A US federal appeals court ruled shortly before Yom Kippur that anti-Jewish protestors who have been picketing outside an Ann Arbor, Michigan synagogue every week since 2003 are legally exercising their right to free speech, the Detroit Jewish News reported.
Beth Israel Congregation has had to endure anti-Semitic protests outside its building for nearly 20 years, the synagogue said, arguing their case before a Cincinnati federal appeals court in April. Their case rested on their claim that the city of Ann Arbor was not enforcing its protest and sign ordinance regulations to prevent the harassment of Jews as they attend synagogue services.
Members of the Beth Israel Congregation argued a First Amendment claim against the city and a group of anti-Jewish protestors who have picketed outside the synagogue every Shabbat morning since September 2003, reported Courthouse News Service.
During their weekly demonstrations, the protestors hold signs that contain anti-Semitic slogans such as “Jewish Power Corrupts,” “Resist Jewish Power,” “End the Palestinian Holocaust,” and “No More Wars for Israel.”
They protest in front of congregants as they enter the synagogue to pray.
The congregation includes several Holocaust survivors. The synagogue said in its case that the protests are especially upsetting for its older members who are survivors.
The federal court heard from the synagogue that the protestors had violated 13 federal laws and 10 state laws.
The court sided with the protestors, ruling that because it found the protests to be non-violent that they met the criteria for protection under free speech law for matters of public concern. The court also ruled that it was not appropriate to place any restrictions on demonstrators, such as a proposed 1,000 foot distance between them and the synagogue or a limit on their signage. The court said that both measures would have been free speech violations.
“We are disappointed by the recent ruling, but we are not surprised given previous rulings,” Rabbi Nadav Caine of Beth Israel Congregation told the Jewish News.
Rabbi Caine said that the protestors were initially demonstrating against settlements in Judea and Samaria but over the years the crowd has gradually become “Nazi-esque” with full on anti-Semitic signs.
He noted that protestors “quickly find themselves blaming Jews for the Holocaust, agreeing with Nazism, claiming Jews have secretly taken over our country and the world, and make claims that Israel is performing daily genocidal massacre.”
The synagogue has not yet stated whether it decided to appeal the decision to a higher court. It had until September 29 to file for such a motion.