805 F.3d 228 (6th Cir. 2015), 13-1635, Believers v. Wayne County
|Citation:||805 F.3d 228|
|Opinion Judge:||CLAY, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||BIBLE BELIEVERS; RUBEN CHAVEZ, AKA RUBEN ISRAEL; ARTHUR FISHER; JOSHUA DELOSSANTOS, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. WAYNE COUNTY, MICHIGAN; BENNY N. NAPOLEON, in his official capacity as Sheriff, Wayne County Sheriff's Office; DENNIS RICHARDSON, individually and in his official capacity as Deputy Chief, Wayne County Sheriff's Office; MIKE JAAFAR,...|
|Attorney:||Robert Joseph Muise, AMERICAN FREEDOM LAW CENTER, Ann Arbor, Michigan, for Appellants. Nabih H. Ayad, AYAD LAW, P.L.L.C., Canton, Michigan, for Appellees. Robert Joseph Muise, AMERICAN FREEDOM LAW CENTER, Ann Arbor, Michigan, David Yerushalmi, AMERICAN FREEDOM LAW CENTER, Washington, D.C., for Ap...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: COLE, Chief Judge; BOGGS, BATCHELDER, MOORE, CLAY, GIBBONS, ROGERS, SUTTON, COOK, McKEAGUE, GRIFFIN, KETHLEDGE, WHITE, STRANCH, and DONALD, Circuit Judges. CLAY, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which COLE, C.J., BOGGS, BATCHELDER, MOORE, KETHLEDGE, WHITE, and STRANCH, JJ., joine...|
|Case Date:||October 28, 2015|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit|
Argued March 4, 2015.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Detroit. No. 2:12-cv-14236--Patrick J. Duggan, District Judge.
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Plaintiffs Ruben Chavez (" Israel" ), Arthur Fisher, Joshua DeLosSantos, and the Bible Believers (collectively " the Bible Believers" or " Plaintiffs" ) appeal the district court order entering summary judgment in favor of Defendants Sheriff Benny N. Napoleon, Deputy Chief Dennis Richardson, Deputy Chief Mike Jaafar, and Wayne County (collectively " Wayne County" or " Defendants" ). Plaintiffs initiated this constitutional tort action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and free exercise of religion, as well as their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws. The district court held that Defendants' actions in cutting off the Bible Believers' religious speech did not violate the Constitution. We REVERSE the judgment of the district court in full and REMAND this case for entry of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, for the calculation of damages, and for the award of appropriate injunctive relief, consistent with this opinion.
" If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443, 458, 131 S.Ct. 1207, 179 L.Ed.2d 172 (2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). " Nowhere is this [First Amendment] shield more necessary than in our own country for a people composed [from such diverse backgrounds]." Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 310, 60 S.Ct. 900, 84 L.Ed. 1213 (1940). Born from immigrants, our national identity is woven together from a mix of cultures and shaped by countless permutations of geography, race, national origin, religion, wealth, experience, and education. Rather than conform to a single notion of what it means to be an American, we are fiercely individualistic as a people, despite the common threads that bind us. This diversity contributes to our capacity to hold a broad array of opinions on an incalculable number of topics. It is our freedom as Americans, particularly the freedom of speech, which generally allows us to express our views without fear of government sanction.
Diversity, in viewpoints and among cultures, is not always easy. An inability or a general unwillingness to understand new or differing points of view may breed fear, distrust, and even loathing. But it " is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears." Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 376, 47 S.Ct. 641, 71 L.Ed. 1095 (1927) (Brandeis, J., concurring). Robust discourse, including the exchanging of ideas, may lead to a better understanding (or even an appreciation) of the people whose views we once feared simply because they appeared foreign to our own exposure. But even when communication fails to bridge the gap in understanding, or when understanding fails to heal the divide between us, the First Amendment demands that we tolerate the viewpoints of others with whom we may disagree. If the Constitution were to allow
for the suppression of minority or disfavored views, the democratic process would become imperiled through the corrosion of our individual freedom. Because " [t]he right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas . . . is . . . one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes," Terminiello v. City of Chi., 337 U.S. 1, 4, 69 S.Ct. 894, 93 L.Ed. 1131 (1949), dissent is an essential ingredient of our political process.
The First Amendment " may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger." Id. If we are not persuaded by the contents of another's speech, " the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." Whitney, 274 U.S. at 377 (Brandeis, J., concurring). And although not all manner of speech is protected, generally, we interpret the First Amendment broadly so as to favor allowing more speech. See Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 538, 85 S.Ct. 453, 13 L.Ed.2d 471 (1965) (" [W]hen passing on the validity of a regulation of conduct, which may indirectly infringe on free speech, this Court . . . weigh[s] the circumstances in order to protect, not to destroy, freedom of speech." (internal quotation marks omitted)) (Black, J., concurring).
This case calls on us to confirm the boundaries of free speech protections in relation to angry, hostile, or violent crowds that seek to silence a speaker with whom the crowd disagrees. Set against the constitutional right to freedom of speech, we must balance the state's interest in insuring public safety and preventing breaches of the peace. The scenario presented by this case, known as the " heckler's veto," occurs when police silence a speaker to appease the crowd and stave off a potentially violent altercation.1 The particular facts of this case involve a group of self-described Christian evangelists preaching hate and denigration to a crowd of Muslims, some of whom responded with threats of violence. The police thereafter removed the evangelists to restore the peace. Bearing in mind the interspersed surges of ethnic, racial, and religious conflict that from time to time mar our national history, the constitutional lessons to be learned from the circumstances of this case are both timeless and markedly seasonable.
In this opinion we reaffirm the comprehensive boundaries of the First Amendment's free speech protection, which envelopes all manner of speech, even when that speech is loathsome in its intolerance, designed to cause offense, and, as a result of such offense, arouses violent retaliation. We also delineate the obligations and duties of law enforcement personnel or public officials who, in the exercise of the state's police power, seek to extinguish any breaches of the peace that may arise when constitutionally protected speech has stirred people to anger, and even to violence.
A. Dearborn and the Arab International Festival
Dearborn--home of the world headquarters of the Ford Motor Company--is a city located in Wayne County, Michigan, that borders Detroit and has a stable population
of approximately 100,000 people.2 Dearborn is also home to one of the largest populations of Arab Americans in the country--second only to New York City.3 Dearborn's Arab American population is comprised of both Christian and Muslim families whose national origins include Lebanon, Armenia, Yemen, Iraq, and Palestine, among other nations.4
Beginning in 1996 and continuing for 17 years thereafter, each June, Dearborn celebrated its Arab heritage and culture by hosting the Arab International Festival. The Festival, which was free to the public, featured Middle Eastern food, music, artisan booths, cultural acts, and other amusements, including carnival rides. A principal purpose of the Festival was to promote cultural exchange. Each year, the Festival took place on a stretch of Warren Avenue, covering several blocks temporarily closed to vehicular traffic. The street became a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with vendors and information booths. The brick and mortar stores lining the Warren sidewalks also remained open. The Festival attracted people from around the world, and by 2012, it was the largest festival of its kind in the United States, annually drawing...
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