Judge clears way for Jones protest outside Dearborn mosque
- By Oralandar Brand-Williams
- The Detroit News
Detroit — Controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones has been given the final green light to go ahead with a protest Saturday outside a Dearborn mosque.
U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood granted a motion for an emergency temporary restraining order against Dearborn, barring the city from requiring that Jones signs a “hold harmless” agreement before approving his permit to protest in front of the Islamic Center of America.
“This is clearly an unconstitutional clause which impedes plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to free speech and assembly,” said Hood in the order. “The ordinance requiring the indemnity agreement and the “Hold Harmless” presented to Plaintiffs are unconditional and violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as to Plaintiff and others who wish to exercise their rights to speak and assemble in the public fora.”
On Monday, Jones and his associate, Wayne Sapp, both founders of the Stand Up America organization, filed a two-count complaint against Dearborn and Police Chief Ronald Haddad in connection with the request for the permit.
Jones and Sapp filed a required special events application and request form with the city. Jones and Sapp are expecting 20-25 supporters to attend the event. They said they have not requested any services from the city in connection with their permit request.
As late as last week, the city was requiring the “hold harmless” provision, said Jones’ attorneys.
Last year, Jones and Sapp cited their free speech rights when they were denied a permit to protest outside the same mosque on Good Friday.
City officials said the two men would have to take out a “peace bond” if they wanted to protest outside the Islamic center. The pair refused and a two-day hearing was held and Jones and Sapp were jailed briefly for refusing to take out a peace bond.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which sought the restraining order on Jones’ behalf, said that minutes before Hood’s order was received, the city approved the application without the hold harmless agreement.
“Dearborn has a history of discriminating against Christians who want to speak out against the internal threat of Sharia law and Islam,” Thompson said.
“Every time the City attempts to curtail the Constitutional rights of Christians, we will confront them in a court of law,” he said in a news release Thursday. “There is no doubt in my mind that the City knew the Hold Harmless agreement they were trying to get Jones’s organization to sign was unconstitutional.”
Dearborn spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said city officials “thought the order was completely unnecessary because we had already agreed to accommodate Stand Up America Now without the requirement for the group to sign a hold harmless agreement.”
Local Muslim leaders say they will ignore Jones’ protest outside the mosque and encourage others to do the same. They say his visit is part of a continuing national trend of “Islamophobic” rhetoric.
“We respect the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and we also encourage community members not to meet his hateful speech with like speech,” said Dawud Walid, the executive director of CAIR-Michigan. “People in the community should simply ignore and allow him to say whatever he has to say all by his lonesome.”