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May 11 2013

Dearborn Settles With Christian Group

The city of Dearborn has reached a settlement with a group of Christian missionaries who were arrested during the Arab International Festival in 2010. The settlement requires the city to issue an official apology for the arrests and to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs. The American Freedom Law Center, an offshoot of the Thomas More Law Center, issued a press release about the settlement:

After more than two years of intense motion practice and discovery, the City of Dearborn has agreed to enter into a settlement that includes a public apology for arresting several Christian missionaries who were peacefully preaching to Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival in 2010. The American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) is representing Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood, and Paul Rezkalla, who were thrown in jail on June 18, 2010, and charged with “breach of the peace” for their free speech activity.

In September 2010, Robert Muise, AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel, represented the Christians during a five-day criminal trial. At the end of the trial, the Christians were acquitted by a unanimous jury verdict. Following the acquittals, fellow AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel David Yerushalmi and Muise filed a 100-page, civil rights lawsuit against the City, its mayor, John B. O’Reilly, its chief of police, Ronald Haddad, 17 City police officers, and two executives from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce on behalf Qureshi, Wood, and Rezkalla. The lawsuit was later amended to add the Arab Chamber as a defendant. The civil rights complaint alleged that the Christians’ constitutional rights were egregiously violated during the Arab festival.

Just this past week, the City agreed to enter into a settlement, which includes a public apology that will be posted on the City’s website for three years; the removal from the City’s website of a press release and letter from the mayor that contained derogatory comments about the Christians; and a payment to the Christians, the amount of which is confidential.

Muise and Yerushalmi are nutty, but they’re right on this. As I wrote at the time, the Dearborn Police Department had clearly violated the First Amendment with the arrests and this is exactly the right outcome in the case.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Yep.

    What the OP says.

  2. 2
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    PS. Wonders if this could have also fallen under the wingnut on wingnut tag, Ed?

  3. 3
    No One

    Glad to see the rule of law enforced.

  4. 4
    jaxkayaker

    Thanks, Dearborn, for fueling their persecution complex. Great job!

  5. 5
    Mobius

    In this case, Ed, you certainly have “I may not agree with what you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I know you don’t agree with their fundamentalist Christian views (neither do I), but thank you for being a champion of Freedom of Speech. I wish we had more.

  6. 6
    Sastra

    I would think that atheists would (or should) be particularly sensitive to recognizing the right to proselytize in public (as opposed to on the public dime, of course.) A lot of the outrage against such groups is fueled by what I’d call Faith Privilege — the airy assumption that nobody, anywhere, ought to try to tell someone that their faith is wrong and they ought to change their minds. A person’s faith is a badge of their identity; arguing against it is an attack and an automatic sign of bigotry. That argument is usually turned against outspoken atheists, too. It’s bogus.

    So I don’t really have a problem with proselytizing per se. Trying to argue that one religion is wrong and another is right is at least paying attention to a rational question. My problems with missionaries are 1.) they’re wrong and 2.) they don’t argue for their position fairly.

  7. 7
    asonge

    Sastra: I don’t think that “A person’s faith is a badge of their identity; arguing against it is an attack and an automatic sign of bigotry.” is completely bogus. Saying that any religious criticism is bigotry is wrong, but I think it’s pretty clear that on the way from “evangelism” to “harassment” (which is illegal) there’s a spot for speech that does demonstrate bigotry. And another thing is that bigotry isn’t illegal unless someone is actively discriminating under their capacity of a public official or in administering a place of public accommodation.

  8. 8
    dalehusband

    And where is Dearborn? Somewhere in the Muslim dominated Middle East?

  9. 9
    Randomfactor

    Muslim-dominated Midwest, I think.

  10. 10
    No One

    Dearborn is slightly to the west of Detroit.

  11. 11
    drizzt

    Would the town/police department know they were going to lose and try not to sue ? That’s a bunch of stupid lawyers they have… And as others said, it only fuels the crazy.

  12. 12
    drizzt

    wtb edit. function so we don’t have to doublepost… I agree also with the rest of the posters : “I may not agree with what you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”. That’s the 1st in a nutshell.

  13. 13
    Thorne

    It would be interesting, now, to watch Xian heads explode when a Muslim group starts “evangelizing” at the next Xtian assembly. Maybe we can see just how dedicated they are to freedom of speech!

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