A judge in Detroit has ruled that the decision by police in neighboring Dearborn to arrest a Christian pastor who wanted to hand out Christian tracts at the city’s Arab fest in 2009 will cost the city some $100,000.
That’s the decision following a request from the pastor’s attorneys that the losing side in the First Amendment argument over expressing religious perspectives on city streets be required to pay them for their work on behalf of Christian Pastor George Saieg.
Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen said his recommendation for fees and costs totaling $103,401.96 be awarded in the case that was handled by attorney Robert J. Muise.
Muise, at the time, was with the Thomas More Law Center, and the fees will go to that organization.
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Muise has since worked with attorney David Yerushalmi to form the American Freedom Law Center, a new law firm that fights for faith and freedoms through litigation, public policy initiatives and other activities.
“The award of attorney fees in this case,” he said, “is critical in the lawfare against civilization jihad and dhimmitization, or subjugation, of an entire municipality in Michigan. Dearborn has a long record of this kind of illegal, heavy-handed treatment of Christians as an attempt to placate Dearborn’s Shariah-faithful [Muslims]. The court’s ruling today demonstrates that this kind of behavior will come at great cost.”
The judge said in the order, “In this case, the plaintiff received the full relief he sought – an invalidation of the leafleting restriction and a permanent injunction barring its enforcement. … Because this result ‘cannot fairly be labeled as anything short of excellent, [plaintiff] is entitled to a fully compensatory fee.’”
The Saieg case was just one of several that have developed in recent years because of the city of Dearborn’s special protections for Islam at the festival, at the cost of those who would speak of, or hand out information about, other religions.
Muise, in fact, recently won acquittals on charges of “disturbing the peace” brought by Dearborn against a group of Christians after they were arrested by Dearborn police in 2010 for a similar kind of speech activity.
The Detroit News had reported that officials for a pro-Islamic advocacy organization accused the Christians of not playing by the rules of the Arab fest. The report said members of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations accused the Christians of passing out missionary literature at the festival in violation of rules that required them either to pass out the materials from a “paid booth” or “outside of the festival area.”
Whalen said Saieg and his Arabic Christian Perspective organization sued Dearborn and its police chief, Ron Hadda, because after distributing Christian information at the event for several years, he was told police would arrest him if he gave information to anyone at the Arab fest.
The city had argued that it was ridiculous to think that because it lost the case, it should pay for Saieg’s legal fees.
“Requiring defendants to absorb plaintiff’s attorney’s fees for the district court proceedings in this case would produce the absurd result of punishing defendants for their success in this court and for acting in accordance with precedent endorsed by two federal judges. Moreover, it would send a message that established precedent and this court’s rulings cannot be relied upon given that a plaintiff potentially could persuade the 6th Circuit to establish new precedent,” the city argued.
The judge suggested that the pastor did, in fact, prevail on his free speech claim.
“Defendants may have believed that they were ‘acting in accordance with precedent endorsed by two federal judges,’ but the 6th Circuit ultimately held that they were not acting in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.
WND also has reported that at least two people claim a crowd was cheering “Allahu akbar!” while arrested Christians were led away in handcuffs for doing nothing more than engaging in peaceful dialogue and videotaping the event.
In Saieg’s specific case, WND reported, a federal appeals court granted an emergency motion allowing him to hand out information about his faith at the same festival the next year.
A three-judge panel from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the precedent that even a minimal loss of a fundamental right is irreparable, granted the motion requested by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of the Sudanese Christian.