Koran-Burning Pastor Sues over Protest Restriction; City Wants Liability Agreement

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrea Billups, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

DETROIT -- Pastor Terry Jones, the Florida-based minister who sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan last year after he burned a copy of the Koran, is suing a Michigan city he says is interfering with his right to protest this weekend against Islamic Shariah law.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court, stems from the city of Dearborn's requirement that the Florida pastor sign an agreement to pay for any damages or costs the city might incur because of the planned protest, set for Saturday afternoon in front of the Islamic Center of America, one of the nation's largest mosques.

Mr. Jones and his organization, Stand Up America Now, contend the city's requirements for the Easter weekend protest amount to an unlawful abridgement of the group's rights to free speech and free assembly.

Mr. Jones in February asked Dearborn for a permit for a group of about 20 to 25 people to pass out Christian literature and protest what the group sees as the growth of Shariah law practices in the United States.

The city asked the protesters to agree to pay for damage to property, personal, and/or bodily injury or death, including injuries or death to the individual participants, and to forfeit legal rights arising from any actions on behalf of the city.

According to the lawsuit, neither Mr. Jones nor his associate pastor, Wayne Sapp, can afford to pay for the insurance coverage needed to meet the city's request.

Free-speech advocates say the law is on Mr. Jones' side, even if his message likely upsets many in the large Muslim and Arab community in Dearborn.

A spokesman for the city of Dearborn, Mary Laundroche, told the Associated Press that it wants to limit liability before offering Mr. Jones and his group a permit. The location for the protest is not pedestrian friendly, she said, citing the city's safety concerns.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, although not a party to the case, defended the pastor's legal position. …