Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Christian Evangelists Escorted From 2012 Arab International Festival Lose Civil Rights Suit

In Bible Believers v. Wayne County, (ED MI, May 14, 2013), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a suit for declaratory and injunctive relief and nominal damages brought by a group of traveling Christian evangelicals who were escorted away by police and threatened with dsorderly conduct citations at last year's Arab International Festival in Dearborn, Michigan.  The group preached, using a megaphone, for 90 minutes, insulting and denouncing Islam. Festival attendees-- particularly children-- began hurling objects at the preachers. Police officials tried to stem the crowd.  Eventually, however, fearing someone would be injured, they ordered the preachers to leave. The court concluded that police acted in a content-neutral manner and were justified in stopping the speakers because of the actual violence that occurred, even if the violence stemmed from the crowd's disagreement with the speakers.  The court said:
Even when construing the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the evidence also suggests that sheer size of the crowd and expanse of the Festival grounds made it unfeasible to proceed against the crowd.
The court also rejected plaintiffs' free exercise and equal protection claims, and held that even if there was a constitutional violation, municipal  liability is inappropriate.

Plaintiffs have filed an immediate Notice of Appeal to the 6th Circuit. The American Freedom Law Center issued a press release on the decision. The Dearborn Press and Guide reported on the decision.