ATLANTA — A pastor has filed a federal lawsuit claiming a Georgia city violated his rights when he was arrested for protesting a high school's demon mascot.
Pastor Donald Crosby said in the lawsuit filed Monday that the city of Warner Robins violated his First Amendment rights when he was arrested for protesting the red-horned mascot of the local high school.
Crosby was locked up in August 2010 after he failed to show officers a permit while protesting Warner Robins High School's mascot. He obtained a permit a few days later, but was arrested again during a second protest at the school.
Crosby said in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Macon, that he was shaken by the experience and forced to move out of the central Georgia town for fear of continued harassment.
"Maybe I'm completely crazy and I don't know what I'm talking about. Or maybe all of their allegations are true," Crosby said in an interview. "But the fact of the matter is I believe I have the right to be heard."
Warner Robins attorney James Elliott Jr. said the city's restrictions have withstood years of reviews.
"The courts don't give unbridled right to individuals to gather in a way that affects the public peace," he said. "We'll just see as the litigation unfolds, but our ordinance wasn't adopted for any purpose other than to protect the public's rights as well as the protestors' rights."
Crosby and about 25 members of his congregation, God's Kingdom Builders Church of Jesus Christ in Macon, gathered outside the high school on the first day of classes in 2010. Waving "Warner Robins Must Repent" signs, they urged the school to abandon the team's name, which Crosby said was offensive to Christians.
After a brief confrontation with police, Crosby was arrested for not getting a protest permit and briefly incarcerated. He staged another rally a few days later after he received a permit, but was arrested again for holding the demonstration at the school. He held a third rally a day later that was videotaped by local police.
Crosby said he was unfairly targeted by city officials who disagreed with his message.
"The majority of the community applauded the demon and here I was going against it," he said. "They wanted me silenced and they were willing to bend the law to make sure it happened."
His attorney, Gerry Weber, called the city's restrictions "blatantly unconstitutional," an argument Elliott vowed to vigorously fight. Crosby, for his part, is treating his brush with the law as a point of pride.
"I felt honored getting locked up. Every hero in the Bible, every apostle, every prophet, every real preacher got locked up for standing up for Christ," he said. "I'm not ashamed it happened and I'd do it again."