Appeal revives suit against Allegan city, school

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

Attorneys representing the group of plaintiffs who sued the City of Allegan, Allegan Public Schools and various employees thereof in 2012 after a speech was shut down by city police have appealed the dismissal of their case to a higher court.

The plaintiffs include former Allegan County Commissioner Bill Sage, former Kent County state Rep. Dave Agema and event organizers Elizabeth Griffin and Mark Gurley.

They allege their constitutional rights were violated when Allegan police stopped a speech by self-proclaimed former Islamist terrorist Kamal Saleem. A group had rented the school facilities to hear his opinions about the dangers of Sharia law, but the event was stopped partway through and finished up at a local bowling alley.

U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids granted motions to dismiss the case against the city in 2014 and the school district in 2015.

Judge Janet T. Neff accepted the city and school’s argument that they had not violated the plaintiff’s rights because they had reacted to safety concerns after they realized late on the day of the event that Saleem claims to have a large bounty on his head and claims to be the target of terrorists. As such, Neff ruled that the plaintiff’s constitutional rights had not been violated because there was no evidence their event had been ended based on the content of the speech or the organizers’ views.

Now the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center has filed an appeal, Tuesday, April 7, seeking to have the federal district court’s decisions overruled by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In the notice of appeal, the law center names the city, the school district, police Chief Rick Hoyer and school Principal Jim Mallard.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534 or (269) 685-9571.

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