Free Speech For The Dumb: Pastor Jones In The Crosshairs

Pastor Terry Jones - he's the Koran burning guy in Florida - is back in the news. He was in Detroit the other day, planning to lead a protest at a Dearborn mosque. Instead, he found himself being put on trial. Apparently, there is some local rule in Wayne County requiring persons suspected of planning a breach of the peace to post a sort of security bond for the inevitable police presence. Don't know how long they've had this rule, but I can't believe it's constitutional.

Jones refused to pay the bond (good for him) so he was put on trial (!) with the jury (!!) tasked with determining whether or not Jones' proposed protest would lead to violence (!!!), violence not from Jones, of course, but from folks in the heavily Muslim Dearborn area. Well, if that's the question, then of course the answer is "yes. Pastor Jones' protest will lead to violence." I could have sworn I learned something about the "heckler's veto" back in law school, and that it was presented to us as a Bad Thing.

Controversial Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones was ordered taken to the Wayne County Jail after refusing to post a $1 peace bond. However, someone posted the bond on his behalf not long after he was taken into custody.

The development came after a jury found a proposed protest by Jones and his associate Wayne Sapp outside the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the United States, was likely to breach the peace and incite violence.

The jury began debating the case at around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The main issue of the one day trial was whether or not Jones's main purpose was to say or do something that would incite violence. They came back with their verdict shortly after 6:30 p.m.

Based on the decision Jones was required to submit a peace bond. The judge set the bond at $1. He also ordered that neither Jones nor his associate could enter the property of the Islamic Center of America or the area surrounding it for 3 years..

After being found "guilty," the judge ordered Jones and his buddy Sapp to pay a nominal $1 bond (at least someone recognized the absurdity of this), but Jones stood on principle and refused. Jones and Sapp were then hauled off to jail (!!!!) although someone has since paid the bond. You ever get the feeling that places like Dearborn and Detroit might not be American any more?

Jones is not my idea of a worthy free speech martyr, but this is truly bizarre and oppressive. Fred Phelps can travel the country yelling "God Hates F*gs" at Marine funerals and everybody stands around acting like nothing can be done. Meanwhile, Pastor Jones merely plans a protest at a mosque and it's treated as a crime. (you'll also recall how his earlier plans to burn a Koran on 9/11/10 caused everybody from President Obama on down to demand that he not do so). What about when some whiny gay rights activists do another kiss-in during a Mass?

Whether we know it, or not, our free speech rights are already being curtailed, and it's not being done by the government.

UPDATE: Blog Prof, who lives in Michigan, says that the "peace bond" rule is specific only to Dearborn, and not Wayne County. If true, that doesn't say much about how local Muslims are assimilating and learning American values.

UPDATE 2: via Patterico, here's the ACLU's amicus brief in support of Jones. The planned protest involved two people, presumably Jones and Sapp. As the Acies note, the peace bond rule, whether Dearborn's or Wayne County's, is unconstitutional - almost ridiculously so. Not only is it prior restraint of speech, not only does it force someone to pay to exercise his free speech rights, but it gives prosecutors discretion to decide who should be forced to defend their intended speech ahead of time. And, the violence here was not going to be incited by Jones, but by unknown members of the Religion of Peace. Where do they go to pay their peace bond?

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