(Photo: Reuters/ Rebecca Cook)
Terry Jones, infamous for burning a Quran in Florida, was jailed for a brief time on Friday, preventing him from protesting in front of a mosque in Dearborn, Mich., as he had planned.
He and fellow preacher Wayne Sapp had refused to pay a $1 peace bond set by Judge Mark Somers after a jury determined that his planned Good Friday protest would lead to violence.
The two were released hours later after paying the $1.
Jones' demonstration was scheduled to take place Friday evening in front of what he says is America's largest mosque, the Islamic Center of America. He announced that he, along with a handful of others, would be protesting against "jihad, sharia, and the radicalization of Moslems in America."
"It is necessary that we set very clear lines for Muslims that are here in America. They are welcome to be here. They are welcome to worship. They are welcome to build mosques. But we do expect them to honor and obey our Constitution," he said in a statement. "If they desire to change our Constitution, in other words to institute Sharia, then these Muslims are no longer welcome in our country.
"Now is the time that we make a very, very clear statement to radical Islam."
In an open letter to Jones – who led the burning of the Quran on March 20 after a mock trial found the Islamic holy book guilty of causing murder, rape and terrorism – Dearborn Mayor John B. O'Reilly, Jr., denied that there is sharia (Islamic) law in the city.
"Our commitment to the Constitution is unwavering, not merely convenient, which makes your hyperbole about Sharia Law being practiced in the courts or civil law of Dearborn nonsensical," the mayor stated in a letter Wednesday. "So, you are coming to protest against an imaginary threat that doesn’t exist in our community."
He went further to denounce his actions as "twisted paranoia."
"You claim that you are coming to protest the radicalism of Islam. Like all of America, we are concerned about the radicalization of any religion that would rationalize extreme actions. However we have not let this concern turn into a twisted paranoia that promotes fear-mongering and misleading generalizations."
O'Reilly said the city would not prevent Jones from expressing his free speech but instructed him to carry out his protest in "Permit Free Zones" – one of which included City Hall. Jones was denied a permit to protest in front of the mosque for "public safety reasons," according to city spokeswoman Mary Laundroche.
In a daylong trial on Friday, Jones, who leads Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, defended his planned protest as being protected by the First Amendment while also making his case that the Quran promotes terrorist activities around the world.
Wayne County prosecutors, who asked for a bond of $45,000, argued that the protest would disturb the peace and pose a risk to the community's security. According to Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad, at least four serious threats of violence were made.
They also contended that given it was Good Friday and there are Christian churches adjacent to the mosque, the protest would limit pedestrian access or add to traffic congestion.
Though disagreeing with Jones’ views, some have criticized the city, arguing that the government cannot order him to pay in order to express his First Amendment rights.
"This is a complete abuse of the court process, and all those involved should be ashamed," Rana Elmir of the ACLU Michigan office told the Detroit Free Press. "The prosecutor's office and the Dearborn court turned the First Amendment on its head. What happened today should never have happened."
Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University, also told The New York Times that it is unconstitutional to require protesters to post a bond for police protection, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is the police’s job to protect speakers at such events.
The $1 bond was set to cover the cost of police protection and to prohibit Jones from going to the mosque or the adjacent property for three years.
Pastor Charles Williams of the King Solomon Baptist Church and Steve Mustapha Elturk, Imam of the Islamic Organization of North America, meanwhile, told local TV news station ABC 7 that they would have welcomed Jones' protest and that the community would not have reacted violently.
"There is room for question whether the First Amendment right was violated," Williams said. "I believe he should have been able to protest."
Elturk also commented, "We have no objection for him protesting. This is America."
Evangelicals have distanced themselves from Jones, condemning his actions as abhorrent. The March 20 Quran burning sparked violence in Afghanistan where about a dozen people were killed during protests.
[UPDATE] 4-23 4:30 p.m.
Jones announced on Saturday that he will return to Dearborn next Friday to protest on the steps of City Hall against the denial of his First Amendment rights. He also intends to take legal action against Friday's court order.