ACLU and Thomas More Law Center Rush to Terry Jones Defense

In an interesting twist, both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Christian law firm Thomas More Law Center (mission statement: to be the sword and the shield for Christians) have stepped forward to defend Qu’ran-burner Terry Jones.

Actually, for those who understand what the ACLU is about — defending the Bill of Rights — it’s not all that strange of a twist. In 1977, it defended the Klan’s right to march in the Holocaust survivor enclave of Skokie, Illinois. It has also defended Rush Limbaugh, so there you go.

Still, it always makes for an interesting conundrum when the ACLU and TMLC are on the same side of anything.

In Jones’ case, fresh off his stint burning a Qu’ran, the Florida pastor decided last week to ride the wave of ill-gotten publicity by going to Dearborn, Michigan to protest outside the Islamic Center for America. But following a hearing Friday in Wayne County, Jones was arrested and put in jail for refusing to post a $1 “peace bond.” The judge issued the bond requirement to keep Jones from inciting a riot, I guess, by outraged Muslims.

What’s most disturbing about the case was that Jones was locked up, not because he was suspected of committing a crime, but because he refused to promise that he wouldn’t go near the mosque. (Hey Wayne County, thought crime, much?)

The ACLU submitted an amicus curiae brief to the 19th District Court in defense of Jones’ right to protest, which says, “If the First Amendment has any meaning, it is that the government cannot suppress the free speech because it — or anyone else — disagrees with the speech.”

The Thomas More Law Center has pledged to file a suit on Jones’ behalf. By the way, I’ve seen TMLC in action. Its lawyers defended the Dover school board in Kitzmiller v Dover. If Jones has any brains at all – and I’m not saying he does – he’ll get on the phone to the ACLU right now, begging its attorneys to take his case.

What’s so incredibly stupid about all of this is that it seems like the community couldn’t have more bungled the handling of this raging bigot. Now, Jones – who is obviously one of the biggest spotlight-seeking jerks out there – will be made into a martyr and now stands to make a lot of money from the taxpayers of Wayne County from a costly federal lawsuit.

 As Darrell Dawsey wrote for Detroit News:

“With all that this region is going through, you mean to tell me that we can’t deal with some ass-backward country preacher spouting off about his xenophobic fears of Arab-Americans and/or Islam?

Indifference, ridicule, pity — any of these would’ve been an appropriate response to this fool. Arguing him down outside the center would’ve been fine, too, for the more passionate among us. 

But throwing the man in jail truly risks turning a gasbag into a poster boy for the fight against governmental assaults on free speech. What’s more, it’ll only make it easier for Jones to further fuel misperceptions of Muslims as intolerant of criticism, misperceptions that lead too many Americans to conflate all Muslims with violent extremists.