The message Dearborn authorities are sending? Intimidation through the threat of violence works. In this case, even the ACLU is having none of it, and has argued for Jones’ constitutional protections under the First Amendment to be acknowledged and upheld.
Making exceptions against the right of free speech sets a disastrous precedent, which one may fully expect Islamic groups in America to manipulate in the future. An update on this story. “Detroit mosque protest barred by court,” by Bernie Woodall for Reuters, April 22 (thanks to JCB):
DEARBORN, Michigan (Reuters) — A controversial Florida pastor was briefly jailed and released on Friday after a Michigan court determined that his planned protest outside a mosque was likely to provoke violence and ordered him to stay away.
Terry Jones, 59, was sent to county jail after he declined to pay a $1 bond as ordered by Judge Mark Somers, who also ordered him to stay away from the Islamic Center of America for three years.
But about an hour later, police said Jones and a supporter, Wayne Sapp, were released from custody after the token $1 bond was paid.
Both Jones and Sapp were had initially refusing to meet the terms of a “peace bond” set by Somers in protest.
A six-person jury in the Dearborn, Michigan court ruled earlier on Friday that their planned protest outside the largest mosque in the United States was “likely to breech [sic] the peace” in a suburb of Detroit with a large Muslim American population.
The one-day jury trial on the planned protest by Jones was streamed live on the Internet and attracted widespread notice for pitting free speech on a highly charged issue against concerns about public safety.
Jones, 59, is the leader of a tiny, fringe fundamentalist church in Gainesville, Florida, who has an unknown until he courted publicity and controversy by burning the Koran as part of what he describes as a campaign against “radical Islam.”
The American Civil Liberties Union petitioned unsuccessfully for the case against Jones to be thrown out.
An ACLU spokeswoman said Dearborn officials had violated free speech protections of the Constitution and given more publicity to a divisive and fringe figure by trying to bar his protest.
“We vehemently disagree with Mr. Jones and his cohorts. However, this is a complete abuse of the court process and all those involved should be ashamed,” said ACLU spokeswoman Rana Elmir.
She added: “I believe that Rev. Jones came to Dearborn for his 15 minutes of fame and the judge and prosecutors have now effectively given him hours of that.”
The Qur’an burning initially passed very quietly in the U.S., and would be forgotten as old news by now except for the murderous rampages that then erupted in the Islamic world (no thanks to Afghan president Hamid Karzai), which, once again, burned far more Qur’ans than Jones and Sapp.
Jones had asked for a permit to stage a protest on Good Friday on public land across from the mosque.
City officials said the mosque and four nearby churches were expected to be crowded with several thousand worshipers at that time.
Dearborn police had denied Jones’s request and asked him to protest instead in a “free speech zone” in front of one of the city buildings.
But Jones, who represented himself in court on Friday, argued that violated his free speech rights.
“The First Amendment is only valid if it allows us to say what other people may not like,” Jones told jurors. “Otherwise, we do not need the First Amendment.”
Police had estimated that it would cost over $46,000 to protect Jones and a handful of supporters from violence if they had protested outside the mosque.
Prosecutors had asked for bond for both Jones and Sapp to be set at $25,000.
Speaking of bad precedents:
Somers said he would consider lifting his three-year ban on visits to the mosque and nearby property by Jones and Sapp if the leaders of the Dearborn mosque asked him to do so in the future…