Prosecutor’s office violated pastor’s rights, suit alleges
By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – Pastor Terry Jones filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court Saturday against the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated.
Jones and a fellow pastor at the Dove World Outreach Center, Wayne Sapp, were jailed April 22 following a trial in 19th District Court, where it was determined Jones’ plans for a protest outside the Islamic Center of America posed a credible threat to public safety. Jones and Sapp refused to post a $1 peace bond ordered by Judge Mark Somers. The trial was initiated by a complaint from County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel at the Thomas More Law Center of Ann Arbor, which is handling the case for the Jones and Sapp, said the ruling is contrary to everything the First Amendment stands for. He added that he never has seen a case like this before, and that the peace bond represents a restraint of speech.
“They were going to give a speech, got arrested and forced to go to court for nothing,” he said. “It chills free speech efforts.”
The American Civil Liberties Union also has come to the support of Jones, filing an amicus brief, which allows a party not related to the case to file a motion that makes information part of the official court record. In the complaint, the ACLU says that while people may not agree with what Jones has to say, he still should be allowed to say it.
“The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan vehemently disagrees with the content of Pastor Jones’ and Mr. Sapp’s speech,” the complaint says. “However, if the First Amendment has any meaning, it is that the government cannot suppress the free speech because it – or anyone else – disagrees with the speech.”
On Thursday, the More Center filed a claim of appeal, which will challenge the ruling of the trial held April 22. Calling it a “show trial,” the claim alleges it violated Jones’ right to free speech.
“Legal observers of all political stripes agree that the city of Dearborn and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office trampled on his constituional right to free speech,” the center said in a statement.
They were held at the Wayne County Jail for a short time before their bond was posted and they were allowed to go free. Following their release, Jones and Sapp said they would return Friday to hold their demonstration outside City Hall.
The More Center has handled cases involving First Amendment rights in the past, most notably the case of a group of Christian missionaries who converted from Islam. That group was arrested following a demonstration last year in front of Dearborn City Hall.
In response to Jones’ visit April 22, many demonstrations were held in the city. Officials said about 400 people attended a rally the same day outside Henry Ford Centennial Library. An April 21 unity rally organized by the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, drew up to 900 people at the Islamic Center.
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected])