Pastor Jones sees Free Speech victory in Michigan mosque protest

The Thomas More Law Center, which is based in Ann Arbor MI, claimed that controversial Pastor Terry Jones managed to win a victory for the right to free speech when he addressed a crowd of supporters on Saturday, April 7, the day before Easter. Pastor Jones and his associate pastor, Wayne Sapp, spoke out against Islamic religious law, known as Sharia, in nearby Dearborn in front of the largest mosque in North America.

A video report of the incident showed a group of counter-protestors chanting obscenities and chasing Jones’s supporters waiting for him at the mosque.  Jones' supporters displayed signs in English and Arabic, which read, “I will not submit”. See news video above.

In February 2012, Pastor Jones’s organization filed a Special Events Application Permit as required by the City of Dearborn.  According to the application, he wanted to expose Sharia to a small gathering expected to number 20-25 people.  He indicated that he had chosen Easter Saturday to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians.  [Click here for Special Events Application].

According to TMLC, the City of Dearborn used a ‘Hold Harmless’ agreement in an attempt to squelch Jones' speech. TMLC filed a federal lawsuit on April 2, claiming that the wording of the agreement placed an unconstitutional restriction on Jones’s First Amendment rights. TMLC attorney Erin Mersino wrote in the lawsuit. "Plaintiffs should not be forced to sign a one-sided, unconscionable contract subject only to the unbridled discretion of the city's legal department in order to exercise their constitutional rights," She continued, "the city's free speech restriction imposes an unconstitutional burden on plaintiffs' constitutional rights."

On April 5, Federal District Court Judge Denise Page Hood granted the TMLC motion for an Emergency Temporary Restraining Order.   She enjoined Dearborn from requiring Pastor Jones to sign a ‘Hold Harmless’agreement before approving his permit to speak on public property.  [Click here for Order]

The area surrounding the mosque and the counter-protestors was heavily guarded by police from several jurisdictions, including Dearborn, Detroit, and the Michigan State Police.  The event also received local and national TV, radio and print media coverage.   Pastors Jones and Sapp offered prayers to open and close their event.  They spoke of preserving the First Amendment and the United States Constitution and evangelizing American Muslims.

Pastor Jones has a Pentecostal congregation in Florida and it was his threat of burning a copy of the Koran, Islam's holy book, that inspired widespread opprobrium in some circles and violence among Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. In May 2011, thousands of counterprotesters greeted Jones in Dearborn and overwhelmed local police.


 

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