A dissenting judge is blasting the reasoning of his colleagues on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who ruled Wednesday police did not violate the First Amendment rights of Christians when they threatened to ticket them for protesting at an annual Arab-American street festival.
As WND reported last year, Judge Patrick J. Duggan in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted Wayne County’s motion for summary judgment of a lawsuit brought by a team of Christians who were badgered, bullied and targeted with garbage thrown by Muslims who disliked their message at the 2012 Arab Fest in Dearborn.
Officials with American Freedom Law Center, who had been arguing the case on behalf of the Christians, also said the judge denied AFLC’s motion requesting that the court issue an order preventing the Wayne County Sheriff and his deputies from restricting the Christian evangelists from displaying their banners and signs on the public sidewalks outside of the 2013 Arab Festival.
The 2012 lawsuit alleged the county, sheriff and deputies refused to protect the group, called Bible Believers, as they were pelted with water bottles and rocks by Muslims, and they threatened to arrest the Christians for disorderly conduct if they did not halt their speech activity and immediately leave the festival area.
Today, a 2-1 majority on the court of appeals concurred with Duggan’s ruling dismissing the case.
“The video from the 2012 festival demonstrates that (evangelists’) speech and conduct intended to incite the crowd to turn violent. … Although robustly guarded by the First Amendment, religious conduct remains subject to regulation for the protection of society,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.
The sheriff’s office was “regulating the safety of the festival attendees,” not “religious conduct,” Judges Bernice Donald and Samuel Mays Jr. wrote in affirming dismissal of the lawsuit against Wayne County authorities.
Judge Eric Clay, in his 11-page dissent, said authorities had illegally exercised a “heckler’s veto” when they threatened to ticket the Bible Believers. He warned today’s court decision will be cited as precedent in other free-speech disputes.
“The First Amendment protects plaintiffs’ speech, however bilious it was,” he said. “The majority … provides a blueprint for the next police force that wants to silence speech without having to go through the burdensome process of law enforcement. I expect we will see this case again.”
The violence at the 2012 events developed when Christian evangelists walking on public sidewalks surrounding the event while carrying signs with biblical messages were assaulted with stones, bottles and debris by attendees of the festival.
The signs that brought on the attack included “Know the God of the Bible” and “Trust Jesus.”
Several of the Christian demonstrators walked away bruised and bloodied from the attack. Ruben Israel, the leader of the group, pleaded with law enforcement officials to intervene so that the demonstration could continue peacefully.
However, the officer refused and demanded the Christians leave the premises or face arrest for disorderly conduct.
A video of the 2012 confrontation shows the Muslim mob assaulting the Christians and the authorities refusal to protect them.
Not one Muslim was arrested for the attack, which left several members of the Christian group injured, the video said.
The video, and a related complaint, showed the crowd – reminiscent of a rock-throwing “intifada” scene from the Middle East – hurling a dizzying barrage of objects at the Christians, who were standing passively with their signs.
(Warning: The following 22-minute video contains profane statements shouted by an angry mob and may be offensive to viewers.)
WND later learned that the Christian crowd had been carrying a pole with a pig’s head attached to the top, further angering the Muslim crowd. At the beginning of the video, Christian street preachers shout, “God is good, and God is not Allah!”
A the 2:17 mark of the video, the mob can be heard screaming: “You want to jump ‘em? C’mon, let’s go!”
One boy yells, “Let’s beat the sh-t out of them!”
A girl shouts, “Go home! Do you understand English?!”
Despite the attacks the Christians endured, a man identified in the video as Deputy Chief Dennis Richardson of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office tells them, “You’re a danger to the safety right now.”
Officers claim they don’t have the manpower to protect the Christians at the festival.
“Your safety is in harm’s way. You need to protect everybody,” said Deputy Chief Mike Jaafar of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. “You do have the option to leave. I just want to make that clear.”
Israel replied, “You have the option to stand with us” as Jaafar walked away, leaving the Christians to the mob.
When police leave, the crowd continues harassing the Christians and screaming profanities.
Then police begin escorting the Christians away from the crowd.
Richardson tells Israel: “We have the responsibility of policing the entire festival, and obviously your conduct is such that it’s causing a disturbance and is a direct threat to the safety of everyone here. Someone could get hurt. You already have blood on your face. One of the festival people, one of my officers, anybody can get hurt. Now we’re going to escort you out.”
Israel explains that the mob throws things and becomes more aggressive when police leave the scene.
“Part of the reason that they throw things on someone is because you tell them stuff that enrages them,” Richardson argues.
AFLC said the Christians were wearing shirts with Scripture quotes and Christian messages.