Great news! The ACLU filed a friend of the court brief in favor of Pastor Terry Jones’s right to speak outside of an Islamic Center in Dearborn, Michigan. The following was in the Detroit News on Friday:
The ACLU’s brief argued that the government cannot suppress speech by making Jones pay a bond based on the cost of police services necessary for anticipated actions of others, calling it an “unconstitutional prior restraint of free speech.” The group also cites a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that said it’s unconstitutional to have a group bear the cost of police protection due to the content of their message.
Former Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga agreed the procedure being used against Jones runs contrary to Supreme Court precedent.
“There appears to be no evidence, no allegation even that Rev. Jones has made a threat against a person or has made a threat against the property of another,” Marlinga said. “The Dearborn Police and Wayne County prosecutor are mixing apples and oranges.”
Marlinga said regardless of the outcome of today’s trial, Jones will have grounds for legal action. The city is better off if it loses in court today, because they “won’t have this mistake to be looking at,” Marlinga said.
“Even if you think someone will say something that will inflame a crowd, you cannot use the court process in advance to rule on whether or not a person can speak,” he said. “Constitutionally, you just can’t do it. You can’t say if you don’t put up money for a bond we’re not going to let you speak.”
And if you go to the Detroit Free Press website here and watch the posted video, you find a Muslim American law student, Amir Makled, speaking in very Jeffersonian terms, defending Terry Jones’s right to free speech. In my view, Amir Makled is the face of Islam’s future. He is showing the way for his fellow Muslims to both believe in their religion and tolerate those who don’t. This is something that American Muslims are uniquely positioned to accomplish: the evolution of Islamic religious tolerance consistent with the Enlightenment. I wish him well and hope he enters politics someday.
Let freedom ring.
By the way, I support, not just the right of Terry Jones to speak his mind freely in peacable assembly with others outside of any mosque of his choosing, but for American Muslims to purchase land in New York City near Ground Zero and build an Islamic Center. And I think that Martin Luther King would have as well. The freedom to express peacably the dictates of your conscience—and of other adults to choose to listen (or not)—must be protected. It is a fundamental human right that no religious tradition—Islamic, Christian, or otherwise—should be permitted to broach in the name of “offense.”
Or this (Calvinists iconoclastically trashing a Catholic Church in Geneva, 16th century):
Are you with free speech and peacable assembly, or not? What’s your choice?