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Shari'a law Archives

April 13, 2012

Dearborn at it again. A hold harmless agreement to engage in religiously controversial speech?

The city of Dearborn, Michigan, is at it again. Pastor Terry Jones wants to speak in Dearborn across from a large mosque and has applied for an event permit to do so. Dearborn is trying a rather novel method of refusing: Jones and his associates were told that they cannot get the event permit unless they sign a sweeping hold harmless agreement. You can read the proposed agreement here.

As far as I can tell, the main import of it is that if they are killed by infuriated Muslims while Dearborn's finest deliberately do nothing, Dearborn won't be sued. In other words, it's to be open season on Christians with the gall to speak in a Muslim zone. The agreement says that Jones and co. understand that "these risks could result in damage to property, personal, and/or bodily injury or death, including injuries or death to the individual participants."

The wording is sweeping enough that it seems that it could also indemnify the City of Dearborn against suit if they take an active role in stopping the Christians--for example by simply arresting them right off the bat on trumped-up "disorderly conduct" charges, committing a color of law violation against their First Amendment rights. The agreement says that the Christians

RELEASE AND FOREVER DISCHARGE the city of Dearborn … and its officers, employees, and agents, from any and all claims, liabilities, or lawsuits, including legal costs and reasonable attorney fees, resulting from their activities on City of Dearborn property.

I take it that the "their" in "their activities" refers to Jones and his organization. Nonetheless, color me cynical, but if the city officers behave in an otherwise litigable way when Jones & Co. show up to speak against Islam, could that not plausibly be taken to be a claim that "results from" Jones's own actions on Dearborn City property?

Either way, this seems completely unreasonable. On the most charitable interpretation, the agreement amounts to an unsubtle implication that Muslims will be allowed to harm the unpopular Christian speakers with impunity.

Legal eagles, have you ever heard of anything like this before? "We'll technically allow you to speak, but you can't sue us for anything whatsoever that happens in connection with your speaking." Much less, "You can't sue us for anything that we do in connection with your speaking." It's a new one on me, but maybe I just missed some other city's use of such an agreement to tell unwelcome speakers to get lost.

Thomas More Law Center is suing Dearborn again, bless 'em. We'll see how this latest sharia struggle plays out.