Dearborn settles with missionaries arrested at Arab festival

Dearborn settles with Christian missionaries arrested at Arab festival

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The City of Dearborn will be apologizing after settling with four Christian missionaries arrested at the Arab festival in 2010. The City of Dearborn will be apologizing after settling with four Christian missionaries arrested at the Arab festival in 2010.
DEARBORN, Mich. (WJBK) -

Attorney Robert Muise with the American Freedom Law Center represents four men accused of disturbing the peace at Dearborn's Arab International Festival back in June of 2010.

First the Christian missionaries were acquitted, and now after suing the city, they just reached a settlement.  Dearborn must pay up and then post a public apology on its website for the next three years.

"They caused harm to these individuals, and we didn't want it to persist," Muise said.

Video taken from that day shows the group Acts 17 Apologetics preaching to a crowd of Muslims working to convert them to Christianity.  Dearborn police felt it was a breach of peace and arrested the four men, hauling them off in handcuffs.  Muise calls it a violation of their constitutional rights.

"Christians have a fundamental constitutional right to engage in religious speech on the public sidewalks surrounding the Arab festival, and that's what, in fact, they were doing," Muise said.

Under the terms of the settlement, the city also has to take down a press release and letter from its website where the mayor criticizes the Christian missionaries for their attack on Dearborn, which he says has a tolerance for all religions.

This lawsuit is part of ongoing tensions between Christian groups and local Muslims that have taken place in the middle of this Arab festival for years.

Due to all the issues in the past, organizers say they are very close to finalizing the deal that will allow them to move the Arab International Festival to Ford Woods Park in Dearborn so admission can be controlled.

"They can have a private festival, but with the city streets and the public sidewalks, we have a First Amendment right.  Those are considered traditional public forums, and that's where your right to freedom of speech is most protected," Muise said.

"If the Muslims want to be on the public sidewalks evangelizing, they certainly have a right to do that, as well."

Fay Beydoun, the head of the chamber who organizes the festival, said she couldn't comment because they are still settling their portion of the lawsuit.

I also reached out to the police chief and many leaders in the Arab-American community for comment, but have not yet heard back.

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