As the city of Dearborn prepares for another Arab International Festival in June, the police have lost another court case involving their attempts to prevent Christian missionaries from proselytizing at the annual event.
A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city cannot prohibit a Christian minister from handing out leaflets on the sidewalks in or around the festival grounds, a rule they put in place in 2009. George Saieg, a Christian minister of Arab descent, had handed out pamphlets intended to convince people to leave Islam and become Christians at previous festivals and filed suit against the new restrictions.
The District Court ruled in favor of the city but the Appeals Court has now reversed that ruling and ordered an injunction preventing the city from imposing those restrictions from this point on. The court ruled that the city’s justification for the rule was invalid:
On the free speech claim, we REVERSE the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendants and its denial of summary judgment to the plaintiffs. We thereby invalidate the leafleting restriction within both the inner and outer perimeters of the Festival. The restriction on the sidewalks that are directly adjacent to the Festival attractions does not serve a substantial government interest. The City keeps those same sidewalks open for public traffic and permits sidewalk vendors, whose activity is more obstructive to sidewalk traffic flow than pedestrian leafleting is. Moreover, the
prohibition of pedestrian leafleting in the outer perimeter is not narrowly tailored to the goal of isolating inner areas from vehicular traffic.
This is separate from the case of a group of missionaries from the group Acts 17 Apologetics, four of whom were arrested at last year’s festival for disturbing the peace for talking about religion with festival goers. All four were acquitted of those charges and have now filed a similar suit against the city, which they are almost certain to win.
The city is also facing a lawsuit from Florida pastor Terry Jones for denying him the right to protest outside a mosque in the city on Good Friday. Jones has said that he will attend this year’s Arab festival as well. But now that the Dearborn police have repeatedly lost in court over such issues, the missionaries will be allowed to go about their business without being arrested.
And no, this is not some attempt to “impose Sharia law” in Dearborn. It’s just another city that doesn’t understand the First Amendment and cares more about avoiding problems than protecting constitutional rights.