Search This Blog

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sharia Law in Dearborn, Michigan

The largest single Arab population in the USA lives in Dearborn, Michigan. Over 40,000 recent Arab immigrants live there. The city is also the location of the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in North America. Every year they have an "Arab festival." At this festival they have booths set up for Muslims to "answer questions" about their religion. That is fine, in my opinion, as I support the first amendment rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech. What concerns me, though, is that a group of Christians, at this year's festival, were not allowed to hand out their pamphlets within 5 blocks of the festival. In 2009 when they tried to engage Muslims at the booth with regard to their religion, they were arrested and spent the night in jail. I find this appalling. Although I am not a Christian, I am an American and I am outraged that the first amendment rights of these Christians were restricted. Muslims apparently prefer a suppression of religious rights and freedom of speech but this is America. If they want to live here, they need to realize that they have to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

If groups as outrageous as Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are allowed, because of the right to free speech, to spout their hate at the funerals of veterans, why aren't these Christians allowed to engage Muslims in a discussion of religion?

The mayor and police chief of Dearborn, apparently are afraid of the large Arab population and they have kowtowed to their demands. Please watch the videos below and join me in writing emails to the mayor and police chief of Dearborn, as well as a letter to the editor of the newspaper. The email links follow the video.

Here is what happened at this years festival:

Here is what happened at the same festival in 2009:

Email Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly

Email Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad

Email a Letter to the Editor of Detroit Free Press


  1. Ken, great post. As a fellow non-Christian, I disagree with the mission of these Christian missionaries, but they are constitutionally allowed to do what they were trying to do at the festival, as long as they were not disturbing the peace.

    Quick correction, though. They were arrested this year (2010), not in 2009.

  2. Oh, at first, I was suspicious of these guys (the missionaries) and was wondering if they were wanting to get arrested so they could play "persecuted for Christ" card, but as more and more evidence comes out, it is appearing that they were act non-disruptively and were only having conversations with people who initiated them.

  3. Bear in mind that (according to comments on other blogs discussing this) there were other Christian groups with stalls at the show, distributing literature and engaging in discussion. None of those groups seem to have faced this "persecution", which suggests that somebody went looking for trouble. The videos back it up - the day after being arrested, they go back to do exactly the same thing, then act surprised that it happens - all while filming it for the web, of course.

  4. Ken,

    The Arab festival is not a public event. It is a private event the public may attend. As such the organizers have every right to decide who may or may not be there. First amendment rights may be abridged at a private event. The organizers decide what free speech they want to allow. That's the law.

    The 2009 video and 2010 video are two different matters. 2009? The Christians were at a private event. 2010, on a public sidewalk outside the public event.

    This type of matter has been litigated here in Ohio. Christians attempted to hand out literature at the State and County fairs. They were arrested. (I was threatened with arrest) The courts ruled that the fairs were private events and that first amendment guarantees did not apply.

    Even, on public property they do not necessarily apply. At the public monuments in Washington , DC, the police decide where and where not preaching, handing out literature, etc may be done.

    First amendment rights are not absolute. I don't believe they were violated in 2009. They most certainly were in 2010.

    In both years these guys were a bunch of a**holes.


  5. They may have been looking for trouble but I still think its wrong for the police to prohibit someone from handing out literature outside the gates of the festival as long as they are not harrassing people.

    As for the 2009 incident it didn't appear to me that they were handing out literature. The pamphlet the one had in his hand was a Muslim pamphlet they picked up at a booth and they were trying to ask questions.

    Listen I think both groups, Muslims and Christians, are annoying and deluded; however, its scary when the gov't infringes upon the rights of free speech. If anyone ought to be stopped in this regard, its the nuts from Westboro Baptist Church who protest at funerals. That is aboutthe most despicable thing I can imagine. Nevertheless, I would rather have to put up with that kind of abuse than to have freedom of speech infringed upon.

  6. Every year these guys go to this festival looking for trouble, then putting up innocent YouTube videos the very next day. Last year, for 10 hours, there was a counter video pug up showing them coming close to assaulting a man that had been edited out of their video. They had people flag the video and it was taken down.

    These guys want the attention, they go to the festival seeking it.

    Personal Failure, not logged in

  7. I grew up in that area. Every time I go back to visit, it seems that the muslim communities are more radicalized. It's kind of sad to see.

  8. Ken, I greatly appreciate your integrity and fair-mindedness in defending religious freedom, all the while challenging the views expressed.

    I am equally wary of using the coercive power of the state to police expression. Here, the officers' conduct was egregious. They made an authoritarian, intimidating show of force (a dozen or so officers to confront 3 pamphleters); they arrested the pamphleteers; and they censored the videotaping (another violation of speech & also of press). What possible justification could the police have for stopping the videotaping?

    It was an arrogant abuse of coercive state power.

  9. Eric,

    Thanks for the kind words. As a lawyer, your comments carry significant weight. I agree that it was an abuse of power and what frightens me is how apparently the Islamic community in Dearborn is able to intimidate the mayor and police force into suppressing free speech.

    I am a firm believer in free speech. It is foundational to our republic. If that is ever squelched we are in deep trouble in this country.

    I know some atheists just assume these Christians are trying to get publicity, etc but I don't care what their motives are, they have a right to free speech. I have emailed my concerns to the mayor and the Police chief and I encourage other freedom loving Americans to do the same thing.

  10. Just passing through, but I thought I'd point out that the story here is not as clear-cut as the Acts 17 Apologetics group would have you to believe. The simple truth is that the Acts 17 Apologetics people were within the five-block buffer zone around the festival established by content-neutral (as in nobody, not even the Kebab Hut, could pass out flyers) rule and were asked to leave.

    You might want to read the TRO granted to George Saieg that allowed him, and him alone to hand out literature in the "buffer zone" for the three days of the festival.

    I've also written a post about it, here:

  11. Apples and oranges are being mixed here. Within the Festival, a private affair on public property, the Christians do not have the same first amendment rights as they do on the public sidewalk outside of the Festival. The courts have been pretty clear on these type of issues. Free speech can be regulated.

    Buffer zones are more problematic. (unless the buffer zone is within the private groups space)

    I would remind everyone that all we are seeing is what acts 17 wants us to see, heavily edited video. I would want to see all the video before rendering a final judgment about whether or not these idiots harassed people or disturbed the peace.

    I did a lot of street/public preaching over the years. You feel vindicated when you are threatened with arrest. (and I was numerous times)Suffering for Jesus, I would say to myself. These days........I now see it as suffering as a fool.


  12. Mirele,

    thanks for the links and the info. I am not a lawyer but here is my take on it. It seems reasonable to forbid handing out literature inside the festival unless in an approved booth. But it seems unreasonable and contrary to the 1st amendment to prohibit handing out literature outside of the festival especially as far away as five blocks. I think if the shoe was on the other foot and Muslims were being prohibited from such activities there would be a large outcry and rightfully so.

    As Brayton says: The key legal question turns on a very narrow, technical argument over the application of a particular precedent. The appeals court says that precedent supports restricting leafleting within the “core area” of the festival, but it may not support also banning distribution of literature in the “outer perimeter” or “buffer zone” outside the core area.

    Again, I am not necessarily defending David Wood and his friends. Perhaps they did something else that is not on the video but regardless I find it troubling that free speech can be prohibited on public property outside of the festival. I would feel the same way if it were atheists wanting to hand out literature, Hare Krishna's, Jehovah's Witnesses or whoever.

  13. NW Skeptic,

    I agree that street preaching or even handing out leaflets is weird and strange and probably has little or no effect. When I was in New Orleans recently there was a "crazy" man saying all kinds of weird things on the street corner using a megaphone. The police were all around but did not hinder him. It seemed to me that he should not be allowed to use the megaphone to preach but they didn't see it that way. While I would like to have taken the megaphone away, I would never support stopping him from saying whatever he wanted to say--only without amplification.

  14. Perhaps the point of my post was not very clear. Since we know that Muslims want to restrict free speech as evidenced by their uproar every time a picture of Mohammed is drawn or someone says something negative about their religion, it seems to me that they want to bring this type of suppression to the US. As an American I resent it and I don't want to see them get away with it here in places like Dearborn where they are in the majority.