasion get in the way of a decent debate and killing everyone who opposes you is beyond even your pocketbook, your prospects here look awfully dim.

As you plan more unspeakable actions from your cave, remember, I am your enemy. I'm older, I have more experience, and I've been through worse. I've been tested, and I've always prevailed. I will prevail again, because I do not represent one belief system, I represent all belief systems; I do not respect only one religion, I respect them all.

I look forward to your next missive.

Sincerely yours,

The United States Constitution

Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. Copyright 2001 Marci A. Hamilton.

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