Public Safety or Prior Restraint? Quran-Burning Pastor Barred From Protesting In Front of Michigan Mosque

Even for the most committed civil libertarians, it is hard to work up sympathy for Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones. However, that is the plight of free speech advocates — you often end up supporting the most obnoxious members of our society. In Dearborn, Michigan, the order barring Jones from protesting utside of the Islamic American Center raises some constitutional concern.

It appears that the matter was presented to a “jury” which found a proposed protest by Jones and his associate Wayne Sapp was likely to breach the peace and incite violence.

This is a rather novel system where a jury is allowed to rule a protest to be a danger based on the anticipated response of others.

After a general matter, the use of such a jury does not improve the matter in terms of free speech. A jury of citizens is even more likely to support silencing unpopular individuals or groups. The Constitution generally does not allow for the prior restraint of speech based on the anticipated response of others. This is why a Nazi organization was given the right to march in Skokie, Illinois.

It reportedly took a jury 3 hours to deliberate and rule against the pastor. Mitigating the effect in this case is the fact that Jones was only required to post $1 though it is not clear what liability he had to assume in the act of posting in light of the finding of the potential for violence. Moreover, he may have wanted to preserve his claim for an appeal. Jones was taken into custody when he refused to pay the bond. The bond was paid by an unknown third party.

What is equally problematic was the argument of prosecutors that Jones should only be allowed to protest at another site in a “permit free zone.” That would appear a significant limitation on speech.

The prosecutors insisted that the sheriff was correct in denying the permit outside of the mosque.

It did not help Jones that he was carrying a firearm that accidentally discharged in the parking lot at Detroit TV State WJBK Thursday night.

In its closing argument, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office argued, “Just because we have the first amendment doesn’t mean you can say anything or do anything at any time.” This statement was tied to the over-used argument that you cannot yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. It is a maddening argument that is used to justify all sorts of prior restraints. Here the prosecutors are analogizing Jones’ religious beliefs to yelling “fire” — an argument that is merely a way to say that someone’s views are too unpopular to be freely expressed.

Source: WXYZ as first seen on Reddit.

Jonathan Turley

99 thoughts on “Public Safety or Prior Restraint? Quran-Burning Pastor Barred From Protesting In Front of Michigan Mosque”

  1. Kay,

    You really don’t know when to shut up, do you? Dog catcher? Well at least I’m not a delusional ignorant asshole like you, Kay. However, I am a lawyer. Whether I still sell my services or not is irrelevant.

    Go file again.

    See how it works out for you.

    Enjoy your green bologna sandwiches.

  2. Buddha

    So you are not an attorney? You’re a dog catcher who couldn’t pass the bar? Or maybe you are a telemarketing debt collector….

    O.S. The wheels of justice turn slowly.

  3. Kay, how about going and doing whatever it is you want to do and then come back and tell us what you have done. You sure do talk a lot, but I see little or no action.

    In the words of somebody famous whose name I forget: “Either put up or shut up.”

  4. “How did you get that I didn’t know the FRCP was amended in 1993”

    Bad edit.

    I was in a hurry to tell you to put up or shut up with your lawsuit.

  5. Kay,

    How did you get that I didn’t know the FRCP wasn’t amended in 1993, Kay? I graduated in 1994 so I was literally taking criminal and civil procedure as the law was being updated. They do teach you the most current law in law school.

    As to here? I’m talking to you as a citizen with expert knowledge, not an attorney. I don’t owe you a damn thing let alone courtesy, threadjacker.

    Or better yet.

    Why don’t you shit or get off the pot and go re-file, Ms. Knows More Than The Experts?

    Let’s see how well that works out for you.

  6. Buddha

    But you probably haven’t practiced law for 15 or 20 years as shown by the fact that you didn’t even know that the federal rules of criminal procedure were amended in 1993, right?

    When was the last time you appeared in federal court or did you never do so? You were a divorce attorney once upon a time right?

  7. Buddha

    I am involved in the legal system and you are speaking to me as someone who claims to be a licensed attorney.


    Are you a current ACLU member?

  8. Kay,

    I’ll say it again. You’re incompetent when discussing law and in my opinion you’re crazy. I don’t work for you. You aren’t involved in the legal system here. I can talk to you any damn way I please. So fuck you, nuisance.

  9. Lotta,
    That suburb of Chicago that you referenced was my hometown of Skokie. The Nazi march was a traumatic episode for a town that housed a large number of survivors of the Holocaust. I worked with one day at the time that was a survivor with the numbers on her arm, and she was horrified by the mere sight of the swastika. I, like you supported the Nazi group’s right to march, but I was in the minority. As it turned out, the town survived and the freedom of speech was protected for all of us.

  10. as a resident of florida i’d just like to say to

    bye pastor terry, don’t let the palmetto tree hit ya in the ass

  11. Kay,

    I thought of you when I cleaned dog shit off my shoes after mowing the lawn.

    You ignorant presumptuous insane cow.


    No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.

    That was implicated in the facts supporting Shearson v Department of Homeland Security and in my facts, where the USMS called me in Canada and threatened me w arrest if I came back to the U.S. without dismissing my civil lawsuit.

    Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

    The UN Covenant protects us all.

    Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
    Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
    The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
    For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
    For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

    This speaks directly to the subject of the article. It includes First Amendment Rights

    The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

  13. erykah: ”
    I want to see a horde of Muslims protesting in front of a white Baptist church while threatening to have a Bible burning. Or better yet, burning pictures of white, blonde haired, blue eyed Jesus’s. Now those do need to be burned. And let’s see how many of you on this list will be willing to support their right to free speech.”

    You underestimate the people that post here.

    I’d defend the ‘hoard of Muslims’ you speak of. I supported the ACLU’s defense of the white supremacists that marched through a majority Jewish suburb of Chicago by sending them a donation. I support them all and any flag burner you care to mention, our flag is never so powerful and fulfilled as a symbol as when it is burning in protest.

    That I hate the bigotry, stupidity and hypocrisy of all the extremists that would burn books (and eventually you and I) I would still defend their right to burn any book or flag they choose to or say virtually anything they want to say. I’ve never been totally comfortable with the concept of “hate speech” sanctions and “free speech zones” are an abomination to the First Amendment. Wherever an American is speaking (politically) is a free speech zone IMO.

  14. erykah

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you don’t see that. In Shearson v. Homeland Security the Moslem plaintiffs went to a lot of effort for damages related to what was probably fairly minor damage to an automobile and a detention of a few hours.

    My theory is that rights went down in this country when racial minorities made economic and legal progress. The NAACP cut way back and instead of Thurgood Marshall we got Clarence Thomas. Now it seems that Moslems in this country are carrying the torch of liberty. And that helps me, raised Lutheran and with blue eyes.

    If Moslems in this country are able to protect our fundamental rights then this will have international implications.

  15. “But we cannot endorse the proposition that a lawsuit, as such, is an evil. Over the course of centuries, our society has settled upon civil litigation as a means for redressing grievances, resolving disputes, and vindicating rights when other means fail. There is no cause for consternation when a person who believes in good faith and on the basis of accurate information
    regarding his legal rights that he has suffered a legally cognizable injury turns to the courts for a remedy: “we cannot accept the notion that it is always better for a person to suffer a wrong silently than to redress it by
    legal action.” Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S., at 376. That our citizens have access to their civil courts is not an evil to be regretted; rather, it is an attribute of our system of justice in which we ought to take pride.” Zauderer v. Office Disciplinary Counsel, Supreme Court Ohio 105 S. Ct.2265, 471U.S.626

  16. I want to see a horde of Muslims protesting in front of a white Baptist church while threatening to have a Bible burning. Or better yet, burning pictures of white, blonde haired, blue eyed Jesus’s. Now those do need to be burned. And let’s see how many of you on this list will be willing to support their right to free speech.

    Sorry JT. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, this type of action is not free speech. It’s purpose is to garner media attention and incite violence. Jones is doing his best to keep up with Westboro.

    And btw, Jones is no civil rights leader. Enuf said.

  17. “Nor does the text of the First Amendment speak in terms of successful petitioning — it speaks simply of “the right of the people … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Even unsuccessful but reasonably based suits advance some First Amendment interests. Like
    successful suits, unsuccessful suits allow the “`public airing of disputed facts,’ ” Bill Johnson’s, supra, at 743 (quoting Balmer, Sham Litigation and the Antitrust Law, 29 Buffalo L. Rev. 39, 60 (1980)), and raise matters of public concern. They also promote the evolution of the law by supporting the development of legal theories that may not gain acceptance the first time around….Finally, while baseless suits can be seen as analogous to false
    statements, that analogy does not directly extend to suits that are unsuccessful but reasonably based. For even if a suit could be seen as a kind of provable statement, the fact that it loses does not mean it is false. At most it means the plaintiff did not meet its burden of proving its truth. That does not mean the defendant has proved — or could prove — the contrary.” BE&K Construction Co. v. National Labor Relations Board 536 U.S. 516 (2002)

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