Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Those four Christian missionaries I wrote about who were arrested for disorderly conduct and breach of the peace while preaching at the Dearborn International Arab Festival in June were acquitted by a jury on Friday. That’s the right result, but frankly the charges should have been dismissed by the judge in the first place.

Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia, Negeen Mayel of California and Paul Rezkalla and David Wood, both of New York, were acquitted of breach of peace, 19th District Court officials in Dearborn said after the verdict. Mayel was found guilty of failure to obey a police officer’s order.

That last result is still a bit disturbing because the order she was given was an unlawful one. The officer had no legitimate reason to give her the order to stop videotaping what was going on and therefore she should not be held liable for violating that order.

Unfortunately, the mayor of the town continues to be confused about the legal realities:

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly Jr. said Friday night that he respects the decision, but the missionaries were anti-Muslim bigots pulling a publicity stunt to gain attention on YouTube in order to raise money.

A video the group posted last year about their encounters at the festival has had almost 2 million views. The group solicits money on its Web site when it travels to Dearborn, claiming the city is a hotbed of Islamic radicalism.

“It’s really about a hatred of Muslims,” O’Reilly said. “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.”

He’s absolutely right that Acts 17 Apologetics are a bunch of anti-Muslim bigots. They’re quite obnoxious and simpleminded to the point of being cartoonish. They’re part of this gang who believes that America is being taken over by “creeping Shariah” — and the fact that they were acquitted, that the legal system worked to uphold their rights will not change their minds one bit.

But none of that is relevant to the legal and constitutional questions in this case. If it was a crime to misunderstand the constitution, Mayor O’Reilly would find himself under arrest just as surely as the missionaries. Under our constitution, expressions of bigotry — which, it should be noted, is not what they were engaged in at the time of their arrest, they were engaged in simple discussion with Muslims — are fully protected free speech. As they should be.