City Had Right to Cancel Anti-Muslim Event

     (CN) — A member of the Republican National Committee cannot sue the city of Allergan, Mich., for shutting down an anti-Muslim event after learning of a potential threat to public safety, the Sixth Circuit ruled on Thursday, upholding the lower court’s decision to dismiss the case.
     David Agema, a member of the Republican National Committee and former U.S. representative from Michigan, sought to organize an event at Allegan High School, in Allegan, Mich., to talk about his House bill to ban Sharia law in Michigan.
     Sharia law, a legal system based on Islamic belief, has never been enacted in the U.S. However, when the National Report published a satirical article announcing Dearborn, Mich., as the first U.S. city to implement Sharia law, some members of the public mistook it for a genuine news report and panicked.
     Agema said he planned the January 2012 event to “warn citizens about the internal threat to America posed by radical Muslims,” and “to alert the public about the dangers to our free society caused by the imposition of Sharia law,” according to U.S. Circuit Judge Bernice Bouie Donald’s summary of the case in her 11-page opinion.
     The event was to feature Kamal Saleem, founder of Koome Ministries and a self-professed former terrorist who has since converted to Christianity.
     The Allegan Public School District agreed to rent a room to Agema for its customary $90 fee, but received letters from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and People for the American Way objecting to the event, calling Saleem a purveyor of hatred and intolerance.
     Shortly before the event began, an unidentified woman told police that Saleem had a $25 million bounty on his head. The parties dispute whether Saleem’s bodyguard corroborated the rumor.
     This threat induced the police to shut down the event while it was underway. It was allegedly transferred to a local bowling alley.
     A federal judge dismissed Agema’s subsequent First Amendment suit against the city of Allegan, its police chief, the Allegan school district, and its high school principal.
     On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of claims against the city, because there was no evidence it had a municipal policy giving its police chief “unfettered discretion” to shut down public events at will, according to Judge Donald’s opinion.
     However, Donald added that the school district may be bound by its offer to settle the matter for $500. Although Agema had accepted the offer earlier, the school district later rescinded it.
     The city’s former defense counsel, William Vogelzang, said the offer was made with the school district’s knowledge and consent.
     But “[current] defense counsel claimed that Vogelzang never talked to the school at all about making the offer,'” Donald’s opinion states. “Counsel further described Vogelzang’s January 23, 2013 email saying that his clients were having ‘second thoughts’ as not ‘entirely truthful.’ Given the contradictory claims, we cannot say definitively whether the defendants knew about or consented to the offer.”
     Donald sent this issue back to the originating federal court in Michigan to determine whether the school district is bound to honor the settlement offer.
     U.S. Circuit Judge Gilbert Merritt disagreed with the decision to remand the case.
     “The bottom line for me in this case is that there was a sufficient threat to public safety to justify terminating the meeting in this day and time when guns are too easily accessible for almost everyone and mass killings in public places are a frequent occurrence,” Merritt wrote in his five-page, partial dissent. “In addition, defense counsel as an agent of defendant had apparent authority to make the Rule 68 offer and so the settlement of the lawsuit should be enforced.”
     Agema continues to question the patriotism of Muslim Americans. In 2014, he published a comment on Facebook asking, “Have you ever seen a Muslim do anything that contributes positively to the American way of life?”
     Last year, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called on Agema to resign from the committee after Agema made racist statements against African-Americans to the white supremacist magazine “American Renaissance,” but Agema has refused to leave his seat.

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