The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has decided to review a First Amendment complaint brought by Christians who were assaulted by a rock-throwing Muslim mob at an Arab festival in Dearborn, Michigan.
The case arose from the annual Arab International Festival in June 2012 when Wayne County sheriff’s deputies stood by while a Muslim mob threw rocks at Christians, bloodying them.
The officers then threatened the Christians with arrest if they didn’t leave the event.
The Christians brought a lawsuit against Wayne County over its officers’ actions, and a three-judge panel dismissed it.
The case, shepherded by the American Freedom Law Center, isn’t the first time that Muslim mob violence has erupted at the Arab festival. Earlier, a group of Christians was awarded more than $100,000 in damages because of attacks there.
In the latest case, Robert J. Muise, senior counsel for the AFLC, called the decision to re-hear “great news for religious freedom and the freedom of speech.”
“The panel’s [overturned] decision rewards violence over protected speech and thus incorporates into the First Amendment what is known as a ‘heckler’s veto.’ We are confident that the full court will reverse this ‘dangerously wrong’ decision,” he said.
The 6th Circuit’s rules note that granting such a re-hearing is rare.
“A petition for rehearing en banc is an extraordinary procedure intended to bring to the attention of the entire court a precedent-setting error of exceptional public importance.”
The dissent from the panel’s decision that earlier had dismissed the case said: “The majority’s first error is its conclusion that the First Amendment did not protect [the Christians’] speech. This is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong.”
AFLC co-founder David Yerushalmi said the First Amendment “is under assault by both Muslim supremacists and Islamists on the one hand and progressives advocating ‘hate-speech’ crimes on the other.”
“The result is a shrinking arena of free speech with government bureaucrats and cultural and civilizational jihadists dictating what is and is not acceptable speech,” he said. “Maybe, just maybe, the Sixth Circuit has decided to draw the line in the sand to protect against any further encroachment upon the sphere of this First Amendment freedom.”
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AFLC said the rock-throwing incident left members of the evangelism team bloodied while deputies from the Wayne County sheriff’s office stood by. Then, when Ruben Israel, the leader of the evangelists, asked officers to enforce the law so that Christians could speak, he was told to either leave or be arrested.
“Whether you agree or disagree with the Christians’ message, there is one issue to which there is no dispute: no citizen should be stoned in a city street in America for exercising his constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Muise said when the case developed.
“And what makes this case so egregious is that law enforcement officers were present and made the conscious choice to allow the Muslim mob to silence the Christian speakers through violence. Indeed, the video of the incident looks like something you would see in the Middle East, not in the United States,” he said.
“While it is shocking to see video of Christians being stoned in the United States for criticizing Islam, it is not necessarily surprising that this incident occurred in Dearborn, Michigan, a city where the mayor and law enforcement have consistently violated Christians’ free speech rights in favor of appeasing a large Muslim population and where, in line with the Islamic legal dictates of Shariah, the Christian Gospel is treated as criminally offensive speech, and violence ‘for the sake of Allah’ is reinforced by arresting or removing the Christians. What you are witnessing on the video is the enforcement of Shariah by a hostile mob and law enforcement aiding and abetting,” Yerushalmi added.
WND reported only a few months before the stoning incident that a court had found local officials in Dearborn liable for $100,000 in damages for arresting a Christian pastor who wanted to hand out Christian tracts at the same festival in 2009.
Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen then recommend fees and costs totaling $103,401.96 be awarded in the case, which was handled by attorney Muise on behalf of Christian pastor George Saieg.
Muise, at the time, was with the Thomas More Law Center.
Muise also won acquittals on charges of “disturbing the peace” brought by Dearborn against a group of Christians after they were arrested in 2010 for a similar kind of speech activity.
See video of the 2012 attack: