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Good news: A federal court has awarded $197K to a group of Christian evangelicals who police threatened to arrest for preaching at a Michigan Arab festival.
The Christian were threatened by a violent mob, which had started throwing rocks at them and were threatening even worse violence. Rather than protect them, however, the Dearborn police instead told the Christians they had to leave, or be arrested for disorderly conduct. In other words, at this Arab festival the police unilaterally decided to suspend their freedom of speech and allow the heckler’s veto to win. If you don’t believe me, you can see exactly what happened in the the video below the fold.
The court had previously ruled in favor of the Christians, but what makes this final decision significant is that it declares the policemen themselves personally liable.
In its decision, which was made final today by the entry of judgment in the district court, the Sixth Circuit ruled, among other things, that two Deputy Chief defendants from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office were liable for violating the Christians’ First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion and for depriving the Christians of the equal protection of the law. The court ruled that these individual defendants did not enjoy qualified immunity.
In other words, if you are a cop and deny someone their first amendment rights — threatening them with arrest for exercising those rights — you can be found personal liable in court and end up paying that individual a lot of money for denying them their rights.