Florida Pastor Terry Jones Sues City of Dearborn
As the Quran-burning preacher prepares for a Saturday demonstration in Dearborn, he has filed a lawsuit over free speech rights.
The suit, filed Monday by the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor on behalf of Jones and Associate Pastor Wayne Sapp, alleges that the city has violated the two men's free speech rights. The claim is based on the fact that the city has asked Jones to sign a "hold harmless" agreement releasing the city of any responsibility for damage to his property or personal injury during his Saturday afternoon protest.
The city will not grant a permit to hold the protest on city grounds without the signed document.
"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," Erin Mersino, TMLC’s attorney handling the case, said in the lawsuit. "The city's free speech restriction imposes an unconstitutional burden on plaintiffs' constitutional rights."
Jones, who is most famously known for his public burning of the Muslim holy book the Quran, announced in February that he will hold a demonstration on April 7 in front of Dearborn's largest mosque. The event will protest what he claims is evidence of Sharia Law in Dearborn, including the serving of Halal meals in Dearborn Public Schools.
Jones' two previous public demonstrations in Dearborn both led to arrests of counterprotesters.
Shortly after the Quran-burning in March 2011–which sparked international protests against Jones' actions, including violent backlash in Afghanistan–Jones had planned to host a demonstration in Dearborn in front of the ICA on April 15 of 2011. The city, however, denied his permit request due to space and safety concerns.
The Wayne County prosecutor's office then filed a complaint against Jones, asserting that they had reason to believe that Jones would breach the peace and incite a riot.
On April 22, Jones and Sapp were found "likely to breach the peace" by a jury in Dearborn after their planned protest brought them to the 19th District Court. In that decision, Dearborn Chief Judge Mark Somers ordered Jones and Sapp to pay a $1 peace bond each, and to stay away from the Islamic Center and adjacent area for three years. They refused, and were briefly jailed.
Jones and Sapp appealed the ruling, and a Detroit judge overturned the ban on Nov. 11.
Jones' planned protest this Saturday falls in between Good Friday and Easter.