A Florida pastor's planned demonstration outside a Michigan mosque was scuttled Friday after a jury determined the protest would constitute a breach of the peace and he was briefly jailed for refusing to pay what authorities called a "peace bond."
The Rev. Terry Jones, whose past rhetoric against Muslims has inflamed anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan, said he refused to pay the $1 bond because to do so would violate his freedom of speech. He later paid it and was released.
Jones had planned a demonstration Friday evening outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit that is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. An estimated 30,000 people in Dearborn, about a third of the city's population, trace their roots to the Middle East.
Prosecutors worried the protest would lead to violence and asked Dearborn District Judge Mark Somers to intervene. Somers conducted a one-day jury trial to determine whether Jones would pose a threat to peace. They did, and Somers then ordered Jones and an associate to post the bond to ostensibly cover the costs of police protection.
While largely symbolic, the bond also came with conditions that included a prohibition on Jones from going to the mosque or the adjacent property for three years. Somers said he spoke to the jury after they reached their verdict and they told him they were concerned with the "time, place and manner and not the content of the speech."
But Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University, called the entire proceedings unconstitutional. He said the U.S. Supreme Court has found that it's the job of the police to protect speakers at such events and said it is unconstitutional to require protesters to post a bond for police protection.
"What basis did the state have for arguing that they would breach the peace?" Sedler said. "It's a matter of First Amendment requirement: The government can't stop a speaker from speaking because of danger from a hostile crowd."
A burning of the Quran in March at Jones' church in Gainesville, Fla., led to protests in Afghanistan that killed more than a dozen people.