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Court Rules Against Christians in Arab Festival Case

09-08-2014

A federal appeals court ruled against a group of Christian evangelists who were forced to leave an Arab-American street festival in Dearborn, Michigan, in 2012.

Festival-goers threw rocks and water bottles at members of the Bible Believers group when they denounced Islam and called Mohammed a false prophet.

In response, Wayne County authorities threatened to ticket the Christian group if they did not leave.

On Wednesday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed county authorities, ruling 2-1 that police were only trying to keep public order.

"The video from the 2012 festival demonstrates that (evangelists') speech and conduct intended to incite the crowd to turn violent… Although robustly guarded by the First Amendment, religious conduct remains subject to regulation for the protection of society," the three-judge panel wrote in its ruling.

But one dissenting judge said the police should have tried to control the lawbreakers rather than stifle free speech.

"The First Amendment protects plaintiffs' speech, however bilious it was," Judge Eric Clay wrote in his 11-page dissent. "The majority … provides a blueprint for the next police force that wants to silence speech without having to go through the burdensome process of law enforcement. I expect we will see this case again."

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