The man says he was educating people about “Islam” but what he seems to be doing was provoking Muslims and trying to upset community relations. (via. Chasing Evil)
Setting the stage for a showdown over free speech rights, a resident of Waite Park, Minn., plans to fight St. Cloud officials’ decision to fine him for posting offensive anti-Muslim cartoons last month.
The city attorney’s office last week cited Sidney Allen Elyea, 41, with violating a city ordinance that prohibits posting written materials on utility poles.
Elyea has admitted posting the cartoons, telling police he did so to educate city residents about Islam, said his attorney, Ryan Garry.
The cartoons, discovered Dec. 8, depicted images such as the Prophet Mohammed engaged in bestiality and sodomy, as well as an Islamic crescent with a swastika inside it. They were posted in front of a mosque and a Somali-owned store.
The city’s complaint states that the cartoons “were placed in high-pedestrian traffic areas and were placed to target local Muslim citizens. The posters were designed to harass, and they had that effect.”
Although some local residents pushed for Elyea to face criminal charges, prosecutors in Stearns and Benton counties declined to do so, saying the cartoons had to be considered free speech.
Garry agreed with Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall’s description of the case as “classic First Amendment” issue.
Garry said the city’s ordinance is overly broad, too vague and amounts to “discriminatory enforcement.”
In an e-mail, Garry wrote, “the government is not punishing my client for posting a piece of paper to a telephone pole, but rather punishing him for offering an opinion on a religious and political issue that they disapprove of and find offensive.”
He added: “I am not defending the content of my client’s political and religious speech. However, the government should know that I will vigorously fight this case to the end to defend his right to say it.”
The two civil charges filed against Elyea carry a maximum fine of $250.
Bob von Sternberg • 673-7184Also read: St.Cloud to serve charges against Waite Park man for Cartoons