DEARBORN, MI – The evangelical Christian group whose members paraded a pig’s head on a stick and chanted that Muslims would “burn in hell” at a large Arab-American celebration in Dearborn four years ago has won the last hurdle in a free speech battle.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday offered no explanation when it declined to hear an appeal of an earlier 6th U.S. Court of Appeals decision upholding the demonstrators’ free speech rights.
The Bible Believers sued Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and two deputies who ejected some of their members from the 2012 Arab International Festival as tensions were brewing over anti-Islam messages and preachings at the largely Muslim gathering. Angry members of the crowd pelted the evangelicals with rocks, water bottles and eggs, prompting police to step in.
Muslims Stoning Christians in Dearborn, Michigan:
Video courtesy of: American Freedom Law Center
The First Amendment case hinged on what’s known as a “heckler’s veto” — that is, the premise that police are justified in silencing a speaker to maintain peace and prevent potential violence.
In October, the 6th Circuit rejected that argument.
In its ruling upholding the First Amendment rights of the protesters, the Cincinnati appeals court decried the speech as loathsome and intolerant, but protected, and said that law enforcement and other public officials have special obligations in situations where the speech has the potential to incite violence.
“Bearing in mind the interspersed surges of ethnic, racial, and religious conflict that from time to time mar our national history, the constitutional lessons to be learned from the circumstances of this case are both timeless and markedly seasonable,” Judge Eric Clay wrote
In a rare move, the full court agreed to hear the appeal and set aside 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel in August 2014 that ruled deputies didn’t violate the evangelists’ free speech rights.