Via Powerline, so insane is this that I’m paranoid there’s a key detail missing somewhere that might explain the whole thing. Could the Christians have been trespassing on private property, maybe? Sure doesn’t look like it, and in any case, they weren’t arrested for trespassing. They were arrested for “disorderly conduct,” which apparently now extends to the offense of offering religious literature to someone who might not want it.
If this is what it looks like, replete with cops confiscating video cameras to keep what happened off the record, it’s one of the most ridiculous First Amendment violations you’ll ever see.
The Thomas More Law Center, an Ann Arbor-based Christian legal defense organization, has agreed to represent four evangelists who were arrested on charges of disturbing the peace Friday night at the Arab International Festival.
Dearborn police officers violated their free speech rights when their video cameras, which were used to record conversations with festival-goers, were confiscated, said lead attorney Robert Muise…
Muise faxed a letter Monday to Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad requesting the return of his clients’ cameras and tapes.
The Police Department has not responded to Muise’s request.
Here’s the Thomas More Center’s press release, which notes that there was trouble at last year’s Dearborn Arab festival too. Evidently the cops were worried that the presence of Christian lit at a mostly Muslim event might produce some “excitement,” so they solved the problem by punishing the party that tried to peacefully exercise its rights. Note to the defendants: Don’t forget to ask for damages. A lot of damages.
Update: In the interests of fairness, here’s criticism of the Christians from what I assume is a Muslim source. But it’s singularly lame: His argument consists of showing about 10 seconds of footage of someone else at the festival saying “Jesus is lord,” which is supposed to rebut the claim that the Christians were arrested for proselytizing, and repeating over and over that they were arrested for disorderly conduct, as if that somehow clarifies things. The whole question is why their conduct was supposedly “disorderly.” Were they drunk? Insulting passersby? Doing something else to breach the peace? Or just exercising their First Amendment rights? Note the narrator makes no claim that they were truly “disorderly” in their behavior, merely that that’s what the cops hauled them in for.