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Koran-burning Florida pastor vows to return to protest after ban

By Reuters
Saturday, April 23, 2011 13:59 EDT
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DETROIT (Reuters) – The controversial Florida pastor banned from protesting near a Detroit-area mosque says he plans to return next week for a protest aimed at the court that found him to be a risk to public safety.

Terry Jones, 59, said he would return to Dearborn, Michigan on Thursday and lead a protest the following day, outside the courthouse in an area the city deems a “free speech zone.”

“They have violated our civil rights. Our freedom of speech rights,” Jones said on Saturday as he prepared to board a flight back to Florida.

“We are going to go after them with every single thing we can,” he told reporters.

Jones and an associate, Wayne Sapp, 42, were both briefly jailed on Friday after a Dearborn jury found them to be threats to the peace. A judge imposed an order banning them from approaching Dearborn’s Islamic Center of America for three years.

Neither was charged with a crime.

Jones leads a tiny fundamentalist church in Gainesville, Florida and was unknown until he courted publicity and controversy with threats to burn the Koran last year.

Last month, he staged and videotaped a mock “trial” for the Koran and burned a copy of the holy book in a gesture that prompted deadly riots in Afghanistan and widespread condemnation.

Police in Dearborn, which has a large Muslim American population, denied him a permit to protest in front of the Islamic Center, the largest mosque in the United States.

County prosecutors applied a little-used state law dating back to the 19th century to force a court hearing on whether Jones and Sapp would have to post a “peace bond” because of the risk that they could incite violence.

The American Civil Liberties Union tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed, calling it a violation of constitutional free speech protections.

Jones criticized the court order barring him from approaching the mosque as un-American.

Jones and Sapp represented themselves in the one-day trial.

Sapp said the pair were now working with the Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor,Michigan-based conservative, nonprofit legal center co-founded by Domino’s Pizzafounder Tom Monaghan.

The Thomas More Center, which has a pending federal lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, characterizes itself as “a Christian answer to the ACLU.”

Jones said his Stand Up for America Now group, which sells merchandise with the slogan “Islam is of the Devil,” had been overwhelmed with offers of support since Friday’s trial.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Jerry Norton)

Source: Reuters US Online Report Domestic News

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