Often, when there is a confrontation of free speech in the public square and one side becomes violent, police want to step in and instead of dealing with the violent party, they will remove the law-abiding citizens “for their own safety.” It is clearly a violation of the right of the people to assemble, as well as a free speech violation. Now, a US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled constitutionally when it comes to police attempting to remove Christians from public areas just because Muslims threaten them with violence.
Bob Unruh reports:
The case was brought by Bible Believers, Ruben Israel, Arthur Fisher and Joshua DeLosSantos against Wayne County, Michigan, Sheriff Benny Napoleon and deputies Dennis Richardson and Mike Jaafar.
It cited the plaintiffs’ messages on signs and T-shirts that included “Islam Is A Religion of Blood and Murder,” “Turn or Burn,” “Fear God,” “Jesus Is the Way, the Truth and the Life. All Others are Thieves and Robbers” and “Prepare to Meet Thy God – Amos 4:12.”
The Christians also began their walk carrying a pole with a pig’s head attached to the top, further angering the Muslim crowd.
The opinion noted that two types of speech are unprotected, incitement to riot and fighting words.
The judges found any advocacy for the use of force or lawless behavior is “absent from the record in this case.” And the judges found regarding fighting words, “the average individual attending the festival did not react with violence, and of the group made up of mostly adolescents, only a certain percentage engaged in bottle throwing.”
The opinion cited the “heckler’s veto” concept of one person or group silencing others by threatening violence.
While lower courts ruled that police could issue unlawful commands to Christians to remove themselves from the public square because of lawless threats against them by Muslims at the International Arab Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned those rulings by stating, “We find that defendants violated the Bible Believers’ First Amendment rights because there can be no legitimate dispute based on this record that the [county and officers] effectuated a heckler’s veto by cutting off the Bible Believers’ protected speech in response to a hostile crowd’s reaction.”
“The First Amendment offers sweeping protection that allows all manner of speech to enter the marketplace of ideas,” the ruling added. “This protection applies to loathsome and unpopular speech with the same force as it does to speech that is celebrated and widely accepted. The protection would be unnecessary if it only served to safeguard the majority views. In fact, it is the minority view, including expressive behavior that is deemed distasteful and highly offensive to the vast majority of people, that most often needs protection under the First Amendment.”
The incident in question occurred in 2012. Many Christian apologists attend the festival to share the Gospel with Muslims who are willing to listen. However, often the confrontations are not exactly positive, but do become violent. Take a look at this video from 2012 at the festival in which Muslims assaulted Christians with milk crates, glass bottles, eggs and whatever else they could get their hands on.
The American Freedom Law Center co-founder and Senior Counsel Robert J. Muise, who worked on the case said, “This was a complete victory for the Constitution and for all freedom-loving Americans who enjoy the protections of the First Amendment. This decision makes clear that the First Amendment protects speech critical of Islam and that when the government seeks to suppress such speech by enforcing a heckler’s veto that favors the violent Muslim mob over the free speech rights of Christians, the government will pay dearly for this egregious violation of the Constitution.”
“Kudos to Judge Clay and the majority. Judge Rogers’s dissenting opinion, on the other hand, speaks volumes about how progressives (be they Republicans or Democrats) view the Bill of Rights,” added AFLC co-founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi. “For Judge Rogers, there is one constitution for minorities and quite a lesser document for those perceived to be in the majority. The former’s speech is protected; the latter’s is protected only up to the point that some minority – especially Muslims – protests or, as in this case, engages in violence by attacking the speaker. In this case, the Christians and the Constitution did not lie down and roll over. This is an example where lawfare, fought on behalf of liberty, has moved the proverbial mountain and buried the jihadi’s heckler’s veto six feet under.”
This is a huge win for Christians in the public square. Now, if we can just get those who are entrusted to keep the peace to actually do that by arresting those who act unlawfully and protecting those who are doing good, then all will be well.