An emergency motion has been granted by a federal appeals court in order for a Christian to hand out information about his faith at the annual Arab Festival in Dearborn, Mich., this weekend without being arrested.
A three-judge panel from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today granted the motion requested by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Pastor George Saieg, a Sudanese Christian who has been trying to get permission to distribute literature and talk about his Christianity to Muslims at the festival.
The event is Friday through Sunday in Dearborn, where an estimated 30,000 of the city’s 98,000 residents are Muslim.
According to the law center, Judge Paul Borman just a week ago had affirmed the city’s ban on handing out Christian material near the festival. It was last year when Dearborn police threatened Saieg with arrest if he handed out information on Christianity near the festival.
At that time, the Thomas More Law Center filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the restriction.
Nearly a year later, Borman issued his ruling in favor of the city, just as this year’s event was approaching. An immediate appeal and a request for an emergency motion, however, will allow Saieg’s activity once again.
Saieg and his volunteers for many years had passed out literature in Dearborn without incident before the crackdown in recent years.
“The Sixth Circuit’s quick response is a great victory for the First Amendment and a defeat for Dearborn’s effort to cater to its large Muslim population by ignoring our Constitution,” said Richard Thompson, chief counsel for the center.
“It’s ironic that while Americans recently applauded the free speech exercised by hundreds of thousands of Muslims on the streets of Iran, the city of Dearborn was restricting the free-speech rights of Christians on the city’s public streets and sidewalks,” he said.
The decision means Saieg can distribute his literature during the festival while the case remains on appeal.
“While the extraordinary relief granted by the Sixth Circuit only applies to the upcoming festival, it is a good indication that we will ultimately prevail on appeal,” said Robert J. Muise, the senior trial counsel for the center.
The appellate judges, in their announcement, stated, “The loss of a First Amendment right, ‘for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’”
“This factor weights in favor of injunctive relief for Saieg,” the ruling said.