Terry Jones Wins Lawsuit Against City of Dearborn
The founder of the Dove World Outreach Center filed a lawsuit against the city of Dearborn for violating his 1st Amendment rights.
Judge Denise Page Hood said that a city ordinance that required Jones to sign the indemnification agreement before speaking outside a Dearborn mosque was a violation of the First Amendment's freedom of speech and expressive association clause, and an ordinance requiring the police chief to grant a special permit only after the indemnification agreement was signed also violated Stand Up For America Now's constitutional rights.
Jones and Sapp planned to speak out and denounce Shariah law from the grassy median in front of the Islamic Center of America on April 7, 2012, the day before Easter on the Christian calendar. They also planned to distribute fliers with a biblical verse and the group’s contact information.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, filed a lawsuit against the city and Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad on behalf of Jones, Sapp and Stand Up America Now on April 2.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, applauded Hood’s decision.
“Judge Hood’s ruling upholds a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, that government cannot inhibit the expression of an idea just because some find the idea offensive. This principle is in stark contrast to those nations ruled by Sharia law," he said.
"The fact that some may find Pastor Jones a controversial public figure or object to his message is even greater reason for Dearborn officials to ensure his right to free speech was protected. So despite the fact that Dearborn has one of the largest concentrations of Muslims in America, the city should have protected Pastor Jones’s right to free speech, not contrive a way to impede it," Thompson said.
Hood issued a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and against the city. She ruled that the plaintiffs can’t be required to waive their rights to hold the city liable for its conduct, and that the hold harmless agreement would require the plaintiffs to assume legal and financial responsibility for anything that happened at the event outside their control, including the city’s actions.
Attorney Erin Mersino, who handled the case, said, "Judge Hood in her ruling clearly recognized that our clients were subject to the unbridled discretion of the city's legal department, and that in order to exercise their constitutional rights to free speech on public property, they had to surrender many of their other civil rights.
“This requirement was not only unconscionable; it was unconstitutional," he said.
The law firm previously represented Jones and Sapp in November 2011 when they were arrested by Dearborn police. Nineteenth District Judge Mark Somers ordered that the men sign a “peace bond” as part of their appearance, which was overturned on appeal.
Mary Laundroche, director of the city's Department of Information, said city officials have no comment on the judge's ruling.
Judge Hood’s entire 12-page ruling can be read here.
Jones and Sapp have visited Dearborn numerous times to speak out against the Muslim religion. Most recently they requested a meeting with Edsel Ford High School Principal Scott Casebolt to address alleged bullying by Muslim students.
The duo were planning to attend the Arab International Festival on June 14 in Dearborn, but the American Arab Chamber of Commerce decided to cancel this year’s event due to logistical issues.
Jones and Sapp are planning to burn 2,998 Qurans in Florida as part of a public relations stunt on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.