“Heckler’s Veto”: Sixth Circuit Rules Against Wayne County In Silencing Christians At Arab Festival

250px-US-CourtOfAppeals-6thCircuit-SealThere is an interesting en banc ruling out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit where the court held that Christian evangelists who were “preaching hate and denigration to a crowd of Muslims” are entitled to damages for being ejected from participation as protesters in the 2012 Arab International Festival. The case raises the long-standing concern over the “heckler’s veto” where a speaker is silenced to appease an angry mob or crowd. The case is Bible Believers v. Wayne County, 2015 FED App. 0258P (6th Cir. 2015)

In his famous law review article coining this term, Harry Kalven observed “If the police can silence the speaker, the law in effect acknowledges a veto power in hecklers who can, by being hostile enough, get the law to silence any speaker of whom they do not approve.” See Harry Kalven, Jr., The Negro and the First Amendment 140 (Ohio St. Univ. Press 1965).

The Sixth Circuit clearly agreed. The Court detailed how in a prior year, the Christians were forced to end their protests. In anticipation of similar efforts by Deputy Chief Mike Jaafar and others involved in the earlier crackdown, the Bible Believers wrote to reconfirm that they would not be targeted to appease the crowd. They received a letter largely denying their account of the prior protests and reminding them that the police would act to stop any potential violence.

In the 2012 protests, the Christians would again be surrounded by irate Muslims and the police would again remove the Christians to avoid any violence. Muslims were incensed by one Christian carrying a severed pig’s head on a spike in a belief it would keep the Muslims at bay. Another declared that “You believe in a prophet who is a pervert,” and, “God will reject you.” Muslims counter-protesters started to take violent action like throwing objects at the Bible Believers.

In summary, the Bible Believers attended the 2012 Festival for the purpose of exercising their First Amendment rights by spreading their anti-Islam religious message. When a crowd of youthful hecklers gathered around the Bible Believers, the police did nothing. When the hecklers began throwing bottles and other garbage at the Bible Believers, a WCSO officer intervened only to demand that the Bible Believers stop utilizing their megaphone to amplify their speech. Virtually absent from the video in the record is any indication that the police attempted to quell the violence being directed toward the Bible Believers by the lawless crowd of adolescents. Despite this apparent lack of effort to maintain any semblance of order at the Festival, each time the police appeared on the video—to reprimand the use of the Bible Believers’ megaphone, to suggest that the Bible Believers had the “option to leave” the Festival, to trot by on horseback while doing next to nothing, and to expel the Bible Believers from the Festival under threat of arrest—the agitated crowd became subdued and orderly simply due the authoritative presence cast by the police officers who were then in close proximity. Only once is an officer seen removing one of the bottle-throwing teens. Israel, when faced with the prospect of being arrested for disorderly conduct, observed, “and you would think we would be complaining, but we’re not.” (R. 28-A, Raw Festival Footage, Time: 00:55:16). The Bible Believers were thereafter escorted from the Festival and ticketed by a large group of WCSO officers for removing the license plate from their van.

It is clear that the police were targeting the speakers rather than those who were threatening to take violent actions or actually taking such actions in response to their exercise of free speech. The Bible Believers were being blamed for “inciting” others — a dangerous standard that would gut the first amendment. Indeed, we have seen the erosion of free speech in the West based on such notions of incitement This includes some efforts in the United States by groups to ban free speech in subway advertisements and other forums.

The Sixth Circuit refused to join this trend:

Notably, a heckler’s veto effectuated by the police will nearly always be susceptible to being reimagined and repackaged [*63] as a means for protecting the public, or the speaker himself, from actual or impending harm. After all, if the audience is sufficiently incensed by the speaker’s message and responds aggressively or even violently thereto, one method of quelling that response would be to cut off the speech and eject the speaker whose words provoked the crowd’s ire. Our point here is that before removing the speaker due to safety concerns, and thereby permanently cutting off his speech, the police must first make bona fide efforts to protect the speaker from the crowd’s hostility by other, less restrictive means.

For me, the role of Corporation Counsel in this flagrantly unconstitutional action is the most disturbing. The Sixth Circuit noted “Corporation Counsel informed the Bible Believers by way of letter that ‘under state law and local ordinances, individuals can be held criminally accountable for conduct which has the tendency to incite riotous behavior or otherwise disturb the peace.'” That position is not only in direct conflict with core constitutional cases and principles, it would negate much of our free speech values in the United States. Fortunately, the Sixth Circuit has not lost sight of those values but it is a dangerous thing to have key police and lawyers in Wayne County who maintain such ill-informed and abusive views.

487 thoughts on ““Heckler’s Veto”: Sixth Circuit Rules Against Wayne County In Silencing Christians At Arab Festival”

  1. British colonialism. Yes. Oh so very ‘civilized.

    Were they civilized as they carved up the Middle East?

    What a crock.

  2. That is fascinating David…wow, your hate is showing so blatantly it is uncomfortable even for me who has been seeing it for a while.
    The willingness you show to expose yourself to the world as the bigot you are speaks of how entrenched your racism and hatred of the other is.
    Either it is true, you do not have a religion ( because which God would ever claim you?) or you are lying and refusing to identify the evangelist Christianity that provides you with the arguments for such hatred.

    History is one, it is not multiple. The facts are the facts though the conclusions differ. I would respect your conclusion had you reached them legitimately, through acknowledging the facts, the established historical facts. They can be found in books, on audio recordings, in video recordings and on the internet.
    They can be found coming from Jews and Muslims, from Israelis and Palestinians, from one and from all.
    They are everywhere for those who want to see them.

    Your reading of history is the reading of Hitler, which he used to justify his genocide; it is the reading of Stalin and Mussolini, which they too used to massacre; the reading of the pioneers to massacre the Indians; of the colonist, of every oppressor since the beginning of times.

    You refuse to learn from history, proper history, and thus are you bound to repeat it, and your children will learn from you and do it to others, and those others will learn from it and do it to your grandchildren.
    Life is a closed track, and the train keeps looping…the masters today are the slaves tomorrow, and the slaves today are the masters tomorrow.

    You came before, and you wrote, and you said: “This is only the beginning of “uncivilized” behavior”, as you called for the massacre of the Aztecs; you, a Hutu, calling for the massacre of the Tutsis; you, a Serb, calling for the massacre of the Bosnians, you, a Turk, calling for the genocide of Armenians; you, always you, always willing to justify killing and oppression.

    You were there, David, you have always been there, the voice of oppression, the voice of propaganda, the finger pointed, the one with the stick, the one whipping the skin off the back; the one pinning the yellow star, the one directing them into the gas chamber…, the one who sold Jesus for 20 silver coins…the one who justified his shackles, his holding cell, his nailing on the cross, his lifting into the air…

    You never left, and now you are back, to do what you always did, pointing the finger at a creation of God the Almighty, at a people that Jesus spoke to and shared God’s message of love and goodwill, and you felt nothing but hate, and you raised your finger pointing it, and you said: they deserve their fate for they are lesser.

    May you never feel the pain of the Palestinians, and may your children never live a life like theirs.

  3. And David
    If you are ever tempted to offer more inanities about what Palestinians are or aren’t, here is a video documenting exactly what I have said previously.
    If the standard for civilization is…let’s say, the US pre-1947, let me know if you see any difference between these images of Palestine pre-1947 and the ones of our “civilization” during the same period (which I must remind you of, saw Jews and blacks as second class citizens…)

    1. po, sorry, but your comments are nearly incomprehensible. You ask me to watch a video that is basically a 10 minute slideshow? What am I supposed to learn from that? I did notice the newspaper mentioning Egypt bombing Tel Aviv. At least they got that right. If a person listened only to you, it would be something to claim the Jews bombed the Palestinians in Tel Aviv. I am kind of curious if you are a holocaust denier.

      1. David, as long as they are merely ” nearly” incomprehensible, we are good. That shows that you understood what I said. Which i will repeat here:

        1- Can you disprove any argument I have made so far? No?

        2-I offered a video showing pictures of Palestine, people in Palestine and the structure of their society, which proves that your claim that Palestinians were uncivilized is an obvious lie.

        3-Those pictures also show that Palestinians were not just Muslims, rather there were Christians and Jews in palestine, among their respective established communities, this way before Zionism.

        That is what “you were supposed to learn from that”, and your refusal to learn it is another fact in support of my claim that your are either ignorant or blind…if not downright hypocritical 🙂

        1. po, history is difficult to disprove. It relies upon testimony, so what you accept is based upon comparing various historians. You seem to be under the delusion that the only historians are the ones who present your favorite propaganda. We can go back and forth with different histories, but it proves nothing.

          So the pictures prove Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in Palestine in 1947? Who ever denied that? Certainly not me. The picture you painted was of no conflict pre-20th century. That was what I disagreed with you about. You blame solely the Zionists for all the conflict. I disagree with that.

          In 1947, the Middle East was under British rule. The British are very civilized and their influence is seen in the pictures. However, this does not mean that the Arabs want the kind of civilized rule that the British were trying to bring to the area. The Jews readily accepted their role as a civilized State. The Arabs rejected it, falling back on their tribal mindset, which from my perspective is uncivilized. It amazes me that you do not comprehend the uncivilized character of suicide bombers and Palestinian leaders who reject international aid and do not adapt to civilized standards. Walk through the Old City of Jerusalem and go from the Jewish Quarter to the Muslim Quarter. In the Jewish Quarter you will notice the neighborhood is nice and clean, and as you go to the Muslim Quarter you will notice graffiti on walls and an overall dirty character to it. It is like going from the predominately white neighborhood in America to the Black section. It’s worse though, because rather than using garbage cans, they throw their trash right out of their 2nd story windows creating a heap of decaying rubbish. Chicken bones are just thrown out of the windows onto the trash heap. Try to teach them sanitation, and it just doesn’t stick. This is only the beginning of “uncivilized” behavior. It becomes more apparent in their checkpoints as you travel into the designated Palestinian State, and even more apparent when you try to negotiate terms of peace for cease fires or land for peace deals that never hold.

  4. Paul C. Schulte
    1, November 3, 2015 at 1:23 am
    po – could I suggest a good grammar book.
    ———————————————————-
    Paul, you sure could.
    And I could suggest tips about how to write more than 2 sentences at once.
    have you ever offered more than one paragraph on any subject?
    If Nick can do it, you’d think that you, the “professor” could handle handle that 🙂

        1. po – you still owe me answers to my questions. So far all you have done is avoided them.

  5. Paul and David, Re: The Physician. Read the book. It’s 1000 times better than the film.

  6. Thanks for clarifying that you were joking when you wrote that Jeb Bush fixed the 2000 election.
    I should know better than to take your comments seriously.

  7. Nash

    It’s a tweet.

    It makes people laugh.

    It also makes Jeb! look foolish.

    Do you think Jeb! looks foolish? You should see the Instagram where he is dressed as Bob The Builder and has just been hired by HGTV.

    Sorry, Nash. Fatal blow for Jeb!

    But funny.

    Didn’t you need a laugh today?

  8. po – yesterday you were complaining about my using an Israeli site for the 1948 War. Now you are boasting about using quotes from Israeli Jews. Now, you can either like them or not like them, but you cannot have it both ways.

    1. Paul, Paul, Paul…
      Is the difference really that lost on you?
      You quoting pro-Israeli propaganda on palestinians is like me quoting pro-Hamas propaganda on Israelis.
      Me quoting Miko, an Israeli Jew who knows his system from the inside while aware of its corruption and while loving his country is akin to you quoting Noam Chomsky to speak on the Iraq war and American imperialism.

  9. Dear lord. You can’t make this up.

    Jeb!’s reset slogan is Jeb! Can Fix It.

    Are you ready for the punch line?

    Can Jeb fix it? Well, he fixed the 2000 election.

    I’m guessing there will be another reset of the slogan.

  10. I can find at least one thing to admire about one Republican candidate: Chris Christie.

    He didn’t disengage. He said stop your whining (well not those exact words) I’m not signing the letter. Get a stage, put up a podium, and let’s get on with it.

  11. Paul, is that a question or a statement?
    Do you wish sometimes you were a janissary, perhaps even the other side of it, a eunuch? Your focus on it is rather disturbing!

  12. David, every 2 year old knows that Ismael is the Arabs’ ancestor, and Isaac is the Jewish ancestor (not the Israelis by the way, the original Israelis were Palestinian Jews who were related to the Palestinian Muslims. They were in fact the same people, just different religions.)
    Using that to frame a moral and political perspective that justifies one group massacring the other because the other is seen as less worthy on account of their blood line is pretty silly, if not downright dangerous. Hope you remember Hitler and his focus on blood purity.

    if you are indeed more well read than I am, then surely you are NOT comprehending what you read…or perhaps you are reading the book version of Fox news.

    If you disagree with anything I have said, I invite you to debunk one single point I made.

    Look, David, if it walks and quacks like a duck… If you are not Christian, yet defend evangelist Christianity, befriend Evangelist Christians, justify and support their perspective, and subscribe to their agenda, then friend, you are an evangelist christian! That simple.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/epiphenom/2009/01/shared-genetic-heritage-of-jews-and.html

    1. po wrote: “If you disagree with anything I have said, I invite you to debunk one single point I made.”

      Sorry, but you have made so many errors that I just don’t have the time to unravel them all for you.

      History is complex and historians always report from their prism of interpretation. Nothing is wrong with that, because history is dull without a framework for understanding it, but if someone is not well read in history, they just adopt one perspective and ignore all the other historians. It seems to me that you have some personal stake in this subject, and you seem to want to put me on trial for something I am not. The tenor of your posts and volume of misinformation just makes it uninteresting for me to engage you.

    2. In regards to one of your historical mistakes, did you really not know that a son of Isaac was Jacob, and Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, and of his twelve sons, one was named Judah, which was the father of the Jews? So how can you say, “every 2 year old knows that Ismael is the Arabs’ ancestor, and Isaac is the Jewish ancestor (not the Israelis by the way, the original Israelis were Palestinian Jews who were related to the Palestinian Muslims. They were in fact the same people, just different religions.)”

      How tedious it is to unravel the anachronisms going on in your head.

  13. david says:
    Even in the video you linked to, Miko says that the Israelis have a military force and are well trained whereas the Palestinians even to this day do not have a military force. Such is indicative of what I said before, that the Palestinian people are not civilized, organizing into a nation, but are mostly tribal in their thinking, operating more like the Native Americans did in North America. One thing that does unite them against Jews is the same Anti-Semitic hatred that Hitler had. It is basically a biological law that one side will outcompete the other, as what happened with the Native Americans. My perspective is that civilization should and will win.
    ———————————————
    Where do the Israelis get their military force? Did they just conjure it out of thin air or do they receive military aid from your tax dollars at the tune of $10 millions per day?
    Meanwhile what military aid do the Palestinians get? $0

    I have noticed how you skipped oh so conveniently the content of Miko’s discussion. He is an Israeli, Jew, son of a zionist general who is railing against the occupation and oppression. what do you make of Gideon Levi? Of all the IDF officers who refuse to serve and to support the occupation?

    How do you explain the lack of civilization you accuse the Palestinians of when they lived, rather civilizely and civilly with Jews and Christians before zionism took over? If they are uncivilized by mere fact of being Palestinians, are you saying that Palestinian Christians are also uncivilized?

    How can Palestinians be organized into a nation when they are occupied, divided, oppressed? Who controls access in and out of Gaza and the West bank?

    How many settlements were built in between palestinians towns and villages separating them one from the others? How many walls were built to keep the apartheid system going, making sure Palestinians are further marooned onto their own land?

    How many Palestinian tribes and towns and villages were destroyed to make way for more settlements of American born zionists, or Russian born zionists?
    Comparing the native american situation to the Palestinians is very deceptive, and you know it.

    And if one side should win over the other, why not be fair and support both, or leave them to duck it out by themselves? Why take sides and support one against the other? Isn’t it what we call hypocritical?

  14. Here it is again: http://lostislamichistory.com/non-muslim-rights-in-the-ottoman-empire/
    The Millet System

    The first instance of the Ottomans having to rule a large number of Christians was after the conquest of Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II in 1453. Constantinople had historically been the center of the Orthodox Christian world, and still had a large Christian population. As the empire grew into Europe, more and more non-Muslims came under Ottoman authority. For example, in the 1530s, over 80% of the population in Ottoman Europe was not Muslim. In order to deal with these new Ottoman subjects, Mehmed instituted a new system, later called the millet system.

    This portrait of Mehmed II was painted by an Italian Christian, Gentile Bellini
    This portrait of Mehmed II was painted by an Italian Christian, Gentile Bellini
    Under this system, each religious group was organized into a millet. Millet comes from the Arabic word for “nation”, indicating that the Ottomans considered themselves the protectors of multiple nations. Each religious group was considered its own millet, with multiple millets existing in the empire. For example, all Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire were considered as constituting a millet, while all Jews constituted another millet.

    Each millet was allowed to elect its own religious figure to lead them. In the case of the Orthodox Church (the biggest Church in the Ottoman Empire), the Orthodox Patriarch (the Archbishop of Constantinople) was the elected leader of the millet. The leaders of the millets were allowed to enforce their own religion’s rules on their people. Islamic law (Shariah) had no jurisdiction over non-Muslims in the Ottoman Empire.

    In cases of crime, people would be punished according to the rules of their own religion, not Islamic rules or rules of other religions. For example, if a Christian were to steal, he would be punished according to the Christian laws regarding theft. If a Jew were to steal, he were to be punished according to Jewish laws, etc. The only time Islamic law would come into account was if the criminal was a Muslim, or when there was a case involving two people from different millets. In that case, a Muslim judge was to preside over the case and judge according to his best judgement and common law.

    In addition to religious law, millets were given freedom to use their own language, develop their own institutions (churches, schools, etc), and collect taxes. The Ottoman sultan only exercised control over the millets through their leaders. The millet leaders ultimately reported to the sultan, and if there was a problem with a millet, the sultan would consult that millet leader. Theoretically, the Muslim population of the Ottoman Empire also constituted a millet, with the Ottoman sultan as the millet leader.

  15. David
    Not only do you have a very tenuous, if not downright false grasp of history, you are demonstrating the inability to think logically.
    What is the history of Isaac and Ishmael have to do with the current Palestinian conflict? What was that history? What about Esau and Jacob, the rise of Islam and the crusades, and the ottoman empire in relation to this conflict? And before you answer, remember that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon, and especially Jesus (Peace on them all) are revered in Islam as Prophets and messengers. The quran tells us to follow their example. One of the prayers in the sufi path I follow is done in Jesus’ (AS) name.
    Your attempt to imbue this current conflict with a veneer of religion is an evangelical christian practice, one that needs to do so in order to further frame the occupation of Palestinians are unavoidable, for you say, they are the descendants of Esau, and therefore to be dominated legitimately. How can you not, when you believe that the rapture will only happen when the Jews control all the land, ushering the return of Jesus (AS) who will rapture the believing Christians and leave everyone else. This misreading of scriptures has hijacked the Christian faith, making of it strange bedfellows with Zionism, corrupting both Jesus’ (As) legacy and the divine message.
    Logically, you must also believe in the christian lore that black people are descendants of the cursed Ham, which perhaps explains your disdain towards them and your belief they deserve being oppressed!

    I do not claim there was no conflict before 1898, as there are no two people who cohabited anywhere who did not clash. As a matter of FACT, established and verified FACT, Jews, christians, and Muslims cohabited in peace and harmony in Jerusalem, as they did in Arabia and as they did in Cordoba.
    Here is one source describing exactly what was the rule under most muslim societies regarding non-Muslims:
    ———————————————
    Much like previous Muslim Empires, the Ottomans showed great toleration and acceptance of non-Muslim communities in their empire. This is based on existing Muslim laws regarding the status of non-Muslims. They are protected, given religious freedoms, and free from persecution according to the Shariah. One of the first precedents of this was the Treaty of Umar ibn al-Khattab, in which he guaranteed the Christians of Jerusalem total religious freedom and safety.

    The Millet System

    1. po, Ishmael is the father of the Arabs, and Isaac is the father of the Israelis. Your emotionally charged ad hominem railings don’t change this fact of history. I do not have a false grasp on history. You are just not as well read as I am. Then you try to presume you already know what I think and paint me as an evangelical Christian when I have stated many times in this forum that I am not a Christian. I do not belong to any religion. In any case, I am glad to see that you finally recanted your errant understanding of history and acknowledge a longer history of Middle East conflict.

      1. po – you completely skip the Janissaries (enslaved Christian youth) who protected the Sultan. This slavery side of Islam has been hidden in the mist of your memory again.

        1. Paul C. Schulte, I know you like history and you watch Netflix. There is a movie on Netflix called, “The Physician.” It is really well done movie of Persia in the 11th Century, showing interactions between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Have you seen it? If not, watch it. I think you would enjoy it. It too contradicts po’s narrow perspective of history.

          1. david – I have not seen the movie. Will put it on my list. Right now it will be no. 50. Just finished bingeing Sense8. I really liked it but have few people I would recommend it to.

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