Florida Pastor Says He Will Protest Court Order, May Sue Dearborn For Violating His Rights

Terry Jones may sue the City of Dearborn for its prior restraint actions against him. And he should.

Terry Jones, who was once again vaulted into the public eye thanks to a bizarre and clearly unconstitutional legal proceeding in Dearborn, Michigan on Friday, now says that he intends to return to Dearborn to protest what happened to him:

Saying he was shocked and outraged, the Rev. Terry Jones said he intends to return to Dearborn this week to protest outside City Hall against what he called the denial of his First Amendment rights.

The Quran-burning pastor from Florida was briefly handcuffed and jailed by Dearborn police Friday after a trial stemming from an unusual complaint filed by Wayne County prosecutors.

“It was a total violation of our constitutional rights,” Jones told the Free Press on Saturday in an interview from Detroit Metro Airport, where he waited for a flight back to Florida. “It was a mockery of the judicial process.”

Now, Jones said he is considering filing a lawsuit against Wayne County and Dearborn authorities and he plans to rally at 5 p.m. Friday.

County prosecutors filed a complaint to make Jones stay away from a mosque for a rally last week because they said it would breach the peace. A jury sided with prosecutors Friday, and Jones was led to jail after refusing to pay a $1 bond.

“I was shocked,” Jones said. “I was horrified.”

He said he is concerned about a system where “you arrest people who have committed absolutely no crimes.”

The city, meanwhile, seems to be backtracking on its justification for why it choose to blatantly violate Jones’s rights:

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. told the Free Press on Saturday that he has no problem with Jones rallying at City Hall, where the city has a free-speech zone. City officials have been urging Jones to rally there instead of the mosque.

“If he had done this in the first place, there would have been no issue to begin with,” O’Reilly said. Regarding the possibility of a lawsuit, O’Reilly said the city acted properly in trying to protect public safety and respect the rights of its residents to worship.

Six churches sit near the mosque on Ford Road, and access is difficult because of the layout. Traffic would have been especially bad on Good Friday, when Jones was planning to rally, city officials said. Moreover, there was concern about outbreaks of violence because of Jones’ views and past actions

While First Amendment case law does allow authorities to place reasonable time, place, and manner regulations on protests of this nature, the law is clear that any such regulations must be narrowly tailored:

Time restrictions regulate when individuals may express themselves. At certain times of the day, the government may curtail or prohibit speech to address legitimate societal concerns, such as traffic congestion and crowd control. For example, political protesters may seek to demonstrate in densely populated cities to draw maximum attention to their cause. The First Amendment permits protesters to take such action, but not whenever they choose. The Supreme Court has held on more than one occasion that no one may “insist upon a street meeting in the middle of Times Square at the rush hour as a form of freedom of speech” (Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 85 S. Ct. 453, 13 L. Ed. 2d 471 [1965]). In most instances a commuter’s interest in getting to and from work outweighs an individual’s right to tie up traffic through political expression.

Place restrictions regulate where individuals may express themselves. The Supreme Court has recognized three forums of public expression: traditional public forums, limited public forums, and nonpublic forums. Traditional public forums are those places historically reserved for the dissemination of information and the communication of ideas. Consisting of parks, sidewalks, and streets, traditional public forums are an especially important medium for the least powerful members of society who lack access to other channels of expression, such as radio and television. Under the First Amendment, the government may not close traditional public forums but may place reasonable restrictions on their use.

The reasonableness of any such restriction will be evaluated in light of specific guidelines that have been established by the Supreme Court. First, a restriction must be content-neutral, which means the government may not prohibit entire classes of expression, such as speech concerning poverty, drug abuse, or race relations. Second, a restriction must be viewpoint-neutral, which means that it must apply uniformly to all speech; that is, it may not silence only those speakers whom the government opposes or sanction only those whom the government supports. Third, a restriction must burden speech no more than is necessary to serve an important government interest. Restrictions that are carefully aimed at controlling the harmful consequences of speech, such as litter, unrest, and disorder, will normally satisfy these guidelines.

So, while the City of Dearborn might1 have had grounds for telling Jones and his compatriots that scheduling a protest for the afternoon of Good Friday, when the mosque would be holding Friday prayers and nearby Christian churches would be holding Good Friday services wouldn’t be permitted because of the concerns about traffic and general public order that Mayor O’Reilly cited in the quote above. That doesn’t justify, however, his arrest or a Court Order forbidding him from protesting near the mosque on any day over the next three years. The City, then, could have told Jones that he couldn’t stage his protest on that particular Friday (just as New York City could say that a protest march in Times Square at rush hour is not permissible), what they cannot do is say that he can never protest there.

For all of the reasons that Dodd Harris noted yesterday, it seems pretty clear to me that that Jones has a case against Dearborn authorities for violation of his Constitutional rights in this case.  There is no reasonable justification for a prior restraint on speech based on the fear that this protest might have led to violence, and there’s no way that three-year long injunction against exercising one’s Constitutional rights can be justified as a reasonable time, place, or manner regulations. He may be a jerk, but in this case Terry Jones has been wronged and, for the sake of the First Amendment, he deserves to be defended.

 

1 I am assuming for purposes of argument that the City’s stated concerns about traffic and the location of other churches holding services on Good Friday are true, although that would be something they would have the burden of establishing.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Chad S says:

    He’ll easily get his conviction overturned, but it’ll be hard for him to claim damages with the city making his bail 1 dollar. In the meantime, I’m sure Dearborn will pass a bunch of regulations making it tough for him to follow through with his trolling for violence.

  2. John Burgess says:

    No, he’s got a good case for five- if not six-figure damages. A government’s violation of constitutional rights is seen as a serious evil that is best punished by heavy fines, just so they’re not tempted to do it again. Taxpayers in Dearborn and Wayne Co. will probably keep this in mind come the next elections.

    Given how those authorities acted here, I doubt there’s sufficient brain power available to them to come up with a law that prohibits his ‘trolling for violence’ that would pass constitutional muster. They screwed up because they wanted a result and tortured a law to try and achieve it.

    If Jones were to say or ‘express’ fighting words, there’s already a law to cover that. I sort of doubt that a court would find even his burning a Quran to fit the fighting words exception, though.

  3. Chad S says:

    The taxpayers in Dearborn don’t want Jones around, there’s going to be little political blowback over this I bet.

    As for his lawsuit: if they arrested him on no charge just to keep him from protesting, he has a 5-6 figure judgment coming(maybe, I doubt that even). There no way that he’ll get a big cash judgment for what was essentially a misdemeanor with 1 dollar bail.

  4. Jason says:

    They were worried about an outbreak of violence? Then provide security, its that simple. Bogus excuses, clearly his first amendment right was violated.

  5. Dissenter says:

    If Terry Jones’ protest target in Dearborn were a church or synagogue (instead of a mosque), I wonder if there would be any talk about “trolling for violence.”

  6. Chad S says:

    By “trolling for violence” I mean that Jones is pretty clearly trying to provoke a reaction where he gets attacked, either at a protest or at his home, where he can claim to try and be a martyr. Thats why he’s burning the Koran, thats why he’s doing more than just protesting. He’s looking for a violent reaction akin to what that Danish cartoonist has had to deal with. Nothing more.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Sounds like the City is dissembling after consulting their lawyers. Initially, they wanted a $45,000 bond, then it was $1, and now it’s a different forum. I think a reasonable, time, manner and place restriction has to possess certainty as to it’s features, otherwise it would impermissibly chill protected speech due to doubts as to what is expected and what consequences might unfold.

    And I agree with Doug it still doesn’t address the prior restraint issue.

  8. Dissenter says:

    @Chad: Well, let’s say someone like Jones is a Muslim and wants to incite Jews to “martyr” him for the burning of the Torah and for protesting against the Ten Commandments and Mosaic law. Or, let’s say he’s a Hindu with the same desire for martyrdom, and he publicly desecrates the Catholic Church’s Blessed Sacrament. Then this Muslim or Hindu wants to go make his protest in front of a synagogue or a church. Would there be this atmosphere of danger, this fear of violence to the extent of denying someone his First Amendment rights?

  9. Chad S says:

    @dissenter This doesn’t have anything to do with the issue at hand. You’re trying to bury the discussion about Jones into false equivalencies. But to entertain your point briefly: If someone was committing outrages against a religion(any religion) purposefully to provoke a violent reaction, they’ll get that reaction sooner or later. Every religion has extremists who are willing to hurt people.

    Not that this matters at all since you’re attempting to try to make this about islam and not about Jones’ actions or Dearborn’s possibly unconstitutional reaction.

  10. Jay Tea says:

    Dissenter, you fail to comprehend one thing: in America, all religions are equal. It’s just that some are more equal than others.

    Insult and blaspheme against most faiths, it’s “art” and “free speech” and “a triumph over outdated myths and fairy tales.” But do the same against Islam, and you’re “inciting a riot,” because Muslims, unlike everyone else, simply can’t be held to the same standards of civil conduct as others.

    And that’s racist. Or noting is racist. Something about it is racist, even though “Islam” isn’t a race. That’s what we keep being told.

    J.

  11. Chad S says:

    Jay, go to Utah and try the same thing with the Mormon Bible and see what happens to you there. I’ll bet you bail money that you get arrested before you can do anything substiantial.

  12. Jay Tea says:

    Arrested? Maybe. I doubt it. Note the charges weren’t for the actual planned burning or other protest, but over the REACTION to said protest.

    But will I be putting my life and safety in danger from outraged Mormons? To the point where the cops will feel obligated to arrest me for my own safety?

    Get real, Chad.

    J.

  13. Chad S says:

    Fine Jay, if you want to believe that Islam gets some special pass in the US, knock yourself out. I can’t stop you from being that dumb lol.

  14. Jay Tea says:

    Oh, and Chad? BAD example. Mormons believe some of the strangest and silliest things around, but they’ve always struck me as among the most decent, respectable, polite, and civil folks of any faith I’ve ever encountered. I think I’d actually feel safest committing blasphemy against them.

    Perhaps you should have cited Scientology, who also have a well-earned reputation for vindictiveness against their enemies.

    J.

  15. Jay Tea says:

    Chad, you wanna cite another example where an American was arrested to keep him from committing blasphemy against a religion?

    In recent times, that is? Say, in the past decade? Century?

    I thought not.

    J.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    I don’t believe he was going to Dearborn to burn a Koran; he was there to hold up signs and pass out fliers. I was at the public open house of the new Mormon Temple at Nauvoo, and there were protesters with signs and fliers on the periphery of the property. Not very civil, but so what?

  17. Jay Tea says:

    PD, you are obviously lying. Those protesters were hanged from lamp posts with the Mormons’ “magic underwear,” and their bodies left as a warning to those who would blaspheme Joseph Smith.

    Do NOT mess with Mormons.

    J.

  18. Yeah, Mormons are kinda a bad counterexample:

    Missouri Mormon War
    Illinois Mormon War
    Utah Mormon War

  19. Dissenter says:

    @Chad,

    Jay Tea’s got it right.
    The reason the court ruled the way it did in Dearborn was due to fear of Muslims. Be reminded, Chad, of what happened after Jones burned a copy of the Koran; a number of people were slaughtered. Look at the world news, at how often there are stories of Muslims burning, pillaging and killing. Now they are in America and sending the signal (which the court kowtowed to) that violence was in store for any protest at the mosque. Welcome to dhimmitude.

  20. Jay Tea says:

    Stormy, your examples are from 1838, 1844, and 1858. Got anything within a frigging CENTURY of today?

    Hell, by that standard, I’d be more worried about the Nazis and Imperial Japan.

    J.

  21. Dissenter says:

    And I am a Southerner, and I’d be on the lookout for marauding Yankees. . . .

  22. Jay Tea says:

    Dissenter, don’t make me go all Granite State on your ass….

    J. (Damn Yankee from New Hampshire)

  23. An Interested Party says:

    And I am a Southerner, and I’d be on the lookout for marauding Yankees…

    As well you should be, after all, your not so illustrious forbearers already lost one war to the Yankees…

  24. Trumwill says:

    Jay, go to Utah and try the same thing with the Mormon Bible and see what happens to you there. I’ll bet you bail money that you get arrested before you can do anything substiantial.

    That’s simply not true. People do burn the Book of Mormon in Utah. I had a neighbor that did it on a regular basis. Nobody really cared.

    That being said…

    Mormons believe some of the strangest and silliest things around, but they’ve always struck me as among the most decent, respectable, polite, and civil folks of any faith I’ve ever encountered. I think I’d actually feel safest committing blasphemy against them.

    These things are often said by non-Mormons in 48 of the 50 states. Those in the other two states have to live around them, in large numbers, nonstop. I had a friend that moved to Mormonland a couple of years before I did and couldn’t believe the anti-Mormon bias she had. Then I moved an hour away from her and after living there for a couple of years, I understood.

  25. Dissenter says:

    After reading about the Islamization of England (the latest: non-Muslim women having to cover their heads in order to protect themselves from the local Taliban in certain urban areas) and now seeing what’s going on in Dearborn and in other places in America, I feel quite close in spirit to the Damn Yankees.

    D. (Rebel from the Tar Heel State)

  26. sam says:

    @Jay

    “J. (Damn Yankee from New Hampshire)”

    You old enough to remember Mike Barnicle’s annual Icebox column?

  27. Dissenter says:

    The linked article shows just how dangerous those Mormons really are:

    http://thepeoplescube.com/peoples-blog/going-to-new-york-watch-out-for-mormon-terrorists-t7106.html

  28. matt says:

    I have several female friends in England and they are totally unaware of this “fact” Dissenter. Care to provide a link of news coverage or something?

  29. Dodd says:

    there was concern about outbreaks of violence because of Jones’ views and past actions

    Nice of the good mayor to provide Jones with the prima facie case for his 1983 action. Not so nice for the Dearborn taxpayers who’ll be paying the judgment.

  30. Dissenter says:

    @Matt,

    Here’s a link to one article I read; there are others. Also, I spoke to an English friend on the phone the other evening, and he also mentioned it. Said that Islamization is becoming a rather hot issue over there. Just google “Britain Islamization” and start reading.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377780/London-Taliban-targeting-women-gays-bid-impose-sharia-law.html

  31. matt says:

    So basically it’s the same shit that the Christian extremists and such are pulling here…

  32. matt says:

    The interesting thing is the reason we don’t have that issue here is because the Muslim American community is still tightly assimilated. In England the Muslim community has been shunned for some time so they don’t seem to have the same feeling of belonging there that Muslims have here.

    Feel free to continue to try to isolate Muslims from society and we’ll keep moving towards the crap in europe and beyond..

  33. matt says:

    Just for the record those thugs should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law 😛

  34. Jay Tea says:

    matt, please make up your mind. Are American Christians “just like” the Muslims, or are they fundamentally different? I understand how you would like to push both angles, but you really shouldn’t do so in two successive comments — it makes it too obvious that you’re a lying hack.

    J.

  35. Dissenter says:

    @Matt,
    “The interesting thing is the reason we don’t have that issue here is because the Muslim American community is still tightly assimilated. In England the Muslim community has been shunned for some time so they don’t seem to have the same feeling of belonging there that Muslims have here.”
    I am not sure that’s really accurate. Here in America Muslims may dress and to some extent socialize as if assimilated, but, for example, check out stories on the Muslim Student Associations on US campuses.
    You shouldn’t single out England. Explain why other countries in Europe are having even worse problems with Muslims (especially in the area of crimes against women): France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, etc.

  36. Jay Tea says:

    sam, the day Barnicle was finally fired for his umpteenth plagiarism/fabrication offense was a glorious day. And yeah, I remember his annual “bash NH” columns — he once noted that Manchester, NH’s main street (Elm Street, not Main Street) has a dead end at each end. Apparently that signifies something to him, but to me — a former Manchester resident — it just means that it’s a rather long street, which it is.

    J.

  37. matt says:

    @Jay Tea : I understand that your reading comprehension goes out the window when it involves Muslims but please do try to keep up. Islam and Christianity are both Abrahamic religions developed roughly in the same time frame so they share a lot of the crap that was considered normal back then. I have no more love for extremist Christians then I do extremist Muslims or even extremist environmentalists.

    I am not sure that’s really accurate. Here in America Muslims may dress and to some extent socialize as if assimilated, but, for example, check out stories on the Muslim Student Associations on US campuses.
    You shouldn’t single out England. Explain why other countries in Europe are having even worse problems with Muslims (especially in the area of crimes against women): France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, etc.

    You haven’t been paying attention to the fact that American Muslims are the ones that keep turning in potential terrorists. The CIA and FBI were warned by the Muslim father of the underwear bomber well before he made his run for example. Just the other month a Muslim community warned police that one of their members was trying to recruit people for a possible terrorist act. The funny part is the person they turned in turned out to be an FBI informant trying to gin up some homebrewed terrorism similar to the Miami seven (who were also reported to the FBI by Muslim Americans).

    Notice how I said if we continue to isolate the Muslim population (or any population in general) we’ll move towards and past the crap seen in Europe. Just look at the ridiculous policies being enacted against the freedom of religion in various European countries to see the root of the problem.

  38. Dissenter says:

    @Matt,

    You’ve learned to play right along well: whenever — which is often — Muslims do or say atrocious things — it’s always, always someone else’s fault. You are a good little dhimmi.

  39. Chico says:

    I think Jones should clean up in a lawsuit.

    I also think Jay Tea overstates the threat of violence from Dearborn Muslims, it would be like any other protest/ counterprotest where the police have to keep the peace.

    It’s also nice to see Jay Tea taking a rhetorical beating here, where he can’t edit the comments against him, as he does on his own blog.

  40. Jay Tea says:

    Chico, only your comments got edited recently, and I said why — because I was applying your own standards against you.

    And I don’t need to say how dangerous Dearborn Muslims are — the Dearborn officials said it for me, when they violated Reverend Jones’ Constitutional rights out of fear that they would react violently. I think that they’d know better, and their actions clearly say what they think.

    J.

  41. Jay Tea says:

    Oh, and Chico: what you calll “taking a rhetorical beating,” I call “getting far more of a challenge than you could ever work up on your best day.” And I don’t edit comments to make my points or sabotage my opponents — in your case, I did it for the pure pleasure of applying your own proclaimed “principles” against you. And boy, you are still — in your own word — “whining” about it.

    J.

  42. Southern Hoosier says:

    Unlikely allies: ACLU, Terry Jones fight attempts to squelch protest at Islamic Center in Dearborn

    http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2011/04/aclu_terry_jones_fight_court_a.html

  43. matt says:

    You’ve learned to play right along well: whenever — which is often — Muslims do or say atrocious things — it’s always, always someone else’s fault. You are a good little dhimmi.

    I blame the ones committing the act not every other person that has nothing to do with the acts themselves and are only vaguely connected because you see all Muslims as being the same. Just like I don’t blame all Christians for the minority of nutcases who claim to share the same religion.

    I’ve always been big about personal responsibility…

    @SH I’m not surprised at all because contrary to conservative propaganda the ACLU has taken up many cases for religious freedom and conservative values…

  44. Chico says:

    Isn’t the mayor of Dearborn named O’Reilly? Could be Muslim, but . . .
    Is it even a majority Muslim city, or a city with a lot of Muslims in it?