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Jury acquits Christian group in Dearborn but mayor says they’re bigots

Commentary by Kay B. DayThe Thomas More Law Center announced the acquittal of four Christian evangelists who had been charged with breach of the peace during the Arab International Festival in Dearborn on June 18. The evangelists are members of ‘Act 17 Apologetics,’ a ministry group dedicated to defending the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Dearborn mayor certainly was not pleased at the verdict--media said he accused the Christians of being "anti-Muslim bigots."

The incident was videotaped by a member of Act 17. The video showed the Christians having a conversation with fairgoers.  No violence, shouting or altercations can be observed. The exchange was quite peaceful and in no way resembled an attack.

One group member, said TMLC, was “found guilty of failing to obey a police officer.” Various media said the member refused to stop videotaping when a policeman demanded she turn the recorder off. TMLC said that charge will “most likely be reversed on appeal.”

Dearborn mayor Jack O’Reilly appears to have no love for the Christian group. After the arrests, O’Reilly published a lengthy letter on the city website. In that letter he disclosed other religious groups had paid a fee for exhibit space. O’Reilly caricatured Act 17 members as “aggressive.” He said the “real violation is their attack on the City of Dearborn for having tolerance for all religions including believers in the Koran.”

O’Reilly’s letter addressed the issue from the standpoint of festival rules such as designation of free speech areas. He appeared to have a complete lack of understanding of evangelical proselytizers common throughout America on public streets. It is also not uncommon to find members of the Nation of Islam doing the same, handing out their print newspapers in hopes of donations.

Street preachers are a longtime American phenomenon—they are common and widely tolerated in the Southern U.S.

The Press and Guide (Dearborn) quoted O’Reilly’s response to the verdict: “It’s really about a hatred of Muslims…That is what the whole heart of this is. ... Their idea is that there is no place for Muslims in America. They fail to understand the Constitution.”

However there is no evidence of hatred of Muslims on any of the videotape. As a matter of fact, one videotape shows an interesting, mannerly exchange between one of the Christian missionaries and several youth.

A public official’s lack of understanding of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights should raise concerns throughout the nation.

The Thomas More Law Center is a national Christian public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor (Mich.) The center represented the evangelists at no charge. Robert Muise, the Law Center’s Senior Trial Counsel, handled the five-day trial.

The incident is another example of potential conflict between major faiths and government’s approach to dealing with tenets of Islam. For instance in countries like Saudi Arabia, The Christian Science Monitor notes no other faith may proselytize since Islam is the official state religion, and Muslims cannot convert to other faiths.

US scholars are in the process of exploring the impact of some aspects of Islam such as Sharia law within Western culture. Michael Nazir-Ali wrote an excellent analysis for The Heritage Foundation, explaining, “Shari'a's denial that the law should apply equally to all has ramifications in arenas ranging from family law and the place of women in society to freedom of belief and expression.”

Nazir-Ali’s statement was timely. The Heritage Foundation analyzed a rape case decided by a New Jersey judge who ruled in favor of a Muslim man’s right to rape his wife. The woman’s injuries were documented by police. The defense called an imam to testify. An appellate court reversed the judge’s decision.

Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of TMLC, praised attorney Muise who defended the Christians. Thompson said, “The bottom line in the jury’s not guilty verdict: the Constitution, not Shariah law, still prevails in Dearborn, Michigan.”

Related Stories

What big media won’t tell you about religious oppression in Dearborn

Does Sharia trump the US Constitution in Dearborn?


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