Thursday, August 28, 2014

6th Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Suit By Christian Evangelists Preaching At Arab Festival

In Bible Believers v. Wayne County, (6th Cir., Aug. 27, 2014), the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, affirmed the distrct court's dismissal of civil rights claims by Christian evangelists who engaged in aggressive preaching at the 2012 Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan. Police insisted that they leave when the crowd turned hostile. The majority held that this action by the police did not violate plaintiffs' 1st or 14th Amendment rights:
The video from the 2012 Festival demonstrates that Appellants’ speech and conduct intended to incite the crowd to turn violent. Within minutes after their arrival, Appellants began espousing extremely aggressive and offensive messages—e.g., that the bystanders would “burn in hell” or “in a lake of fire” because they were “wicked, filthy, and sick”—and accused the crowd of fixating on “murder, violence, and hate” because that was “all [they] ha[d] in [their] hearts.” These words induced a violent reaction in short order; the crowd soon began to throw bottles, garbage, and eventually rocks and chunks of concrete..... As in Feiner, the situation at the 2012 Festival went far beyond a crowd that was merely unhappy and boisterous; as Richardson explained to the Bible Believers, the threat of violence had grown too great to permit them to continue proselytizing.
Judge Clay dissented, saying:
This is a clear heckler’s veto, breaching the principle that “hostile public reaction does not cause the forfeiture of the constitutional protection afforded a speaker’s message so long as the speaker does not go beyond mere persuasion and advocacy of ideas [but rather] attempts to incite to riot.”
AP reports on the decision. [Thanks to How Appealing for the lead.]