Free speech experts question handling of Terry Jones protest

By J. Patrick Pepper Press & Guide Newspapers 21 April- DEARBORN — Pastor Terry Jones might be unwelcome here but legal and civil rights experts say he should have an opportunity to speak when and where he wants.

“The guarantee of religions freedom for all and the fundamental American right to protest are both essential elements of the First Amendment and they should be honored equally by the city of Dearborn,” said Rana Elmir, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union Michigan.

City officials on Wednesday denied him a permit for the protest and this afternoon Jones is due in 19th District Court for a hearing on a verified complaint by the Wayne County prosecutor. The complaint seeks to make Jones post a peace bond, which is cash or surety deposited by a defendant to guarantee that they would not bother or threaten another person. If the terms of the bond are violated it is forfeited and the defendant risks arrest.

Peace bonds are requested relatively infrequently.

“We are deeply concerned by the proposal to require Rev. Jones to post a peace bond,” said Elmir. “As reprehensible as his beliefs may be, we believe this is an unconstitutional attempt to limit his unpopular speech.”

Government authorities point to two main reasons for the tack they have taken.

First are questions of accesibiliy with the site where Jones want to protest. The only public property near Islamic Center is a right-of-way separating Ford Road and Altar Road, the street Islamic Center is located on. Altar Road is a limited-access drive that is also home to four Christian churches that will be offering Good Friday worship services at various points throughout the day.

And although Jones only listed a handful of people who would be joining him on his permit request, city officials said they will not allow the expected gaggle of media and counter protesters to prevent parishioners from attending services

No comments:

Post a Comment