News / USA

Controversial Florida Pastor Denied Protest at Michigan Mosque

Pastor Terry Jones, right, and Wayne Sapp react to the jury's verdict, that both of them are likely to cause a breach of the peace with their proposed protest against at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., April 22, 2011
Pastor Terry Jones, right, and Wayne Sapp react to the jury's verdict, that both of them are likely to cause a breach of the peace with their proposed protest against at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., April 22, 2011

A U.S. jury  has banned Pastor Terry Jones from staging a protest in front of the largest mosque in North America in the U. S. state of Michigan.  The jury in Dearborn, home  to one of the country's largest Muslim communities, said such a protest would disturb the peace. Jones, pastor of a small evangelical church in the southern state of Florida, made international headlines last year when he threatened to burn the Quran, the Islamic holy book. Jones eventually did burn the Quran March 20 and posted video on his church’s website.  The move caused widespread violence in Afghanistan, and scores of people were killed including U.N. personnel.  The controversy that surrounds Terry Jones followed him into a courtroom Friday, when concerns about public safety intersected with Jones’s desire to stage the protest.  The jury's decision puts an end, for now, to Jones's plans.

The message of controversial Pastor Terry Jones, and his associate Wayne Sapp, was not welcome in the town of Dearborn, Michigan.

"I believe the Quran, if strictly followed, can and does lead to terrorist activities," he said.

Reverend Ronald Griffin, and other members of the Interfaith Community in Dearborn, deeply disagrees with Jones’ views of the Muslim faith.

"We will not tolerate this.  We don’t accept what you are espousing.  And we’re not going to allow you to divide this community," he said.

Griffin says even though the two might disagree, there was wide support for Jones's right to express himself freely.  Even Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, a leader of the Islamic Center of America, a local mosque in Dearborn, believed Jones’s right to free speech is protected by the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"We have no problem with Terry Jones exercising his freedom of expression, and that does not really bother us, but he needs to understand that when he burns the Quran, he is insulting not only the Muslim community, but also the Christian community as well, because the Quran glorifies Jesus, on whom he speaks on his behalf," he said.

The city of Dearborn denied Jones’ request for a permit to stage his protest, which he claimed was against radical Islam and Sharia law. Police officials were concerned Jones’s presence at the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America, could incite a riot, and encouraged him to plan the protest elsewhere.

Jones contested the city, leading to a hastily arranged case in Dearborn's 19th district court.  A jury ultimately sided with the city, deciding that both Jones and Sapp would breach the peace if they carried out their plans.  

Judge Mark Somers then restricted both men from being near the mosque for three years, and ordered them to pay a "peace bond" of one dollar each.

Jones and Sapp initially refused, leading Judge Somer to order them into custody. Charlie Langton, a legal analyst, says the court's action was highly unusual.

"The condition hasn’t happened yet.  It creates what they call a chilling effect on speech.  This is not a good statute, and I think that Jones does have some constitutional arguments," he said.

Jones and Sapp later paid the one-dollar "peace bond," and were released.  They did not talk to the media, or the crowd of onlookers who gathered outside the Dearborn police station.

Earlier, Jones told the media he would continue his plans regardless of the outcome of the court case, though it is unclear when.

Judge Somers's three-year ban remains in effect, unless mosque leaders petition the court to reconsider that decision.

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