“Arresting [Koran-Burning Pastor Terry] Jones Would Have Been an Option Had He Come on Campus”

From today’s L.A. Times:

Campus police said they asked the Rev. Terry Jones not to come on campus after receiving information about suspicious activity associated with the visit that raised safety concerns. Several areas on campus, including Aldrich Hall where the university’s administration is housed, were closed.

Jones, who threatened to burn the Koran on the anniversary of of the September 11 terrorist attacks and eventually did so in March, had applied for a permit to speak at an area near the campus flagpoles but was denied permission because another organization had already applied for the same time slot….

School officials said that arresting Jones would have been an option had he come on campus.

It’s hard to be sure, based on the story, exactly what happened. If Jones had been denied a permit on the content-neutral grounds that the spot was already taken, the University would be able to insist that Jones not show up. (University campuses are generally treated as limited public fora from which the university may generally exclude outsiders; and if the university allows outsiders to speak, it may impose content-neutral rules limiting their speech. See, e.g., Bloedorn v. Grube (11th Cir. 2011).) And beyond this, if the police department had simply warned Jones about the danger, and asked him to stay away while making it clear that this was just advice that he could ignore, there wouldn’t be a First Amendment problem.

On the other hand, if the police generally demanded that Jones stay away, not just on this occasion when his permit was denied for space conflict reasons but also even in the future (when no such conflict would likely exist) that would be much more troubling. If anyone has further information, I’d love to hear it.

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