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The full panel of judges on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Constitution doesn’t allow police officers to eject Christians from a public area just because Muslims are threatening violence.

The decision came in the long-running “heckler’s veto” case that erupted at the International Arab Festival in Dearborn, Michigan, in 2012, when Christian evangelists were violently attacked by a hostile Muslim mob.

Lower courts ruled the officers were allowed to order the Christians to leave, under threat of arrest, because of the threat of violence from the Muslims.

However, the full appeals court the police action in violation of the Constitution.

“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 court opinion said.

“The First Amendment offers sweeping protection that allows all manner of speech to enter the marketplace of ideas. 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.”

“House of War: Islam’s Jihad Against the World” conveys what the West needs to know about Islam and the violent, expansionary ideology that seeks the subjugation and destruction of other faiths, cultures and systems of government

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.

“It is a fundamental precept of the First Amendment that the government cannot favor the rights of one private speaker over those of another. Accordingly, content-based restrictions on constitutionally protected speech are anathema to the First Amendment and are deemed ‘presumptively invalid,'” the ruling said.

“An especially ‘egregious’ form of content-based discrimination is that which is designed to exclude a particular point of view from the marketplace of ideas. … Punishing, removing, or by other means silencing a speaker due to crowd hostility will seldom, if ever, constitute the least restrictive mans available to serve a legitimate government purpose,” it said.

“A review of Supreme Court precedent firmly establishes that the First Amendment does not countenance a heckler’s veto,” the ruling said.

The county argued that the Christians needed to be removed because of the crowd and the threat. But, the ruling notes, “The video record evinces next to no attempt made by the officers to protect the Bible Believers or prevent the lawless actions of the audience.”

The judges also pointed out that there were many officers “unoccupied” if there had been a need for them.

The Christians came to talk about their beliefs, the ruling noted, but when that message was not well received, “police did next to nothing to … contain the lawlessness of the hecklers in the crowd.”

“Instead, the WCSO accused the Bible Believers of being disorderly and removed them,” the ruling said, “Wayne County … through its deputy chiefs and corporation counsel, effectuated a constitutionally impermissible heckler’s veto by allowing an angry mob of riotous adolescents to dictate what religious beliefs and opinions could and could not be expressed. This, the Constitution simply does not allow.”

The case was ordered back to the lower court to calculate damages.

The American Freedom Law Center, which worked on the case, said the court also found the officers were not immune from legal action.

AFLC co-founder and Senior Counsel Robert J. Muise 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.”

“House of War: Islam’s Jihad Against the World” conveys what the West needs to know about Islam and the violent, expansionary ideology that seeks the subjugation and destruction of other faiths, cultures and systems of government

AFLC co-founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi added: “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. 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.”

The lawsuit alleged the Christians were pelted with water bottles and rocks by Muslims, and police threatened to arrest the Christians for disorderly conduct if they did not halt their speech activity and immediately leave the festival area.

A video of the 2012 confrontation shows the Muslim mob assaulting the Christians and the authorities refusal to protect them.

Not one Muslim was arrested for the attack, which left several members of the Christian group injured, the video said.

The video, and a related complaint, showed the crowd – reminiscent of a rock-throwing “intifada” scene from the Middle East – hurling a dizzying barrage of objects at the Christians, who were standing passively with their signs.

(Warning: The following 22-minute video contains profane statements shouted by an angry mob and may be offensive to viewers.)

 

 

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