DEARBORN (WWJ) – A Wayne County jury will decide if controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones will be ordered to pay a hefty peace bond.
Jones was in court, Friday, fighting a request by county officials that he put up more than $40,000 ahead of his planned protest at a Dearborn mosque. Prosecutors say the money is needed to pay for extra security.
Deliberations began at about 3:30 p.m.
Speaking before the jury, earlier Friday, Jones said his argument with Dearborn is not over the Qur’an, but over Freedom of Speech.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Rob Moran told jurors that this case is about public safety.
“We are not here because it’s unpopular. We’re not here because people may not like it. We’re not here because we might find it offensive. We are here because the conduct of the respondents will likely result in a breech of the peace,” Moran said.
Jones said he will protest in front of a Dearborn Mosque Friday whether he is given permission to or not.
Jones captured headlines last September 11th, by threatening to burn a Qur’an on the anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Though it didn’t happen, he did burn a Qur’an earlier this month, sparking violence in Afghanistan.
Jones said – just like the Bible – the Qur’an is ”just a book.”
“You go tomorrow and you get you a Bible and you burn it. I will feel sorry for you. I will probably think you’re stupid. But the Bible is still a book. And I will go tomorrow and I will buy another Bible. It is not worth a thousand lives,” he said.
Called to testify, Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said he feared Jones would burn a Qur’an in Dearborn, but admitted in court that that was just a hunch.
WWJ’s Mike Campbell caught up with Jones as he went into the courtroom. He asked Jones why he chose Dearborn.
“We came here because it seemed to be the logical location. This is a very, very large Muslim community and the Mosque is the largest in America. We chose it actually out of that reason because this seems to be, to a certain extent lets say, the heart of Islam in America,” Jones said.
“Today is our second day in court concerning our permit to protest, to exercise our First Amendment Rights. We expressed very clearly yesterday, and will express this morning, that these prolonged court proceedings is a further attempt to try to stop us from exercising our First Amendment rights,” he said.
Jones is confident he can win the case on constitutional grounds, First Amendment free speech rights.
“We have already done several demonstrations around America and we have had absolutely no violence whatsoever,” Jones said.
Jones, along with his assistant pastor, Wayne Sapp are representing themselves in the courtroom – both of whom say they have no legal background.
Chief Haddad has said that if Jones and his assistant do not pay for the bond and choose to protest anyway, they will be arrested.
Jones said if they go to jail and are not allowed to have their protest, they will come back next week to hold the protest.
“I’m usually a very positive, optimistic person, and I think the jury is going to find that there’s no evidence, in our history, of violence and there will be no reason to have a peace bond,” Jones said.
Jones’ protest is planned from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. in front of America’s Largest Mosque: The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. Meantime, an interfaith group has planned a counter-rally for Friday afternoon.
At least one member of Metro Detroit’s clergy is surprised that this issue went to trial.
The Reverend Ronald Griffin of Rose of Sharon Church of God in Christ told WWJ he finds it interesting that the courts are involved with Jones when they weren’t involved with similar situations with Jim Jones or Timothy McVeigh.
“I think we ought not give Mr. Jones any more attention. We need to watch him, but don’t make a martyr… he is not a martyr and he is not a hero, so I’m a little bit …somewhat surprised they’ve taken this (to trial),” Rev. Griffin said.
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