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"Free Speech Zone" Follies
by Arnold Ahlert
In a case that tests the limits of the First Amendment, controversial pastor Terry Jones, who runs the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, and fellow pastor Wayne Sapp, were arrested and jailed last Friday by Dearborn, Michigan police after refusing to post a one dollar "peace bond" ordered by District Judge Mark Somers. The judge's order came after a six-person jury ruled that both men would "breach the peace" if they held a protest outside the Islamic Center of America. Jones vowed to file a lawsuit against prosecutors and promised to return for a rally in Dearborn next Friday at 5 p.m.
After three hours of deliberation, the jury sided with prosecutors who had sought a $25,000 bond from the preacher and his associate, claiming their protest outside the mosque would likely start a riot. Prosecutors also told both men they could be jailed for up to three years if they declined to pay the $1 peace bond in protest. "I strongly voice my disagreement with the ruling," said Sapp, when asked by Somers if he had any comment. "The peace bond is to prohibit free speech." Both men subsequently paid the bond and were released.
But Sapp has a point. The "peace bond" is the result of a law enacted in 1927 which "may require a person to give security to keep the peace." Yet this particular application of it appears to be somewhat novel, as the law has been used primarily in domestic violence cases to protect spouses from violent partners. Charlie Langton, lawyer and WJBK Fox 2 legal analyst, was taken aback by the ruling. "Nobody expected this," he said. "It is prior restraint, but the judge followed the letter of the law. It's purely legal because it's never been challenged. That is not right. It's an old law that I don't think applies to this case. I think they'll have to appeal it."
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