A pastor filed a federal lawsuit against a city in Georgia on Monday claiming that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested for protesting a local high school’s demon mascot.
Pastor Donald Crosby of God’s Kingdom Builders Church of Jesus Christ, which has two branches in Macon, Ga., and Baltimore, Md., was locked up in August 2010 for picketing without a license in front of Warner Robins High School, “Home of the Demons.”
He and other church members opposed the red-horned mascot, which they believed sent the wrong message to teens, according to 13WMAZ.
“Hundreds of children gather into one place at one time chanting ‘Go Demons.’ It’s the equivalent of us gathering into a church on Sunday morning and shouting ‘Go Jesus’ or ‘Hallelujah Jesus,’” Crosby told the station. “A demon never has a good connotation. Never.”
After discovering that his freshman son would be a future “demon” at the school, he began collecting signatures of protest and picketed along with more than 20 members of his congregation on the first day of school.
Officers arrested the pastor, however, for not having a picketing permit and put him into jail. He was released on bond. Upon obtaining a permit a few days later, he protested again at the school and was arrested again even with the proper paperwork.
He felt that city officials who opposed his campaign were unfairly targeting him, the AJC reported. The suit stated that Crosby was “shaken by the experience and ... moved away for fear of continued harassment and damage to his reputation.”
Claiming false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, battery and harassment, Crosby filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Macon against the city of Warner Robins and two police officers on Monday, according to WMAZ.
But Warner Robins’ attorney, James Elliot, told the station that cities had the right to regulate protests in order to maintain the public order. He also stated that the police acted properly during the protest.
Many in the community also supported the city and the school’s mascot as well, saying that it upheld more than 60 years of tradition. Some began a pro-demon petition to “save the mascot,” which the school principal claimed was not religious in nature.
Principal Steve Monday said the demon mascot was originally adopted during World War II in honor of the 7th fighter squadron at Robins Air Force Base, which was known as the “Screamin’ Demons” in the South Pacific.
Monday told WMAZ that the mascot name was patriotic, not diabolical.
But Crosby, unconvinced by the story, responded, “There’s no airplane there. This doesn’t look like something that has to do with the Air Force,” he shared, referring to a picture of the mascot.
His suit asks that he be able to continue his anti-Demon protests, without police intervention, exercising his free speech rights to protest.
As for his son, Crosby requested that he be transferred to another school, although he believes that his request will not likely be approved.