Related articles: June 16 Jihad Watch
As you know, Dearborn, Michigan, features the most highly concentrated population of Muslims in the nation. My clients, Arabic Christian Perspective (ACP), and Pastor George Saieg attend the annual Arab International street festival there every year handing out Christian material to Muslims. They do this along the public sidewalks that run along the street, where the festival is conducted. It is open to the public and admission is free. Business establishments along the street remain open during the festival.
It is a bold thing to do, but in the five years ACP has been going there, it has never encountered any problems.
Now, the Dearborn Police Department has asked ACP to stand on a single corner, where they will be unable to freely mingle with festival gatherers and unable to reach their intended audience. This is a violation of its First Amendment rights.
The Thomas More Law Center, based in Ann Arbor, has agreed to assist me in this matter.
As you know, my client, Arabic Christian Perspective (APC) was denied its request for a temporary restraining order, which would have prevented the City of Dearborn from restricting APC’s First Amendment right to distribute its Christian material on public sidewalks adjacent to the annual Arab International Festival. Meanwhile, because they are not subject to the court order, numerous other groups, including Christian groups, are milling about the Festival distributing their material and conducting various types of transactions. APC cannot disobey the order of the United States District Court, so where last year it had handed out some ten thousand leaflets, booklets and DVDs on the first day of the Festival, its volunteers have handed out only a small number this year.
The Festival offered APC a booth to give out their material, and Dearborn police gave it the option of two locations, one of which was in the center of the Festival and where APC could reach large numbers of people. APC chose that location and operated there for awhile until the same police officer who had given them the option told them to move to a remote location on the outer east end of the Festival, where they see few passersby. The order does not restrict their location, and in fact doesn’t cover the Festival’s offer to provide them with a booth location, so there is nothing APC can do about it. It has essentially been sent to Siberia.
What is the lesson of all of this? Apparently, it does no good to give law enforcement authorities advance notice of your intention to peacefully assemble at a public event. APC traditionally has notified local law enforcement authorities of its visits as a courtesy. In the future, I will advise them not to do that. There is simply no point. Christians no longer are being given the same rights as others. Municipal authorities see them as provocateurs, rather than citizens entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
One of your readers responded to this story with the following comment: “Yawn.” I wonder if that person would feel that way if he were told he could no longer express his views on the Internet and would be arrested if he did. The City of Dearborn has singled out one organization due to the content of its message. It has applied what it believes is a reasonable time, place and manner restriction on the one group that gave it notice of its visit to the Festival, while others are not so limited. This is an invidious form of discrimination, and the City of Dearborn will have to justify it in the lawsuit that I and the Thomas More Law Center have filed against it to permanently end this violation of the First Amendment.