Sunday, October 30, 2011

School's Mascot Unholy?


A Georgia Pastor is crying foul after he was repeatedly arrested while protesting outside Warner Robins High School (located in Warner Robins, Ga.). The Pastor, who was protesting the school’s mascot, a Demon, claims his first amendment rights pertaining to free speech and freedom of assembly were violated by his repeated arrest and that he was being singled-out due to the religious tone of his protest.

The issue began in August 2010 when Pastor Donald Crosby, leader of God’s Kingdom Builders Church of Jesus Christ, learned that his son would be attending Warner Robins High School. Pastor Crosby took issue with the school being “Home of the Demons” and felt that the demonic mascot did not send the right message to impressionable adolescents. He and 20+ of his congregation decided to picket outside Warner Robins on the first day of school and voice their displeasure.

Shortly into the protest, however, local police dissolved the crowd and arrested Crosby for picketing without a permit (he was quickly released on bond). Several days later, Crosby obtained a permit from the city and held another protest outside the school. Again, police arrived and arrested Crosby, even though he and his congregation had all of the necessary paperwork this time.

Now, more than a year later, Crosby has decided to take legal action against the city of Warner Robins for his repeated arrest. On Monday, October 24, 2011, Crosby filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court, “claiming false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, battery and harassment.” The city, along with the two arresting officers, were named as defendants in the case.

The city, on the other hand, maintains its innocence in any wrongdoing and claims the arresting officers followed all of the proper procedures. James Elliot, the attorney representing the city of Warner Robins, argues the city “had the right to regulate protests in order to maintain the public order.”

Up until the point when Crosby was arrested for the second time, everything was running relatively smoothly; Crosby tried to stage a protest but was arrested for not having a permit. He then received said permit from the city government in compliance with local ordinances in order to stage a second, lawful protest. The question at hand here is “did Pastor Crosby’s second protest constitute a great enough threat to public order to warrant police action?” There is little evidence to support that idea.

Looking at the evidence in this case, it is apparent that Crosby was rearrested not because his protest was threatening law and order, but because it’s religious argument was unpopular. The school adopted the mascot during WWII to honor the 7th Fighter Squadron, better known as the “Screamin’ Demons,” which at the time was based at nearby Robins Air Force Base. Many townspeople were unhappy with Crosby’s protest, seeing it as unpatriotic and trying to undo close to 70 years of tradition. Because the mascot came from the Screamin’ Demons, many townspeople also maintained that Crosby’s religious argument that the school was promoting something akin to devil worship did not make any sense, as the mascot was not religious in nature.

Regardless of the feasibility of the Pastor’s argument, he should have been allowed to voice it without harassment by local police. Just because an argument is unpopular does not give the government the right to silence it. That’s the whole reason the first amendment exists in the first place; to protect all speech, not just popular speech. Pastor Crosby is unequivocally within reason to file a lawsuit against the city and the arresting officers. His most basic constitutional rights were violated, and he deserves justice.

15 comments:

Harry R. said...

I agree with Christopher that the pastor should not have been arrested the second time, assuming he acted in accordance with permitted picketing regulations. His free speech rights were violated by this arrest, and while the religious aspects of his speech were central to his argument, he is entitled to religious speech just as he is entitled to any other speech.

Ally R said...

I doubt that a pastor protesting against a school having a demon as a mascot would promote violence in his protest, which leads me to agree with Christopher. It appears that he was arrested solely based upon the majority's opinion regarding the topic at hand, and the fact that he was protesting against it, not because he was illegally protesting therefore violating his rights to free speech.

Elena T said...

As long as Crosby was not advocating a violent protest, I do not see the justification for his arrest during the second protest. I do agree that the town did not approve of Crosby's beliefs and his attempts to change the school's mascot and that the government was trying to appeal to the majority. In doing so, they infringed upon Crosby's rights, therefore his arrest is not justified.

Zermeno A. said...

I also agree with Christopher, the pastor holds the right to speak out on his feelings towards the school's mascot. Though he obviously has a religious background, the 1st amendment backs his freedom of speech no matter the content. The first arrest may have been justified by a lack of documents, but the second just seems out of line to me as he did take care of legal issues by requesting and obtaining the necessary permits.

Christy said...

The Pastor definitelty has the right to protest in front of the school especially since he has a permit and it seems to be nonviolent. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a trend occuring in these blogs and court cases that protests again religious symbols are much more accepted than when Christians exercise their freedom of speech. If the school had any religious symbol as their mascot, the protests would be encrouaged.

Molly Veelguski said...

I agree with Christopher. The arrest was not justified and his free speech rights were violated. The pastor had every right to voice his opinion, as long as it was not in a violent manner, and it is clearly evident that he was arrested because this opinion was not favored by the community, which is unconstitutional.

Grant Z said...

Clearly the pastor has the right to protest after he has obtained a permit. Therefore, I too agree that his right to free speech was violated by his second arrest. While I may not agree with his stance regarding the mascot's supposedly negative influence on impressionable adolescents, I do believe that he has the right to voice his opinion in a nonviolent and nonthreatening way.

Ashley R said...

What happened to Pastor Crosby is a gross miscarriage of justice. This seems like a case where someone is being silenced because hir speech goes against the grain and is religious in nature. This is not to say that the mascot should be done away with. Rather, I think that if the school were to change the mascot because of its religious connotations, this would work toward an establishment of a particular religion. However, to keep the mascot, even though it does have religious qualities, is not an establishment because the mascot was born for the purpose of displaying a particular religion but as a symbol of patriotism and of local unity and pride.

Annie M said...

As long as the pastor was following protocol, which it seems he was the second time, I see no problem with his most basic constitutional right of voicing his opinion. Also, since he was no danger or threat to the children, the police force didn't really have a reason to not allow the protest. I think that the fact that the protest had everything to do with religion is irrelevant because religious or not, he should be able to voice his opinion. Also, on a side note, a demon as the class mascot does seem a bit odd and controversial.

David P said...

As long as the Pastor has proper "picketing permits" he should not be arrested. Although I am sure the Devil as a high school mascot can be seen as offensive to some, the idea of a mascot is to intimidate the other teams. Coming from a High School where our mascot was also a devil, and a large devout Catholic and Christian following, we never had this problem. The school is entitled to use whatever intimidating image it wants, and the pastor can protest in public areas with proper paperwork all he wants as well, but no laws are being broken by this, and no establishment or restrictions on freedom of religion are occurring.

Marissa V said...

I also agree with Christopher as the pastor had filed all necessary paperwork and he has his right for freedom of speech. Although the town feels it is a tradition to have their mascot this "demon", there is no reason he should have been arrested the second time as it was a nonviolent protest. , This should be seen as unconstitutional as it took away his rights of speech and right to assembly.

Kathryn M. said...

I agree with Christopher that the pastor should not have been arrested the second time if he was in compliance with lawful picketing. Crosby should have the same rights as another citizen who is attempting to exert their freedom of speech for secular viewpoints and content as long as the pastor was not disruptive to the school. In addition, I found Christy’s comment interesting because if the public school system’s academic crest or mascot contained religious iconography, protests would be warranted on the grounds of religious establishment and excessive entanglement.

Callie B said...

Similar to Annie, I also believe that this was not necessarily a case regarding the religion clause. While I can recognize that religion obviously relates to the issue at hand, I am not certain that this constitutes free exercise of religion; rather this is an issue of freedom of speech. However, regardless of whether this is categorized as either free exercise or free speech, I agree with all of the previous comments that the Pastor should have been allowed to protest and that his arrest was unconstitutional. We can look to Cantwell v. Connecticut as a precedent in which free speech and free exercise was similarly upheld.

Grace R said...

I agree with Christopher that the pastor should have been allowed to protest the second time, seeing as he had all of the necessary paperwork. Also, while I understand the schools point of view that the demon mascot is a sign of patriotism, I can also see how the pastor views it as promoting demonism. I believe that the pastor should not only be able to protest, but that his protests be heard and taken into consideration for the future mascot of Warner Robins High School.

Justin E said...

Unless there is sufficient evidence stating that the pastors second protest was a danger to public order of some sort I see no reason why he was rearrested. If he was rearrested without a legitimate reason, then a violation against his free speech is a viable argument (whether it was because of his religious views is debatable but then again eh would not be protesting if he did not feel like it wasn't in some way alarming to his religious belief). In the end though the school mascot had NO religious affiliation, so I believe in this case the school mascot will remain, but perhaps the officers will lose the case for improper force and limiting freedom of speech.